The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Friday, April 16, 2004

all schedule, all the time
Thinking about pestering your cable company to add NFL Network to your channel lineup? I know it's football dead zone time right now, when just about any kind of gridiron content would be like an oasis in the desert (of course, the Draft and its hype is right around the corner).

Still, I'm not sure even the hardest-core of the hardcore NFL fanatic is demanding a two-hour long show to unveil the 2004 regular-season schedule, with endless hype analysis on what the matchups might mean, months before the first kickoff.

Never mind that the most important part of the NFL's schedule is determined practically as soon as the previous season ends. Based on what a team's record winds up being, it's going to get slotted into a certain slate of opponents for the following season, based on a formula; along with that, by default, half the games will be versus teams in the division. So there's no real mystery as to who, it's only the actual dates that you have to wait on until after the Superbowl. Thus the unveiling of amazing matchups like:
Brett Favre to Washington for first time ever! David Boston takes on his former team once removed (honestly, once removed)! Marvin Lewis returns to the place he once coordinated the defense! Peyton will be the first Manning to play on Thanksgiving! Tuna Bowls everywhere!

Yeah, and?

It got sillier: A potential meeting between the Manning brothers when the Chargers and Colts play! Forget that the draft has to happen first. ... and Eli has to be picked by the Chargers. . . . and has to earn the starting job. ... but aside from that, get your tickets now!

[Rich Eisen] teased a Week 8 meeting between Miami and the Jets as intriguing. Why? We don't know, since they play twice every year.
Why go through this artificial extravaganza? The NFL is learning that, when you've got a whole network up and running, and you can't show your primary product on it for several seasons yet (if ever, assuming they'd want to pull the games off network air in the foreseeable future), you end up with a lot of time to kill:
The reason this year's schedule is so important and such an event isn't because it's better, or more intriguing, or potentially more exciting.

It's because the NFL Network has a television slate to fill.

It hoped to catch the same magic that CBS has found with the selection show for NCAA basketball. For a million reasons, that can't happen, the primary ones being the NCAA teams are different every year, the matchups are fresh and the excitement level is high for a tournament that begins a few days later.
So it's college hoops envy that possessed Tagliabue & Co. to do this. For shame.

Funny thing is, I did detect a little something different when I read yesterday's writeup on the schedule's unveiling. The direct quotes from Jon Gruden and Joe Gibbs were nice, but seemed out of place for something so mundane as a schedule announcement; I'm sure neither coach is concerned about who they're playing at this point. Now I know why they were on hand in the first place.