As usual, the NFL has made minor rules changes this season.
For example, defenders can no longer grab the jerseys of offensive players, even for an instant. Plus, the clock now doesn't stop on sacks. There are a few others.
Yet in the Bay Area, as we all know, there is one major NFL rule that never changes:
The NFL rules. Period.
Here in Northern California, we consider ourselves an urbane, erudite, advanced and superior part of the country because ... well, because we are. Yet when it comes to professional football, the urbanity and sophistication get turned on their heads and drink cheap warm beer. We become gridiron-worshiping geeks just like the rest of America.
And so it will be again in the upcoming 2014 season. You can find proof of this on the ground and in the air.
On the ground, the 49ers' new Levi's Stadium is sold out for all eight regular-season home games despite tickets that are so costly, they are FDIC insured. In Oakland, Raiders followers are pumped up about their team's free-agent-infused team and probably already are lining up along 66th Avenue with their Commitment To Tailgate Charcoal And Ice Chests.
In the air, NFL games remain among the highest-rated television shows. The last time I collated information about the most watched events in any sport on Bay Area TV sets, 12 of the top 25 were NFL games -- including two in which neither the Raiders nor the 49ers were involved. The World Series and the NBA playoffs could not compete. In fact, a 49ers exhibition outdrew the NCAA men's basketball championship game and all the A's playoff games.
When NFL commissioner Roger Goodell showed up for the Levi's Stadium ribbon-cutting ceremonies in July, he was treated like a visiting head of state. The audience hung on Goodell's every word for approval as he pronounced the stadium worthy of his most magnificent league.
"It reflects the greatness of this region," the commissioner said, nodding toward the empty stadium behind him. "The only thing missing is the 49er Faithful. They'll be coming soon."
His words sounded more like a royal decree than a prediction.
Time to come clean and confess the truth. Goodell's league dominates our lives. This summer, I saw a video clip of an Oakland City Council meeting that was being addressed by a member of the public named "Dr. Death," a Raiders fan in full regalia that included thick face paint and several fake knives sticking into his silver hard hat. "Dr. Death" was making an earnest point to the council members, who were nodding in agreement as if it were perfectly normal for a knife-hatted and face-painted man to lecture them on tax revenue implications of ancillary stadium development.
But it's not just us. It's the entire nation. The NFL, by forging business partnerships with all four major broadcast networks and many Internet sites, burrows its way into our everyday lives like no other American entity. It's nearly impossible to watch any entertainment program on CBS, NBC, Fox or ABC/ESPN without seeing an NFL promotional spot. You can't call up a Web page without a Fantasy Football pop-up ad luring you into signing up and drafting Johnny Manziel.
Even us sophisticates in the Bay Area are not immune to these machinations. We consume the product ravenously. But let's face it. There's a reason. It's because the NFL usually backs up the machinations by giving us six months of compelling and confectionery sights to consume.
This season will be no exception. Be ready to devour these plot lines:
It should all keep us occupied quite splendidly until that big day in February, when the season will end and we can take a quick breath and get back to our measured Bay Area perspective.
And then, the next day, we will wake up to start losing even more perspective about the 2015 season -- which, of course, will end at Levi's Stadium in Super Bowl 50. I'm sure we will be extra erudite and sophisticated when that arrives.
Contact Mark Purdy at email@example.com or 408-920-5092.