All Football, All the Time
by Brian North

Football used to be a fall sport. But something happened in the mid 1990's to make fans start thinking about the pigskin year round. Free agency in the NFL. That created a hot stove league for grid iron fanatics, and now football is a year-round business that was once the domain of baseball.

Every week football is in the news, good or bad. And it extends to all levels. Spring football games are now televised for some schools. The rest play in front of packed stadiums. East Carolina's purple/gold game will generate a lot of interest from fans who want to see how the next Pirate quarterback will perform and who his backups will be; what running back Norman Whitley looks like juking defenders; and what young secondary players will step up to fill the void of the departed seniors. And North Carolina and NC State fans want to see what their teams look like under new head coaches.

It even extends to the high school level. Shrine Bowl combines are being held around the state this month to evaluate kids strength and speed for recruiting purposes. Greene Central High School in Snow Hill will host one of those combines April 28th.

It's amazing how big the sport has become from its humble beginnings, and there is no end in sight. Arena football is also growing to give fans their miniature fix until the real games begin. And the sport is growing overseas.

But the NFL is still king. The league made news with its new conduct policy and its suspensions of a couple of high profile stars. Then the schedule was released, and the draft is right around the corner. That is followed by mini camps, then training camp, and then the season opens the first week of September. There really is no off season any more, and that suits fans just fine.

So enjoy the spring games, the draft, and the down time before fall gets here. Because the way the sport is now, it will be here before you know it.
Brian North