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How the NFL Should Change

By Yong-yi Khu

COLUMNIST

Football might just be different for all of us in a couple of years. There have been proposed changes to many of the scheduling protocols of the NFL because of the upcoming expiration of the NFL’s contracts with the television networks. The league wants to tweak some of the game times and game dates for future TV contracts. While several of the changes will never happen and many are completely absurd, a few of the proposals are quite favorable to the fans, to my surprise.

For instance, there is talk of moving Monday Night Football. I have no idea who proposed this, or what idiot would want to touch something as sacred as Monday Night, but apparently, there is interest in moving the game to a Thursday night. The general consensus is that this will not happen, because of the tradition of MNF. Monday Night started in 1971 with Keith Jackson, Howard Cosell, and Don Meredith as announcers. Through the years, it has seen the likes of O.J. Simpson, Joe Namath, Boomer Esiason, and even recently Dennis Miller as its commentators. Millions of Americans tune in to Monday Night as their weekly primetime football match up. Although ESPN has Sunday Night and occasionally Thursday Night Football, the two do not close to bearing the same meaning as MNF to football fans. Personally, I prefer a night of sports over a night of CBS programming. I’m sure many football fans would agree with me.

Another possibility is the pushing of Sunday games to later start times. Currently, the afternoon games are at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.; they would be moved to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. I guess Paul Tagliabue, the league’s commissioner, thinks we are all too lazy to get up for the 1 p.m. start time. Or perhaps he would like to have more NFL games fight for primetime programming with shows like 60 Minutes and the Simpsons. Whatever the reason, people will be forced to choose between football and dinner, at least on the east coast. From the athletes’ side, I don’t think they enjoy having suddenly to adapt to an entirely different schedule. After all, we often do resist change.

Another idea of the NFL is to delay the opening day of football by several weeks. From many standpoints, this appears again to contradict good reason. The reason for the delay is to allow the postseason games to contend with others shows for ratings during February sweeps. The playoffs draw a ton of people, and the NFL feels that it should take advantage of this and perhaps up the prices for the commercials even further. The Super Bowl would then consistently be in the middle of February. However, this is not the major problem that I see with pushing the start date back. What it means is that training camps will start later, which means suffering through more heat during training camp season. In addition, pushing the season back means pushing the playoffs back, so that during the holidays, we still won’t have a clue as to who will be in the playoffs. Again, change can be good, but something like this seems unnecessary.

Finally, the only good part of the plan that I see is the proposal to add another network to the NFL family so that another station can broadcast NFL games. What that would bring to the fan base is another game or two every week and more options as to who we can to see. This will be a hit to DirecTV, because it may reduce the need for a satellite dish that grants additional options. Especially if a national network were to carry the games, it allows fans to see more of the games for free (and I know about MIT students’ affinity for free things). Also, this allows more teams to be publicized, since many teams do not receive national recognition even though they may be Super Bowl worthy (see 2000 Super Bowl Champions Rams, 2002 Super Bowl Champions Patriots, and 2004 Super Bowl runner-up Panthers). Perhaps now, we won’t underestimate those underdogs when they plow their way through the playoffs, because we will actually know about them beforehand.

If you are alarmed about these changes, don’t be, because they will not come for some time. I do not think that the league will make the wrong decision. This isn’t the league that’s ignored steroids and a salary cap. In fact, the NFL has undergone great change successfully, at least in the last several years, in instant replay. I’m sure that Tagliabue will make the right calls in this case as well, doing what’s best for the fans and not what’s best for money purposes. I’m sure he doesn’t want to be labeled a Bud Selig. But then, nobody can be as bad as Bud Selig, and that’s a whole other article.