Culture of Hoops

Dear Roger Goodell: How to Fix Thursday Night Football

Image courtesy of Zennie Abraham/Flickr.

Image courtesy of Zennie Abraham/Flickr.

An open letter to Roger Goodell.

Dear Commissioner Goodell,

As a fan of the game of football, I had mixed emotions when the announcement came out a few years ago that the league would offer an ever-expanding slate of Thursday Night Football games. On the one hand, this meant that I could give my undivided attention to more games, allowing me to experience more of the game I do love so much. On the other hand, this meant that there were more games placed in the spotlight and it is tough to always ensure the best product is being put out there for the fans.

This year the games have been overly-lopsided on Thursday nights. The minimum point differential is 20, and we’ve seen a 42-point gap between the two teams on national display. I’ll also point out that many of these games are so unbalanced that coaches are pulling their star players in the fourth quarter, allowing teams to gain points in the last frame that they wouldn’t have scored otherwise. In other words, if teams tried their hardest, the scores would have been even less entertaining.

I have a friend who lives on the West Coast and by the time he turns on the game and sees the score, he turns it right off. He has gone so far as to say that the league should do away with Thursday Night Football altogether. In short, Mr. Commissioner, you are losing viewers and fans because of how uncompetitive these games have become. I understand that the league is invested in this idea, and would likely not think about removing this valuable source of income, so if I may, I have a different suggestion.

The NBA and NHL will often do a “home-and-home” series with teams that are close geographically. With the slew of games they play, it’s no issue for them to make this work in their scheduling as there are so many games to be played in general. I would like to see the NFL have the Thursday Night game be the backend of a “home-and-home” as part of divisional play. So for instance the San Francisco 49ers would host the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, and then the Seahawks would host the 49ers on Thursday night.

I understand that there might be some people upset about having all their divisional games against one opponent within five days, but I think there would be a lot of advantages for all those involved. For the coaches and players, it would hopefully mean less travel, and less prep work. You’d have game planned for that exact same team just five days prior, only tweaks should be made to the plan. As a divisional opponent, this should be a team that the players are already familiar with, and clearly this is a formula that the league is on board with as all but the opening Thursday night game have been divisional games.

For the fans, I would hope that this would create a more competitive game, but if nothing else, would generate more animosity and intense play that (even if the game were not competitive) would draw viewers to watch. Clearly this doesn’t work for all divisional opponents (Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants come to mind), but it should offer enough contests to complete a full slate of Thursday Night games.

Of course, there is no guarantee that any of these games will be better than what we’ve come to see this season, but as a fan of the sport there is nothing that makes me less happy than to be watching a game and thinking to myself “I wonder what else is on?”

John Anderson

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