Sunday, August 06, 2006

Football = Go!

Yesterday saw the induction of the Class of 2006 into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. With that out of the way (congrats to the inductees, especially the late, great Reggie White), we can now focus on the traditional Hall of Fame Game - the kickoff of the NFL Pre-Season schedule. This year's matchup sees the Philadelphia Eagles facing off against the Oakland Raiders.

Being the pre-season, we will probably see more Koy Detmer than Donovan McNabb, which means it will be tough to get a read on how these teams are looking for the upcoming year. Nevertheless, there are several stories worth monitoring tonight:

• The return of Art Shell as head coach of the Raiders.

• The beginning of Donovan McNabb's comeback from the Madden Curse and season-ending surgery last year.

• The first look at the post-T.O. offense in Philly.

• Our first look at my boy Michael Huff, the Raiders first round pick from this year's draft, who the 49ers (sigh) and others will regret passing on.

• The Aaron Brooks reclamation project in Oakland.

• Both of these teams had strong drafts, and this is our first look at these guys in the pros. Many of them figure to play key roles quickly.

• Oh yeah, and the return of the NFL to NBC.

That last point has me particularly excited, and I can explain why in two words: Bob Costas.

That's right, Bob Costas, the greatest sports broadcaster of my lifetime, returns from his network broadcasting exile (except for two-week long furloughs to cover the Olympics, and three Saturdays every spring for horse racing's triple crown) to serve as the host of 'Football Night in America', NBC's pre-game and halftime show. Tonight's game doesn't feature the hour-long pre game that the regular season will, but we should get our Costas fix during an abbreviated pre-game, and then the half-time show.

Though he's much better at calling baseball and basketball, Costas's knowledge, along with his calm, engaging speaking-style is a welcome return to an industry that seems to be dominated more and more each year by over-the-top characters and talking heads.

So welcome back to the NFL, and to Bob Costas. I'm already way too excited about this football season.


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