The Zone Read: An introduction

The National Football League (NFL) is a massive, convoluted beast of a sport. Wealthy executives, drama-laden locker rooms and problematic players dominate countless headlines every week. And yet, at the end of it all, when the televisions fire up, the pirated Reddit streams are launched and the game day updates are enabled, we are all collectively entranced by the spectacle that is American football.

The sport is a truly beautiful creation that blends unreal athletic feats with deep and twisting strategic battles, and fans love and cherish every second of it. I’m right there with them. Every year, I circle Sundays on my calendar and spend hours seated in sports bars, checking my fantasy stats or religiously devoting myself to Redzone. This sport is truly incredible to watch despite all the flaws that all too often rear their ugly heads. I believe that, as fans, it is our job to do two things.

First, to acknowledge and challenge all the flaws the NFL has: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been reminded that many of the NFL’s values are outdated and old-fashioned. So many problematic executives, players and coaches exist and remain supported by the very infrastructure so many of us worship. So many heartbreaking injuries cut promising careers short. However, with the bad comes the good, and something so entertaining, energizing and emotional as football should never be abolished.

That is why my second task for myself and other fans is to cherish, love and celebrate a sport that delivers joy and heartbreak to millions every week. My allegiance to the Cowboys, as painful as it may be, has left me proclaiming pure and true love for players on screen, celebrating their on-field achievements with emotions I never thought a sport could elicit. This sport has stuck around for a reason.

That is not to say we should accept it in its current state, and we as fans deserve better than to watch executives make greedy moves or problematic players take the field without repercussions. That is why I will use this column to touch on both the issues, nuances and goings-on in the NFL, as well as the fun, competitive aspects that come from watching games every Sunday.

You, as a reader, should expect three things from me.

The first is a weekly piece covering something interesting around the NFL. One week it could be the rise of greater player leverage in the industry. Another week it could be the impact of fantasy sports and gambling on watchability. The point is, expect something new, relevant and interesting from me as I look to make sense of this behemoth of a sport and organization.

Second, you can expect weekly previews for the upcoming slate of games. I want to deliver these to you in a readable, rapid-fire and entertaining sort of way, so even the busiest of readers can come away knowing some things to watch for as they prepare for Sunday.

And finally, you can expect a painful, yet unwavering devotion to my one and only true love: the Dallas Cowboys. Don’t ask me how, don’t ask me why — the fact that I root for the Cowboys is a law of nature, however painful it may be. I can’t wait to watch them lose a divisional round by two scores again.