In recent days, the idea of an 18 game season for the NFL has overtaken Haynesworth, Tebow, Bradford, Brady, Lombardi, and every other story named for an individual. It has bloated the comments sections of NFL.com, ESPN, FPT, every newspaper and sports outlet with an online presence, and even our own little corner of championship heaven here at CSC. Being an avid fan of the Saints and football in general, I can't stop myself from reading it all. Only now, I feel just moments from stabbing forks into my eyes. Man, I hate when that happens.
In my self-induced misery of studying this subject, I've found quite a few reality disconnects which only serve to increase my haze of mental pain. The most glaring disconnection with reality I've discovered is Roger Goodell and the NFL owners claiming how the fans are overwhelmingly crying out for an extended season and fewer preseason games. I have visited literally dozens of websites where this question is posed to fans and without fail the response is overwhelmingly against an expanded regular season. When I first ran into this kind of response, I chalked it up to an over-traditionalist, very vocal minority. Then I began to see the same kind of response in similar numbers and vehemence everywhere I looked. Just yesterday, I noticed the poll on wwltv.com, in which the respondents rejected an expanded season by a 2 to 1 margin. This is inline with numbers I've seen elsewhere.
How could the NFL management be so incredibly off in their perception of fan desires? Anyone that has watched preseason games and noticed the attendance rates would not have a hard time understanding it. With the exception of last night's game between the Colts and Packers, which looked to be an SRO affair, every camera shot of the stands during the preseason has shown dramatically empty stadia. And in case anyone has forgotten, this is a business - a business that requires putting butts in seats.
Reading the vitriol against Goodell and the owners about greed and destroying the integrity of the game and history books got me thinking though. As interested as I am in the delusional behavior of the NFL owners, I'm somehow more interested in the delusional opinions of 20 somethings that seem to have holographic memories of Sammy Baugh firing downfield passes in the 1937 championship game against da Bears.
Some of the arguments against an 18 game season I've read and heard from fans, players, and long established sports writers (I'm looking at you BAW) are simply laughable. Some are ill informed. Others are arguable. And lastly, one or two are actually convincing enough to listen to. I'm writing this as the first of several pieces in an attempt to distinguish between the facts, opinions, hand-waving, and down right bullshit I've seen in regards to an 18 game season for the NFL.
Let me say right here and now at the outset of this project that I'm not necessarily in favor of 18 games. My instinct leans that way, but I'm in no way convinced that it will improve my football experience any more than I am convinced that remaining at 16 games will preserve my love of the game. To put it as bluntly as possible, I'm no more convinced that 18 minutes in a Dutch bordello will be better than 16 minutes. Sometimes, splitting the uprights for the trophy is good no matter how many plays it took to get there.