The first step to recovery is to admit you have a problem, right?
When I perused the week 16 schedule—grumbling about my top fantasy team’s semifinal collapse—I was confronted with a complex array of emotions when I noticed there wouldn’t be another Thursday night game this season.
Anger: How can NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell expect us to believe he’s serious about player safety when he makes them compete on three days’ rest?
The Commish has the refs extending drives with indefensible personal foul calls—see: Champ Bailey’s shoulder-to-shoulder love tap on Brandon Weeden, Kam Chancellor’s clean but crushing shoulder-to-chest blast on Vernon Davis, or Ed Reed’s split-second and nearly unavoidable helmet-to-helmet contact with Victor Cruz.
Goodell is trying to mold the league’s public image to appear concerned and conscientious about player health against a wave of concussion related lawsuits. Yet he ignores the obvious risks inherent in forcing players to take the field before their bodies are ready.
And who else would stand to benefit the most from this imposition than the league’s own network. The NFL Network is available to more than 50 percent of American households, but that just isn’t good enough for Goodell and the owners. That’s why they expanded the already annoying eight-game Thursday night schedule—started in 2006—to 13 games this season.
Boredom: One of the excuses for expanding the Thursday night schedule was parody. Now every team in the league gets some primetime exposure. Earth to NFLN: there’s a reason NBC and ESPN wouldn’t broadcast Buffalo, St. Louis, Cleveland or Jacksonville.
The Neilsen Ratings for each network’s 2012 NFL broadcasts breakdown predictably: No. 1, NBC; No. 2, ESPN; and the NFL Network crossing the line a distant third. Instead, let’s breakdown each network’s primetime broadcasts by one of the NFL’s own barometers, the NFL.com Fan Rating:
Oh, but who could forget that 23-16 grudge match between Baltimore and Cleveland in week 4? Or that 17-3 track meet between St. Louis and Arizona in week 5? Not to mention the 31-13 comedy of errors starring San Diego and Kansas City that violated our flat screens in week 9. Or that 34-13 snooze fest when Cincinnati and Philadelphia clashed in the week 15 Thursday night finale?
The only memorable performances the NFLN can display on an otherwise empty mantle were the 13-6 heavyweight bout between San Francisco and Seattle in week 7, and Doug Martin’s 214 total yard, 2 TD breakout against Minnesota in week 8.
Guilt: All the criticism aside, I still tuned in every Thursday. And not just because I would watch any football—I’m looking at you Vince McMahon—it’s NFL football so I can’t turn away. I watch a vanilla offense face a vanilla defense fully aware this product is only slightly better than the preseason version.
It’s no surprise the Thursday night games are so blasé when you consider what a disruption they cause the typical weekly routine:
|Monday||game day recap|
|Wednesday||full practice/game plan|
|Thursday||full practice/game plan|
|Friday||walk through/film study|
|Saturday||brief walk through/film study/travel day|
Inevitably I have a tight end playing or my opponent’s flex is tearing it up…so dutifully, I turn on the game.
Relief: Speaking of fantasy football, how many guys on the injury report are listed as questionable on Thursday only to be upgraded to probable on Sunday?
Week 16 was the first week this year we fantasy fanatics didn’t have to struggle with a premature game time decision. The schedule wasn’t broken, NFL, so put that 96-piece toolkit you got for Christmas on the shelf and quit trying to fix it.