Between the NCAA and the NFL, you've got about six months of pigskin glory followed by another six-month-long, football-less void. Does anyone even remember the months without football? Are they even on the calendar?
Good thing the modern TV format is like an all-you-can-eat buffet that never closes -- between broadcast, streaming, digital TV, and traditional cable subscriptions, action on the gridiron doesn't stop in the off-season. And just as the games themselves are only one part of the football season experience, your year-round football TV options are plentiful and varied enough to keep you rooting for your team during those dark off-season days.
'The League' (2009 - 2015)
For seven glorious seasons, FX's "The League" was every football fan's ultimate off-season catharsis. Each season chronicles Pete, Kevin, Ruxin, Rafi, Taco, and the crew as they engage in fantasy football so intense that victory consumes everything in their lives. "The League" taps into the same vein as classics like "Seinfeld" and "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," in that people doing terrible things equals wonderful comedy. It's a refreshing chance to let out your off-season demons vicariously, and lots of cameos from real-life NFL stars will help tide you over till the preseason.
'Hard Knocks' (2001 - )
Every sports fan knows that off-the-turf drama is at least half of what makes football so engaging, addicting, and emotional. As it turns out, those are exactly the commodities "Hard Knocks" deals in. HBO's long-running docu-series was the first ever sports reality show, and it might just be the best. Each summer season follows a current NFL team, chronicling every nuance of its training camp trials, until a season finale right before the season's kickoff.
The 2016 edition is set to follow the L.A. Rams, detailing their return to SoCal via inside access to the coaches' meeting rooms, training sessions, practice fields, and living quarters. The all-access style of "Hard Knocks" has netted it 121 Sports Emmy awards since its debut, and with good reason -- it's basically just like being there, without the risk of concussion.
'Mike & Mike' (2005 - )
ESPN's staple sports talk show, "Mike & Mike," began its life as a morning radio program, so it's no wonder Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg's banter feels as warm and comfy as an early A.M. cup of coffee. Whether they're talking with NBA analysts or gearing up for the Super Bowl, you're going get all the sports talk you need from these guys, and it's going to feel just like chatting with your uncle or your friends in front of a grill, except a whole lot smarter. The one-two combo of former player and sports journalist makes for an environment that feels homey and well-informed all at once -- and with each episode running four hours, you won't find a better background show for NFL devotees.
'Friday Night Lights' (2006 - 2011)
If you want all the intensity of football season in a show that's streamable year-round, "Friday Night Lights" is your ticket. And if you don't know the difference between a blitz and a squib kick, "Friday Night Lights" is still your ticket.
Widely regarded as one of the finest American TV dramas of the last few decades, "Lights" doesn't just follow a top-ranked high school football team in small-town Texas, it follows the tangled net of human drama intricately tied to the team's ascension -- from hopeful parents to shady recruiters to hopeless dropouts. Ever thought about our national obsession with winning, or gone down the rabbit hole of deep reflection after realizing how much validation people find from young men battling it out on the gridiron? Well, now you've got a chance to do five seasons' worth of both.
- 15 Reasons You Should Never, Ever Quit Watching 'The League' on FX
- Every Ruxin Putdown on "The League"
- 'Hard Knocks': About the Show
- After 17 Years, 'Mike & Mike' Is Changing It Up
- The Greatest TV Drama of the Past 25 Years, Round One: 'Breaking Bad' vs. 'Friday Night Lights'
- Why 'Friday Night Lights' Is One of the Best U.S. Shows in Recent Years