Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Thursday night football solution

Holy cow. Did you see the uniforms the Seattle Seahawks trotted out with to face the LA Rams? Some kind of neonish chartreuse. Do those things glow in the dark? Rave green, you say? More like heave green or, put another way, they look like the color one might expect to find in the bottom of an infant's diaper if one has fed the little tot radioactive cream of mango baby food. Yuck.

But on to Thursday night football.

Fans love the gladiator aspect of NFL contests. Big, fast, macho men running at full speed and crashing into each other. But the side they rarely see is the damage that is inflicted. Sure, we hear about broken bones, torn ligaments, and concussions. Yet there is way more that happens in painful ways fans don't consider.

It could likely fairly be said that every player on every team, with the exception of a kicker here and there gets damaged on game day. Brutish linemen slam into each other on every play. Linebackers and secondary personnel fly around making hits. Running backs, receivers, and quarterbacks absorb hit after hit. This takes its toll. No one escapes unscathed, it's just a matter of degree. As the season wears on, virtually everybody is playing hurt in one way or another.

Enter Thursday night football. After a typical Sunday game, Mondays are for players to take inventory of their body parts. Massages, ice baths, MRIs and the like are common. This is a recovery day. But even the most highly conditioned players don't heal up in a day or two from the bumps and bruises incurred during a game.

True, they make a lot of money and nobody forces them to do it. In fact, the competition itself is brutal just to MAKE it into the NFL, let alone stay there for long. So this is not about sympathy, but rather common sense. Even if we discount the preseason games as "light-hitting" affairs, at least sixteen all out wars remain on the regular season schedule. More, if playoffs are involved. That's a whole lot of punishment to absorb. The typical seven days between games is short enough to recover, only to go out and do it again. But asking them to speed it up and do it in a mere four days, which gives teams scant time to scout and prepare for their next opponent as well, has always been unreasonable.

Now, finally, the NFL is considering a new policy, and it's about time, because the solution has always been right in front of their faces. The league, like some political views and religions, has always been reluctant to change. Why tinker with a good thing -- super popular cash cow -- they likely doth protest?

Not too many years ago, they mercifully incorporated "bye" weeks into the schedule. Somewhere between weeks 4 and 13 all teams would get a week off. Of course they had to stagger this, typically 4 teams per week, so an almost full slate of games could go on elsewhere. Make no mistake. Players love weeks off to rest and recover.

So now the idea is to precede a Thursday night game with a bye week for the teams involved. It's the best of both worlds. Let's say a team played on a Sunday, or even Monday night. Giving them the following week as a bye before a Thursday night game means they would have 10 or 11 days off. Better than seven, and light years preferable to 4.

After the completion of the Thursday night game, they'd get another 10 days off until their next contest on a typical Sunday. That's back to back extra days of R and R for the wounded combatants, and the regular season schedule itself doesn't miss a beat. It's still 16 games spread out over 17 weeks.

Currently, the bye week consists of a full two weeks off. While good for the players, many of these days involved doing little if anything to prepare for the next game. Basically, a waste of time. Many coaches would likely say that it's too MUCH time off. Teams can fall out of their rhythm and who knows what kind of trouble some players might get in given so much idle time to go out and do whatever floats their boat?

It's the optimum solution to alleviate the literal pain of Thursday night games.

So that likely means the NFL, given their stodgy ways, will think about it for a year or two. Maybe they'll adapt it, and maybe not.

But in the meantime, the players that have to play on Thursday nights will continue to be the walking wounded sent back out into full fledged battle.

Yours truly would be the first to admit he's no genius, and can be feeble minded, even hare-brained at times.

But I fail to see any downside to this proposal.

It needs to be implemented ASAP, next season, for everybody's sake. It's been there all along, but nobody saw it.

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