The Mirage

(Home of April's Fools)

It's just a box of rain; I don't know who put it there; Believe it if you need it; Or leave it if you dare - Grateful Dead

I'm going to have a new hero – the guy that my favorite NFL team will draft in a few weeks. I don't know who he is, but I can't wait to get his jersey. He's great!

I believe this new player will deserve tons of money and all of my adoration because I am a blind-faith football fan, plus it's not my money because if it were my money to spend - I'd buy an island instead. But I digress.

He was a great player in college last year but I hated him because he was an arrogant jerk who played for the team that beat my favorite college team. When he puts on my favorite NFL team's jersey, I'm going to love his attitude.

My favorite team is great, always. And this is a wonderful time of year to root for any NFL team because they can do things like sign free agents and change the makeup of the entire league. So goes the myth. I believe it all.

And yes, I am bragging, but this off-season's best team is, no way…it's true, the Cleveland Browns! The Cleveland Browns actually have an offensive line! And I just discovered how to use an exclamation point! I did! I could show you!

So while some people are learning basic punctuation, others have been busy buying football players like a sailor buys shots "for that gal over there."

And ever since 1988 or so when I was with 300 other barking fanatics watching games with a Browns Backers Club in a bar in the shadow of Boston's Fenway Park, Browns fans have been clamoring for the team to invest in offensive lineman.

Finally, Phil Savage came along and listened. In two years, he's brought in four starting offensive lineman free agents – one who has been to Pro Bowls, and another who has won Super Bowls. The team also needed a pass rusher, a run stopper, a sure-handed receiver, and a punter and Savage signed one of each. This so far is an A+ off-season for the Cleveland Browns but no one really cares about that when the season starts.

Fans of teams that stink know that this is the greatest time of the football season. As Bill Parcells always says, you are what your record says you are. Right now, everybody is equal, except that in a few weeks the bad teams get to pick the best college players – who, of course, might not be the best pro players.

I've noticed that some teams are built for January, trying to win the Super Bowl, while others seem to build their teams with an eye on the off-season playoffs – the draft and free agency.

It is playoff time for those teams built for April. Here you go again, you stink. You stink, but you are always exciting in April. And every once in a while, a good April translates into a change for a team. And that's why I love the off-season part of the NFL season.

It certainly can change a fan's mind about a player. As soon as a player signs with my favorite team, I change my mind about him without him ever playing a down. In sports, clothing makes the player. Shoe companies and others have tried to capitalize on this idea, trying to get you to root for a shoe company or a chain of clothing stores instead of your favorite team. But in order to do that, shoe companies hire athletes that already play for your favorite team.

I am a fan and at this time of year, we fans don't have to think about silly things like last year's won-loss record. All we have to do is look at the guy holding the jersey at the microphone and dream. We get to hear about what a player did somewhere else last year, or even two years ago if that player happened to be suspended last year for, say, insubordination.

And that's why Cowboys' fans will be buying Terrell Owens' jerseys. Because you just never know this year and even though he's a jerk, goes the thinking - he's our jerk.

And Saints' fans think that Drew Brees and his injured shoulder will be just fine in time to open the season, while Dolphins fans believe that Daunte Culpepper has calmed his personal inferno. And Browns fans think that 38 is not old for a man the size of Ted Washington. In sports, when players change uniforms, fans change perspectives.

And soon I will have a new hero and I can only hope that my new hero wears the same number as the bum my team drafted a few years back. That guy stunk. I hated him. I've still got his jersey.

This column is sponsored by photosynthesis.

Brian Tarcy lives in Falmouth, MA. Buy his latest book collaboration, Play Golf Forever, or see his website.

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