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 NFL returns, and everything else pales 
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Post NFL returns, and everything else pales
NFL returns, and everything else pales
By BOB MOLINARO, The Virginian-Pilot
? August 7, 2005

As the August doldrums slowly release the promise of another NFL season, sports stories and the athletic protagonists that seemed so riveting not that long ago recede into the background.

Danica Patrick took us for quite a ride. But now it?s time she pulled her car into the pits. She?ll have other chances to win her first big-league race, bat her big eyes and grab another magazine cover, but for the time being her story goes up on blocks.

Football is encroaching, after all, and the NFL is too big to drive through or around it. Football is moving in with the speed and power of a late-summer thunderstorm. Every other sport should think about waving a caution flag.

Even Lance Armstrong is not such a huge icon that he can?t be dwarfed by the anticipated arrival of another NFL season. But Armstrong?s timing was impeccable. Winning another Tour de France, he pedaled into our hearts and headlines, then showed the good sense to wheel off stage before he was upstaged by Michael Vick and Tom Brady.

The NFL has always been big, but it appears that the 800-pound gorilla has packed on a few pounds and added some muscle. In its latest edition, Sports Illustrated declares the NFL to be even more popular than before, its fans more famished than ever for another season.

We know from experience that when the NFL struts into the picture, other games are crowded to the edges. So this may be a good time for Michelle Wie to hit the back-to-school sales. Her precocious golf game is a wonder to behold, but let?s not kid ourselves; the kid cannot compete with a football fan?s love of his fantasy league.

?We are America?s game,? Miami Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor says in SI. ?I?ve felt such a buzz this offseason. Fans couldn?t wait to see the game, hear the game.?

A football game was played in Tokyo Saturday. The American Bowl between the Falcons and Colts was nothing but another exhibition, hardly worth a look. But by whetting the appetite of NFL Nation, these overblown rehearsals push other sports a little deeper into their niches.

What chance does Major League Soccer have of escaping the NFL?s giant shadow? With the Redskins on the reservation again, D.C. United phenom Freddy Adu might as well change his surname to adieu.

The NFL tramples everything in its path. Poker tournaments may be popular TV fodder, but the NFL is about to sack the card games for a loss of interest. Football, remember, is a gambler?s playground, too. Once the NFL gets into full swing, people who watch Texas Hold ?Em will be ready to fold ?em.

When the colossus stirs, fans don?t care nearly as much about what Tiger Woods is hitting or John Daly is eating or Larry Brown is thinking as he moves from his last dream job to his next one.

And while baseball remains a major player, one reason given for the NFL?s popularity boomlet is the fans? disenchantment with the major league steroids controversy. Another is that free agency and parity make it possible for almost every NFL city to get its hopes up.

?There?s so much drama, and you don?t know where the next great story?s coming from,? Detroit Lions quarterback Joey Harrington tells SI. ?It?s like the anticipation for the next Harry Potter book. What?s the new story line??

There?s nothing quite like the opening of NFL training camps to make old story lines that America thought were so interesting in spring and summer shrink in significance.

A caution flag? Because of the dominating presence of the NFL, some of our sports should think about flying white flags.

August 8th, 2005, 11:44 am
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