What? An NFL list about NFL lists? That’s right! I present evidence item 2,637 that NFL fans are foaming at the mouth to begin the 2010 season. In reality this column is actually about my personal mixed feelings about NFL lists. I used to follow said lists like a lemming: contemplate each list, create my own iteration, then try to find other fan[atic]s to argue over the topic du-jour. A funny thing happened on my way to this morning’s latest list: “10 most productive wide-receivers in the game today.” Before you begin pondering working on your take on that list and what the author meant by the word productive, I would ask you to stay with me for a moment as I consider the larger question, “why do we need all these NFL lists?”

Centuries before David Letterman began presenting to American television audiences his nightly Top 10 list, fans of all types have compiled lists of: bests, worsts, essentials, tallest, shortest, fattest, thinnest, etc.. Most people love lists because it provides us with fodder for debate with our friends. A means of presenting our own thoughts and challenging others to do better. I must admit, despite personal ambivalence, NFL lists beats the heck out of talking about the weather, how much LeBron will help the Heat, or especially YOUR kids (mine are awesome and we can talk about them all day long).

I find myself both annoyed with the sheer volume of NFL lists and delighted to offer my take with the latest list. A few years back it became apparent that I might have an NFL list problem. I was annoyed that ESPN.com’s weekly NFL “Power Rankings” had yet to be updated. I was checking back far too often. I NEEDED to know if the Rams were still at the bottom despite them beating the Lions and where various other teams were located. Later came a terse response from my co-host to my observation that the Titans were ranked far too low. To paraphrase, Steven’s response, “why do you waste your time with that nonsense.” Fortunately for me he did not know how much time I had spent waiting for that “nonsense” to be updated.

NFL listmania was birthed from one simple fact: the NFL season is just too short. Well, it is not so much that the season is too short, it is more that the off-season is too damned long. No other major sport has such a large interval between its Championship game and the beginning of the next season. To be precise it is 207 long days between events. Nearly 30 weeks of suffering. Seven months spent waiting for the next season to kick-off. That’s well more than half the year!

There are many great NFL minds applying themselves to evaluating expanding the regular season from its current 16 games to 18 games. The problem with the current proposals is that an expanded season would come at the expense of pre-season games. Although this would be an improvement, it would not sufficiently shorten the interval. It takes away two weeks where we already have an appetizer in place. Replacing two weeks of existing, albeit meaningless games with two more games that count does not resolve the problem. The never-ending off-season is the real problem.

The proliferation of NFL lists is simply a natural outgrowth of this insanely long lay-off. The most popular sport in America spends most of its year in utter darkness. This is why the annual Draft is viewed by more people than other sport’s playoff games. What are those of us who orient our lives around all things NFL to do? We cannot stand the wait. This also explains how a Terrell Owens and/or Brett Favre sighting can dominate NFL news cycles without either being on a team. The wait is interminable and something must change.

What’s needed is truly dramatic change. Being an out of the box thinker, I propose the rotation and orbit of the Earth be changed so that the NFL’s off-season is only 7-10 weeks. Yes having the calendar year shortened by 20 weeks introduces problems, but I am willing to sacrifice my birthday if that’s what it takes. Realizing this is a significant undertaking, I cannot imagine any other way of making it through the off-season without those lists. By the way, for those who cannot get enough lists, I recommend: “Ultimate Book of Top 10 Lists” from Ulysses Press. Also remember, only 52 days remain to the start of the 2010 NFL season… but who’s counting?