Sunday, April 4th, 2004
I have a friend who waters down his orange juice. I ask him about quality; he says that quality is nice, but money in his pocket pays the bills. At the annual NFL league meetings, there was talk of expanding the playoff field from 12 to 14 teams. Finally, the idea was tabled for another year's agenda.
The NFL understands it has the most popular, and arguably, top professional sport product around. Parity has made sure that every team has a shot at the Super Bowl. Thanks to free agency, a team can turn around faster than a drunk finding Jesus. The Ravens, Rams, and Patriots have all won their first Super Bowl in the last seven years.
A short 16-game season makes every week mean something; each game counts. Each football game is the equivalent to about 10 baseball or five hockey games. All this keeps football fans glued to the TV like CEOs outsourcing to lower wage-demanding nations. Adding playoff teams is just a badly thought-out idea for fast cash. More playoff teams mean more tickets and TV time to sell. But in the end, it would hurt way more than it helps.
It is hard to get into the NFL payoffs. Your team can't just deserve to be playing in January -- it has to beat out stiff competition. Even with 12 teams making the playoffs, football has already given a chance for .500 teams to see postseason action. I mean, isn't that enough? The Bengals almost made it this year!
If people wanted to watch bad football, the XFL cheerleaders wouldn't have had to go back to being hookers. What's wrong with good teams missing the playoffs, anyway? Excitement equals viewers and competition makes teams work hard every week. You think the Lakers worry about November and December?
Two more playoff teams just dilutes the regular season competition leaving less people interested in the first two-thirds of the year. If the NFL looses viewers, the days of multi-billion dollar TV contracts are over. As William Money says in The Unforgiven, "deserves got nothing to do with it."
The NFL also tweaked its instant replay rule. It now allots a team a third challenge if they win their original two. Unless you're Mike "Wave the Flag" Martz, most coaches covet their challenges more than an old man and his healthy prostate.
How exactly will this affect the games? With the prospect of earning another challenge will head coaches become more liberal with their decisions? With more replays to judge will games get longer? Will coaches make unwise judgments or will they be right so often that every official receives a Lens Crafters deal? We'll have to see how this plays out.
There's good news for the NFL's health insurance underwriters. No more screaming, red-faced, chest clutching, out of breath head coaches who look like they are trying to pass a five carrot diamond they swallowed in order to get through customs.
Another new rule change now allows head coaches to call timeouts themselves. I hope the NFL negotiated a better premium. I wonder why it took the owners almost forty years to decide that head coaches could handle that responsibility.
You ever wonder where everything is going to fit? With garbage, storage needs, golf courses, graveyards, and an ever growing, longer living population, eventually we will be running out of room. The NFL addressed their version of this problem by now allowing receivers to wear numbers 10-19. It seems that because of retiring numbers some teams have a shortage of jerseys ranging from 80-89.
I hope I'm alive when they allow offensive linemen to wear fractions.