Why Must We Wait Two Weeks For Super Bowl?

It seems totally senseless that the NFL must turn out the lights, as Don Meredith famously sang, for two weeks after the conference championship games.

But it actually hasn't always been that way: Seven times in Super Bowl history — Super Bowl IV, Super Bowl XVII (because of the 1982 strike), Super Bowl XXV, Super Bowl XXVIII (in those days, the New Years Day weekend was reserved for college football bowl games, so that NFL games could only be played on Sunday; that season also featured two bye weeks for each team, something that we may very well be seen again due to the 17-game schedule), Super Bowl XXXIV, as the result of the same calendar permutations (New Years Day fell on a Saturday in both 1994 and 2000), Super Bowl XXXVI, because of 9/11, and Super Bowl XXXVII (the only time it has ever been done in back-to-back years) — there has not been an idle week between the conference title games and the Super Bowl.

The most "logical" reason that we are made to wait two weeks is so that the owners can "hype" the game. Yet if this were true, then why did they abandon the idle week for the first time only the fourth time the game was ever played?

The original reason for doing it — so that there was room for playing a playoff game to break a tie for first place in either conference, if necessary — was rendered inoperable when division tie-breaking procedures were first implemented in 1967.

And how come the other sports have never done this?

Although the way it turns out, something similar can happen to some extent in baseball, the NBA, or the NHL — if both of the League Championship Series, or the NBA or NHL Conference Finals, result in four-game sweeps. But that's not the same thing as taking an automatic two weeks off.

The beginning of the NFL regular season has also wandered quite a lot through the calendar throughout the league's history: in the 1950s, the season began on the last Sunday in September; with the lengthening of the season from 12 to 14 games in 1961, the season start was moved forward to the third Sunday in September (meaning sometimes one week, sometimes two), where it remained until the schedule was increased again, this time to 16 games, in 1978, moving opening day to the first Sunday in September, thus almost always the Labor Day weekend. However, the owners soon realized that this resulted in lower television ratings and even lower attendance, so in 1999 the start of the season was pushed back from the Labor Day weekend to the following weekend, where it remains today.

Whether we all — the owners, the players, and the fans — would be better off if the season started, and ended, later, maybe even leading to the Super Bowl being held on the Presidents' Day weekend and "Super Bowl Monday" becoming a de-facto holiday, is entirely beside the point.

But regardless, waiting a week between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl makes no sense whatsoever. Even if it did back in 1966, it certainly doesn't now.

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