Thursday, February 15, 2018

Can the NFL and NASCAR Coexist?

By Anthony Brancato

On Sunday, the Daytona 500 will return to its traditional date of the Sunday during the Presidents' Day weekend, following a six-year hiatus.

But will NASCAR soon have to not only share the spotlight on that weekend with the NFL, but also see its event pushed back one day, to Presidents' Day itself?

One seemingly unrelated development after another is unfolding in the NFL owners' obsessive bid to make the 18-game regular season a reality, the latest in the form of the lucrative, to say the least, five-year deal signed with FOX on January 30 to carry Thursday night games in Weeks 4 through 15. The owners have long since agreed in principle to add one bye week to each team's schedule as part of the quid pro quo for the two extra games (and, it goes without saying, two fewer preseason games, making the NFL's overall schedule — two preseason games followed by 18 regular-season games played over 20 weeks — mirror that of the one the CFL has used successfully and without complaint from anyone since 1986).

With the total number of byes doubling, the league will be in a position to guarantee every team that plays a Thursday night game an automatic bye the week before (and likely forestall an open revolt from the players' union). And cutting off the Thursday night games — and therefore, the byes the previous week — at Week 15 will prevent any team that makes the playoffs from going into the postseason with the unearned advantage of having had too soon a recent bye.

Plus the addition of two regular season games in and of itself is not the only reason the owners are so gung-ho about wanting the 18-game schedule: It has sought the Sunday of the Presidents' Day weekend as the new home of the Super Bowl as soon as they knew that they could "get away with" a February Super Bowl, after Super Bowl XXXVI got pushed back from January 27 to February 3 in the fallout from the September 11 terrorist attack (in that same year, there was no idle week before the Super Bowl — a situation that would become a permanent reality in the "new world order" the owners seek).

All Super Bowls played since then except for the one immediately after have been held in February. A Super Bowl played on the Sunday of the Presidents' Day weekend would make "Super Bowl Monday" a holiday for many if not most, and would go a long way toward repairing the public relations damage that the bitter controversy over the national anthem protests has caused.

And it is not as if the same 1971 federal law that changed the date of Presidents' Day didn't also change the date of another federal holiday, leading to a date change for another major NASCAR event: the Indianapolis 500 was moved from its original date of Memorial Day, May 30, to the Sunday within the Memorial Day weekend, starting in that year.

But will this create a "ratings duel" between the Super Bowl and the Daytona 500 that is sure to be exploited by political demagogues on either or both sides of our growing political divide?

That's the only potential downside to this.

Contents copyright © Sports Central 1998-2017