I distinctly remember when I first cultivated an interest in the National Football League back in the middle 1950’s.

Living in upstate New York, there was only one NFL team to follow—the New York Giants. I recall their safety and punter named Tom Landry. Y.A. Tittle was the quarterback. Frank Gifford was the halfback. Alex Webster was the fullback. Allie Sherman was the coach. The team was fun to watch because it was consistently good.

I have been an NFL fan even before I became a sportswriter in 1960 while attending McNeese State. I have endured many changes in the league and the rules.

There were no celebratory dances in the end zone. When someone made a good play there was no beating the chest or raising a fist. The players back then merely did what they were being paid to do—play football as their job.

There was no brand-management ad campaign until Mean Joe Green received that Coke from the little kid. And there weren’t any politically-driven protests.

“So, let’s embrace all of the NFL, with its celebrations and commercials and uncomfortable social statements,” wrote ESPN the Magazine in this week’s editions and try to figure out what some of the new rules are all about like what really is a catch, tackling without leading with the helmet and the fair catch on kickoffs.

Most of the focus of the league has been on the catch rule realistically brought into the NFL spotlight on non-catches by Dallas Cowboy receiver Dez Bryant and Pittsburgh Steelers’ tight end Jesse James. Both of these fiascos resulted in the final outcome of an important playoff game.

Game officials will now abide by the rules established in the 1950’ and ‘60’s that said when the caught football crosses the goal line or the out-of-bounds chalk, it’s a catch regardless if the player hits the bench on the sidelines and drops the football or if he crashes into a pile of players in the endzone and loses the football—it’s a catch.

More emphasis is being placed on the new helmet rule which has upset most of the players and confused the game officials.

According to an article by the Associated Press in Monday’s editions, “The league altered the regulations on using the helmet when making contact on both sides of the ball, making it a 15-yard penalty no matter where on the helmet strikes an opponent,

“Even players on offense and linemen in the trenches are subject to being flagged with potential fines and ejections for particularly flagrant hits by lowering the helmet,” the article added.

Former Seattle Seahawks’ shut-down cornerback Richard Sherman and compadre of holdout safety Earl Thomas believes the new helmet rule won’t ever be easy or fair. “It’s an idiotic rule. There’s no way you can tackle and play football,” Sherman concluded.

Tomorrow’s opening game features world champion Philadelphia clashing with the Atlanta Falcons. The Eagles boast a sturdy defense and a questionable offense.

Head Coach Doug Peterson refuses to tell the media whether he plans on starting Nick Foles or Carson Wentz at quarterback. Foles had a mediocre training camp while Wentz has yet to be cleared by team doctors for full contact.

Closer to home, the two Lone Star State franchises are confident that 2018 will be better than last season. The Houston Texans appear to be healthy and chomping at the bit to play the New England Patriots Sunday. In fact, I made this game my Upset Special of the Week.

The Dallas Cowboys just didn’t seem to get going on offense. Of course, one must understand that many of the starters didn’t see much action in the pre-season games. The Pokes open the season Sunday at Carolina. Both Texas teams are underdogs in their respective openers.

KWICKIES…The Sunset Grove Members Golf Association must have known the extended weather forecast last spring when it decided not to have the annual Labor Day tournament this year. The reason was because the weather hasn’t been conducive for a successful golf tournament during that particular weekend. And guess what?? All three days would have been played on a sloppy course at best or just canceled. The MGA saved a whole lot of money and clerical work with that decision.

The fact that Orange native Earl Thomas is continuing to hold out for a contract extension forced the Seattle Seahawks to cut veteran linebacker Maurice Alexander and acquire safety Shalom Luani. According to team spokesman Mookie Alexander, Earl’s fines have already exceeded $700,000 and that the team has the weakest cornerback roster since 2010. I believe that if the Seahawks fail to have a good performance from their defense, something should happen that will make Earl Thomas happy.

The LSU Tigers looked very impressive Sunday night at AT&T Stadium in Arlington as they beat the favored Miami Hurricanes in every phase of the game 33-17. And the game was not as close as the final score indicated.

On a personal note, I received a surprise visit from Johnny Kohler, who happens to be my nine-month-old great-grandson from Anchorage. He’s already built like a linebacker (over 25 pounds) and is strong as an ox.

The Houston Astros looked like the defending world champs that they are last weekend, rallying Saturday from a 3-2 deficit in the bottom of the eighth inning with five runs to win 7-3. Sunday night on national TV they played tough to edge the LA Angels 4-2 at Minute Maid Park in Houston.

JUST BETWEEN US…Those ardent football fans who follow both the West Orange-Stark Mustangs and the Texas Longhorns are feeling double pains as both teams lost in similar fashion. Both teams had too many turnovers on sloppy fields and were intercepted while driving for the winning touchdown. The Longhorns, who were favored by a touchdown, lost at Maryland 34-29, while missed extra points cost the Mustangs as Nederland hung on for a 19-18 upset victory.