The Justice Files

By the time you read this, the Chargers will have completed their first preseason game. The vast improvement showed by the Bolts in 2004, coupled with the fact that the game is in Green Bay (the League loves Brett Favre so), obviously convinced the NFL to put it on ESPN. It will probably be the only exhibition game I get to see this year.

My suburban lair does not have the NFL Network and I don't think I'm going to hit the sports bars for the other three preseason contests. Yes, there was a time when I showed up at 11:00 EST on a Friday or Saturday night hoping that somebody could pick up the feed for a West Coast exhibition game. I would credit my fanaticism to the fact that I live 3,000 miles away from San Diego and am particularly starved for the first football of the season. However, I think we both know that really wouldn't do my Bolt obsession true JUSTICE.

Before the NFL Network, the Sunday Ticket package doesn't include the preseason, or so I was told. Maybe that's just what countless bar owners told me to get me to leave them alone on so many August nights. Over the last five years or so there has been immense backlash to summer NFL games. Injuries to marquee players have a lot to do with that. Also, season ticket holders really resent that they are obligated to purchase ducats for these "contests."

Of course, it's not much more senseless than having to pay for a Personal Seat License to ensure the right to purchase season tickets.

But the compounding effect is to piss the fans off for having to pay for (and often not attend during their precious summer weekends) games of which the outcome is meaningless. The frustration of the fans is then fueled by the complaints of the players when they see their brethren suffer season-ending injuries.

Outspoken critics of the NFL's exhibition frame then infuriate season ticket holders that much more since they are simply echoing the fans' frustration. A shortened preseason schedule has been suggested, thus allowing for a longer stretch of games that count. The NFL has shot this idea down without a real convincing explanation. I won't bore you by listing the pros and cons. You've heard them already.

So why does the NFL keep the preseason at four games? Because they can. The NFL can do many things for this season. Simply put, there are too many people, myself certainly included, who just can't live without it. Does the NFL make more money with a longer preseason? If there was a significant advantage to shortening it, I'm sure they would have done it already. Injuries to Michael Vick and Chad Pennington didn't convince Paul Tagliabue to seriously consider changing the system. I think the only thing that would force the NFL to consider a gradual change (so the precious television contracts could run their course) would be if Donovan McNabb and Tom Brady were both decapitated in the same weekend.

That being said, let's hope that the Chargers stay relatively injury-free this summer. It seems like Donnie Edwards' ankle isn't that serious. Let's also hope that the secondary can begin to jell and that some of our draftees can get some experience. Bhawoh Jue seems to be gaining on Jerry Wilson for the right to lead the "Safety Dance." Darren Sproles and Vincent Jackson will also finally be unveiled tonight.

Incidentally, I just got back from Vegas for my father-in-law's 65th birthday. One night he told me he was at the table with a bunch of guys from San Diego. "Wouldn't you know it," he said. "Those guys were all Raiders fans." I told him that shit happens a lot. "But it just convinced me to put a bet on the Chargers to win the Super Bowl.

"With all the hype the Bolts have gotten, Bally's still gave me 18-to-1 odds."

Thanks to all who sent me Jerry Garcia articles last week. In the world outside of football, we have a lot to appreciate right now. The Stones (their first single off the new album is "Rough Justice") are back on tour, Deuce Bigalow returns to theaters and FOX (parent company) of will have both "Family Guy" and "Arrested Development" on their fall schedule. Maybe Denis Savage can get me on "The O.C." set, if the Bolts ever ban me from The Complex. There also is a Charger Girl in the FHM football preview issue. We haven't had a cheerleader in a men's magazine since Charisma Carpenter and that was years after her brief stint on the squad.

Before I forget, Jim Steeg passed on the press release that "High Boltage," the 2004 highlight film is now available both on the Chargers' site and the stadium. The DVD is $12.95 and the proceeds benefit the Chargers Community Foundation, "which is a leader in assisting our schools, honoring volunteers, supporting youth sports and aiding critical causes important to the community." Go to over the weekend for an unfettered analysis of Thursday's game. Enjoy the weekend. This installment of "The Justice Files: Isle Of Long" is dedicated to the memory of Peter Jennings, whom I was fortunate enough to meet at the 6/19/95 Dead/Dylan show. He seemed as dignified and friendly as everyone has said he was.



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