John Steigerwald: NFL finds another way to give fans less for their money
“Eighteen games is straight baloney, either way you cut it.”
You wonder how many NFL players agree with that tweet from Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward on Saturday.
According to Andrew Beaton of the Wall Street Journal, the owners are going to try to sell the players on an 18-game schedule that would include a rule limiting players to 16 games.
Everybody gets two weeks off.
Of course, when you have a monopoly, you can get away with offering your customers less for their money, kind of the way the NFL did several years ago when it decided to shorten games by running the clock sooner after out of bounds plays and penalties.
The customers were told they would get less football for their money, and most in the media congratulated the league for shortening games.
If this stupid proposal becomes a reality, fans will have to accept not seeing the star they hoped to see when they bought a ticket if they made the mistake of choosing one of the two games when he is a healthy scratch.
The NFL finally has admitted, at least 10 years too late, that exhibition games stink. They want to trade the two exhibition games for two regular-season games for one simple reason.
Darren Rovell of The Action Network pointed out that, based on the current agreements, adding two more games would mean $500 million more per year to be divided among the 32 teams.
And we all know the NFL owners could use the money. The teams only split $8.78 billion in revenue last year. That’s a 33% increase from 2013.
How many businesses can you name that have increased revenue by a third in the last five years?
Commissioner Roger Goodell told CNBC the league would like to have a new collective bargaining agreement before the start of the 2019 season.
The NFL Players Association is going to have to decide whether the baloney can be sliced in a way that makes it happy.
Of course we know what makes it happy.
You can be sure the NFLPA won’t take the fans into account when making a decision on the 18-game season. They know the fans will show up, and they’ll agree to a 20-game season with four weeks off if the money is right.
With all the rules changes to increase safety, and in many ways reduce the excitement for the fans, such as trading kickoff returns for touchbacks and the elimination of hitting from most practices, adding two games shouldn’t be a big deal to the players. If the money’s right, of course.
The Pittsburgh Penguins played 86 hockey games from October to April, including back-to-back road games and three games in four nights. The Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues played more than 100 games.
Hockey is a pretty grueling sport — lots of hitting and 60 minutes of action in every game as opposed to about eight minutes of actual playing in an NFL game.
If NHL players can play 82 games in six months, NFL players can play 18 in four and a half, and they don’t need to be guaranteed two healthy scratches per season.
NFL teams never could be expected to play three or four games a week, and the players already hate Thursday Night Football, but they play 18 games in the CFL with two bye weeks.
The NFL owners want 18 games. There will be 18 games in an NFL season in the very near future.
Bet on it.
John Steigerwald is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.