Sorry, NFL: 18-game regular season just doesn't add up

February 09, 2011|By Kevin Cowherd

In this country, we hold these truths to be self-evident: More is better than less. Super-sized is better than regular. And having something available 24/7 is the greatest gift of all.

Which brings us to the NFL's desire to add two games to its regular-season schedule next season.

On the surface, this might seem like a logical move

After all, Americans love pro football. It's by far our favorite sport to watch. So if we love being glued to the monster high-def TV for 16 games, won't we be absolutely giddy to watch 18 games?

Sure, now that the Super Bowl is over and another season has been put to bed, aren't we all wailing and gnashing our teeth and clamoring for more football?

Uh, not necessarily.

In fact, a recent Associated Press poll based on 1,125 interviews, including 482 NFL fans, seems to indicate the opposite.

Only 27 percent of the respondents strongly favored or somewhat favored adding two regular-season games and dropping two preseason games.

And when the group was narrowed to just NFL fans, yes, support for 18 games rose to 45 percent. But only 18 percent of those fans strongly favored it.

The NFL, of course, is spinning the idea of 18 regular-season games as another noble gesture on its part.

And it's doing this by saying: "Look, we're even dropping two of those preseason games you hate!"

Yes, the league has known for years that fans hate preseason games. It knows fans hate paying regular-season ticket prices to see watered-down games played mostly by second-stringers and soon-to-be training camp washouts.

It's the biggest ripoff in sports. And everybody knows it.

So now the league — strictly out of the goodness of its heart, you understand — wants to do something about it.

"The fans have clearly stated that they don't like the preseason," commissioner Roger Goodell said last week during his annual "State of the NFL" address. "We have a 20-game format, 16 regular-season games and four preseason games, and the fans have repeatedly said the preseason games don't meet NFL standards.

"And that is the basis on which we started this 18-game concept, taking two low-quality preseason games and turning them into two high-quality regular-season games."

Aww, see that? The league is looking out for you!

After all these years of fleecing fans in the preseason ticket charade, the NFL is finally going to make things right.

Except we're all supposed to ignore the fact that adding two regular-season games means a ton more money for the league and team owners.

Now they'll make more in TV revenue because the two extra regular-season games will be televised nationally rather than just locally, as with preseason games.

And with more fans attending regular-season games than preseason games, that jacks up parking and concession revenues, too.

Of course, we're not supposed to dwell on the money angle in all this.

And we're also supposed to ignore the fact that the NFL players themselves want no part of this proposed 18-game season, either.

Are you kidding? Go ask Ray Lewis what he thinks of playing two more regular-season games. Go ask Ed Reed or Derrick Mason or anyone else who's played this brutal game for more than five minutes.

Think the injury rate in the NFL is through the roof right now? Add two more meaningful games to the season and the players will be dropping like it's a battlefield.

And the quality of the game will suffer, too, especially late in the season when the starters are banged up and every team has a superstar or two on injured reserve.

Maybe that's why whenever talk comes up about the NFL going to 18 games, I think of Todd Heap.

I think of the time I saw him walking stiffly down the hallway at the Castle before a Ravens practice last year.

That day, the big tight end was definitely in no shape to work out. He wore sweats and a neck brace. He looked glassy-eyed and out of it. I said hi. But to Heap, my voice probably sounded like it was coming from Neptune.

And this was after just the sixth game of the season.

Three days earlier, Heap had taken a brutal helmet-to-helmet hit from New England Patriots cornerback Brandon Meriweather in the Ravens' 23-20 loss at Foxborough.

The Ravens had announced that Heap's injury was a stinger, not a concussion. Whatever it was, he sure was hurting.

I wonder if he thinks adding two regular-season games is no big deal?

Never mind. We already know the answer.

kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

(Listen to Kevin Cowherd Tuesdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. with Jerry Coleman on Fox 1370 AM Sports.)

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