Culture

Despite Rumors, NFL Committed to 'Thursday Night Football'

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports - RTX2U84H

There have been rumors floating around for the last couple of days that excited hardcore NFL fans like myself. Word on the street was that the league was willing to take a look at getting rid of the generally hated “Thursday Night Football.” Despite the preponderance of evidence that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell rarely, if ever, does what the fans want, we still got excited.

Well, it turns out that the street was wrong.

The National Football League on Monday dismissed speculation that it is considering reducing its commitment to Thursday Night Football in the wake of disappointing ratings this season.

In a statement, the league said, “we are fully committed to Thursday Night Football and any reports to the contrary are unfounded.” The NFL was responding to a story in Pro Football Talk that suggested there were discussions to cut the package after the 2017 season, which is when current deals with CBS and NBC are set to expire.

It’s unlikely the NFL would completely gut Thursday football. The league’s NFL Network TV channel is obligated by contracts with its cable and satellite partners to carry at least eight games a season and most of those are on Thursday. However, that does not mean the broadcast portion couldn’t be eliminated or shortened down the road.

The league has not approached either NBC or CBS to discuss the future of Thursday games, people familiar with the matter said.

While football isn’t as steeped in tradition as baseball, it was doing just fine with the old Sunday games/Monday night game model. We got some Saturday games sprinkled in during the playoffs and everybody seemed really happy. There was no outcry from the fans for another broadcast earlier in the week, that happened merely because the NFL launched its own network and needed content.

Not only are the Thursday games inconvenient from a fan standpoint, they are part of an overall watering down of the on-field product that nobody in the league office will admit is happening. We’ve just finished Week 11 of this season and just 17 of the league’s 32 teams are above .500 right now. Seven of those teams are barely above .500, with six at 6-5 and one at 6-4-1. So almost three quarters of the league is in the mediocre-to-awful range. Two games have ended in ties this season, which is a ridiculous thing to happen in modern football. Combine that with Goodell pretending the antics of Colin Kaepernick are a free speech issue (they’re not) and it is easy to see why ratings are down.

But hey, let’s play more international games!

Fans don’t want to get up at the crack of dawn (especially on the West Coast) to watch a game being played in London. These international games also screw season ticket holders from one team out of one game a year. One team is the home team in each of those games, which takes a game away from the real home of the team.

For the longest time, the NFL could do whatever it wanted because the game’s fans are so rabid. Any successful form of entertainment needs to keep from becoming stale, but it can’t experiment with change that abandons the core audience. I don’t know if Roger Goodell ever speaks to regular football fans. It sure doesn’t seem like it. He may want to spend some time in a sports bar to get a better feel for the product he’s putting out there, rather than making decisions from a sky box.