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Berry Tramel  


NFL schedule: Why not start on Labor Day?

by Berry Tramel Modified: August 19, 2013 at 10:50 am •  Published: August 19, 2013
Could the NFL start their season on Labor Day? (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Could the NFL start their season on Labor Day? (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

The NFL season opens Sept. 5, a Thursday night, with the Ravens at Denver. It can’t get here soon enough for most of us.

So why is the NFL dark during the long Labor Day weekend? Why does the NFL acquiesce a weekend in which America is crying out for football?

College football opens on Labor Day weekend, and we can’t wait. There are some decent Thursday games — North Carolina at South Carolina, Ole Miss at Vanderbilt, Rutgers at Fresno State (OK, I’m stretching). There are assorted Friday games to wet regional appetites (around here, Texas Tech at SMU, North Dakota State at Kansas State). A full slate of Saturday games. Then a Sunday doubleheader of Ohio at Louisville on ESPN and Colorado State-Colorado on the CBS Sports Network. Finally, the Labor Day night game of Florida State at Pittsburgh.

I’ll take it. I’m so ready for football, I’d watch a MAC game every night of next week. I’d watch Western Kentucky play South Alabama.

But what if our Labor Day weekend viewing was slightly adjusted? What if Ravens-Broncos was next week on Thursday night? What if the NFL moved a game to Friday night, too, something like Falcons at New Orleans? What if the Giants-Cowboys was the Sunday night of Labor Day weekend? Then come back with the NFL’s great Monday night doubleheader, Eagles at Redskins and Texans at Chargers?

Why is the NFL giving up Labor Day?

I know, the NFL schedule works nicely whereby the Super Bowl arrives in February, which is sweeps month for television ratings. But you don’t have to end the season earlier by starting it earlier. You can start earlier and finish at the same place, merely by giving each squad two byes.

Nothing wrong with two byes. It would help the wounded heal. And it wouldn’t hurt the television package. Instead of, say, 10 NFL games at noon Sunday, there would be eight. Where would be the harm in that?

The networks would love it. An extra Thursday night game. A bonus Friday night game, at least this year, when high schools typically aren’t starting and the NFL would have no guilt of keeping people away from the scholastic gate. An extra Sunday night and Monday night to sell ads. An extra Sunday afternoon smorgasbord.

The viewers would love it. Nothing against Colorado State-Colorado, but who would you rather see? Cowboys-Giants or an in-state rivalry that fosters passion only an hour north and south of Denver? Who would you rather see? Pitt-Florida State, or Robert Griffin III?

The NFL is leaving money on the table, I assume, and I don’t know why. Sports are the final frontier of big television revenue. DVR and netflix and Internet broadcasts have slaughtered the old days of appointment television. The only appointment television is sports, and nothing is bigger than the NFL.

Why compact the NFL regular season into 17 weeks? Why not make it 18 weeks? NFL owners occasionally have negotiated for a longer season, 18 games, but play 16 games over 18 weeks, and much of the same revenue exists. We don’t care which NFL games are on. We don’t need 18 weeks of the Patriots or Steelers or 49ers. We need 18 weeks of anyone in the NFL.

Please, NFL. Go back to Labor Day.

by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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