The NFL Looks to Dominate the Sports Calendar

A funny thing happened in Boston this week. As the National Football League’s 32 owners met to make several important decisions (such as awarding Super Bowls L and LI to San Francisco and Houston), the gears were set in motion to allow America’s most dominant sport—ratings and revenue wise, because hey, that’s all that matters anymore—to take over the entire 12-month calendar.

Commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday that the league will move its draft from late April to early or mid-May next year to avoid a scheduling conflict at Radio City Music Hall, the event’s longtime home. “For us to do it the right way,” Goodell said, according to the Washington Post, “we don’t see any choice but to move the date.”

So it was, conveniently, done.

The move will take the NFL’s premiere offseason event and move it from rather casual weekend to one smack in the middle of the playoff seasons for the NBA and NHL, turning up the heat on the other leagues to put up more of a fight for viewers’ eyeballs and advertisers dollars. According to the Post article, on the same night that 7.7 million viewers watched unproven rookies be paraded out on stage to shake hands with Goodell, barely a fraction of that number beared witness to the evening’s second-most-viewed sporting event, an NBA playoff game featuring the Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Clippers.

With the Draft being essentially this weekend coming up a year from now, it’ll be competing with the NBA’s conference finals.

No decision has been made about subsequent drafts, but something tells me that once the numbers come in the NFL will do it’s best to move the draft to the middle of May moving forward. Other ideas of scheduling adjustments that the league is considering only support that theory. While no formal decisions have been reached on those either—some conversations have to be had with the NFLPA—Goodell seems confident that they’ll go through.

The other proposals include holding the Super Bowl later in February, possibly as late as President’s Day weekend, moving the scouting combine—a well-viewed event on the NFL Network where NFL hopefuls work out in front of league talent evaluators for days—from mid-February to March, moving the start of free agency from March to early April.

“On the other events … we think there’s great benefits to that,” Goodell said, according to the Post. “We didn’t reach any conclusion. We are negotiating that with the union. We have a discussion with them sometime in the next couple weeks. I’m sure that will come up. We think that’s a good change for the fans and for football.”

Of course, all of these adjustments are in line with Goodell’s efforts to expand the regular season to 18 games, and adjust preseason scheduling.

Let’s say all of these changes are accepted and the league moves forward with everything. There wouldn’t be a single month without some sort of football activity going one. Look at this:

  • August: Preseason
  • September-December: Regular season
  • January: Playoffs
  • February: More playoffs, and the Super Bowl on President’s Day weekend
  • March: Scouting combine
  • April: Free agency opens
  • May: Draft
  • June: OTAs
  • July: Training camps open

While I understand the desire to continue to benefit financially from the immense popularity of the sport, this, again, is a case of owners and league officials putting their own interests ahead of the health of their players. I know what you’re thinking: How the hell does moving the draft and free agency impact a person’s health? But consider this. Say you’re a college player who’s declared for the draft and you’re working out for the scouts in preparation for the draft. Those extra few weeks of preparation mean more there’s more time to suffer some injury while working out. Overtraining is a possibility.

Even for the seasoned veterans, the longer season and condensed offseason means less time off to recover.

And then there’s the arrogance with which the league walks around, acting like they own the sports calendar, not giving any consideration to other sports, and even trying to bully them. There hasn’t been any public griping by the other leagues, but the MLB wasn’t too thrilled, to say the least, with Goodell’s forceful efforts to have the Baltimore Orioles move their September 5th home game in order to accommodate the Baltimore Ravens. The Super Bowl champs have traditionally (i.e. over the last handful of season) hosted the NFL’s season opener, which would have been that same night. The MLB refused and the Ravens will instead open the season on the road.

Maybe the sports fan in me should be craving all of this football. Maybe I’m nuts for saying that I just need a break from the hard-hitting action once in a while. Sure the league’s popularity has exploded in the last 10-15 years, but that’s because the season was short but long enough to leave fans hungry for more. With something happening all year round, eventually fans could get worn out.

Look at haters of baseball, or those who go through baseball fatigue during the season. The number one reason you hear about why people get tired of Major League Baseball is because the season is so damn long. Freaking 162 games. It’s enough to wear anyone out, but from October through March there’s absolutely nothing happening, except winter meetings for a few days, but that’s it. You’re given time to recover, and then the anticipation builds around Spring Training and countdowns begin for when pitchers and catchers report. It’s exciting. And when Opening Day rolls around, people are re-energized and fill the stands.

It’s not that I don’t love football—despite how hard it seems the Eagles try to make me hate it—I just need a break every now and again.

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