After an excruciating four months, most of us have put aside our lockout gripes and embraced the upcoming NFL season with the usual body-painted passion. Good news for a worried league, but will a fickle stock market and a sluggish job outlook still keep some folks tuned out? Tickets prices will remain largely static, but optimizing your viewing experience (both at home, or in the stadium) can still run you a pretty penny. To help you weed out the best bets, here are eight gadgets that should get you the most bang for your buck:
A must-have for any pigskin aficionado worth his or her salt, these come in especially handy for those stranded in the cheap seats. Don't miss a single play with a Bushnell H20, available at Amazon.com. There are cheaper models out there, but this waterproof and fogproof pair will lockout moisture and make sure you catch all the action, no matter the weather. [$72 or less]
Smartphone snapshots might be all the rage these days, but there's no replacement for a quality photograph from a real camera. Fortunately, there are some top-notch, inexpensive models you can slip right in your pocket. Pick up a Nikon Coolpix with up to 16 megapixels at Target. Snag a discounted Target gift card from sites like GiftCardGranny.com and cut costs even lower. [$200 or less]
Become the star of your next tailgate party with a grill that shows off not only your culinary skills, but your team pride as well. The Team Grill model gas grill comes featuring the colors and logo of you favorite squad, and the Game-Day model can be picked up for a very reasonable price. [$349]
4. Beer Coolers
Now this is fun. A product tailor-made for your next Sunday Beer-B-Q, the remote-controlled Shoot a Brew cooler will toss you a beverage from up to eight feet away. Perfect for football fans, and the extremely lazy. A word to the wise: Since you probably don't have hands like your favorite wide receiver, just be sure to stay sober enough to avoid getting beaned. [$295]
5. Surround Sound
If you can't be there, might as well make it sound like you are. You'd be amazed how a quality sound system can enhance your viewing experience. Hear every bone-crunching tackle like you're right on the front line. Best Buy has several affordable options from top-tier brands like Panasonic, Samsung or Sony. Want to save more? Pick up a factory-refurbished model for even less. [$200 or less]
6. NFL Sunday Ticket
For about the price of one day at the stadium with the family, you can instead enjoy up to 14 games every Sunday from the comfort of home. Sounds like a no-brainer to me. Ever better, this year the Ticket is available to PS3 game system owners without the need for a satellite dish installation or even a DirecTV subscription! [$339.95]
7. Fantasy Apps
Football purist may think it sullies the experience, but the fact remains fantasy football has become almost as popular as the real thing. Get ready for draft day and stay on top of your team all season long with ESPN's awesome new Fantasy Football 2011 app. Add/drop players, propose trades, stay on top of league news and more, right from your iPhone.
8. Madden 2012
Still soured by the off-field shenanigans this summer? There's always the latest edition of the long-running game franchise to keep you busy. With no labor disputes and hours of football fun, this might be the best deal of all. Grab a GameStop coupon and save a few bucks for next season. [$59.99]
I'm a former 7th grade Science teacher turned stay-at-home mom that lives in Houston, Texas. I am married to my college sweetheart and have a beautiful daughter named Riley, who definitely keeps me on my toes! I am also involved in starting a small business which would both manufacture and sell an invention that I've patented, called Toothpaste 2 Go. I love interacting with my readers and hope to learn as much about you as you learn about me!