By Drew Markol, TSN Contributor - Archive - Email
Nobody asked me, but...
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - You really need to see it to believe it. And then you're still not sure what you saw because it goes by you so quickly. A NASCAR race? No.

An Air Force fighter jet? No.

Those are manmade.

What we're talking about here is man and how fast the biggest and best can move.

If you've never had the chance to go to an NFL training camp, try and do it. I guarantee you'll walk away shaking your head.

There's nothing like it.

At most camps you can get close enough to hear the football as it soars through the air. When an NFL quarterback throws it, the football whistles.

And when NFL receivers race down the sideline going after a pass, they make a whoosh sound.

Television just doesn't do pro football justice. The rectangular TV screen is a perfect fit for a rectangular screen, but that's about where it ends.

What the tube can't give us is the speed and ferocity. Even if you're sitting in a stadium, chances are you're really far away from the action and spend more time watching the video scoreboard than the action on the field.

That board doesn't work, either. You see it, but don't hear it.

And even if you're a little hearing impaired (like me), there is no mistaking the sound of the hitting at camp.

Huge, fast objects, like missiles colliding, makes one wonder how these guys ever get up, get out of bed or even make it to the afternoon practice. You compare football training camp to baseball spring training and you chuckle. Baseball is green grass, hope and the coming of spring.

Football is mean, sweaty and the coming of fall and winter.

And football is so much more cut throat.

Hurt in practice? It's get up and get off the field and let the next man up go in.

Be sidelined too long and you are cut. Baseball will send some of its injured and not-quite-ready to the minor leagues. Football, except for the select few, will send you to the street.

But those are the accepted risks by the few good enough to give it a try. They know full well the chance they're taking. We don't have to take those risks, we just get to enjoy.

Most remarkably, especially when you consider the NFL will stamp the logo of its teams on just about anything it can sell, training camp is free. (Of course, you'll likely pass through a giant merchandise tent - not free - on the way to the practice fields, but you don't have to buy anything).

If you remember, a couple of years ago, one team, the Washington Redskins, charged admission to training camp. Oops. (The Steelers and Chiefs are doing it for a select few practice sessions this summer, but not many).

Well, since the Redskins were charging, other NFL teams took advantage of the opportunity, paid the admission price and scouted them - quite cheaply we might add.

Previous to the Redskins doing that, it was a no-no in NFL circles to attend the camp of another team because there was no admission fee. It was just a professional courtesy to stay away. But once the 'Skins started making folks cough up some cash, the idea backfired when the scouts arrived.

Shortly thereafter, the Redskins stopped the practice, so to speak, and made it free again. The scouts left and the fans caught a break.

Fans catch plenty more at training camp. The players, most of them, anyway, will sign autographs and pose for pictures after displaying their wares. So, like we said, if you can go, go.

As a matter of fact, I was at the Eagles' camp the other day and former Buffalo Bills great and future Hall of Fame wide receiver Andre Reed popped in to check out the Birds. He signed autographs for all who asked, posed for pictures, and had a good time.

Access to the players, warm weather, little cost, an incredible show. Just good stuff.

Drew Markol has been a sportswriter and columnist for several newspapers in the Philadelphia area for more than 25 years.

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