The NFL is a money making machine. Through a superior product and masterful marketing, football has truly become America’s pastime in the last couple of decades. Surpassing baseball and the other two major American sports, the added revenue stream of meaningful games being played and televised on Thursday nights is completely unnecessary.
To put it bluntly, the in-season Thursday night football product is atrocious and quite dangerous. Although ESPN had previously broadcast some Thursday night games, the NFL Network iteration of Thursday Night Football began in 2006. It started as an opportunity to showcase the league-owned network as well as to take advantage of the country’s voracious appetite for watching the pigskin get tossed around.
The popularity of football in the fall and early winter could realistically drive an audience seven days a week. With Friday night and Saturdays being taken by high school and NCAA football through mid-December and protected by the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961, the NFL is obviously looking for the next most logical day to play games other than the traditional Sunday and Monday contests.
After watching the product for several years now, the quality of the games seems to dictate that it’s not logical at all. The two most recent Thursday night matchups have been complete garbage. Both the New York Jets vs. New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs vs. Philadelphia Eagles games have been difficult to watch.
Professional football players are large, finely tuned athletes that are accustomed to a weekly routine. Playing the most physical and violent sport in the world, engaging in collisions that equal the impact of car crashes, the athletes need proper time for their bodies to rest between games. The chance of injury for a player who has only three days to rest as opposed to six seems naturally higher.
Additionally, coaches and players are used to having a full week to analyze opponent’s game film, devise a game plan, and practice that plan prior to taking the field. Without the appropriate time for bodies to mend and game plans to be properly implemented, the league ends up with the slop most of us watched last night.
Even the traditional Thanksgiving games are rarely the best the NFL has to offer, but at least its tradition and it’s only once a season. The last classic NFL game played on a Thursday is hard to remember.
To further argue against the Thursday Night Football product, the connection to the NFL Network has to be considered. It remains to this day a station that is only available in most markets through premium tier cable packages, unlike a basic cable station like ESPN. Therefore, many football fans don’t even get to watch the Thursday night games. To add insult to injury, being forced to listen to Deion Sanders and Michael Irvin analyze games and players is enough to make even the most rabid football fan want to change the channel to reality TV.
If the NFL is truly concerned about player safety and giving its fans the best product possible, Thursday Night Football on the NFL Network should be ended after this season. We would all be better off for it.