NFL Pre-Season and “Winter Break”

I’m still officially on hiatus, but I couldn’t help but comment on this NY Times article about the NFL. While I generally leave the NFL commentary here to others, I’ve been interested in the talk of a move to the 18-game season.

Let me talk about something first to set the stage for my discussion on the NFL. Skip past the horizontal line if you want to skip most of my soccer mumbo-jumbo (although it won’t make quite as much sense).

The EPL (English Premier League), or BPL (Barclay’s Premier League) as I’ve been hearing it called for the first times recently, has this type of discussion all the time. The next few sentences here are simply back-story, but stick with me. The German League has 18 teams in it, which cuts out 4 games. The Spanish League has 20 teams, but has only one domestic cup. The Italian League has two domestic cups and 20 teams in the league. The French League also is a 20 and 2. I’m not going to pretend to know if there is talk of shortening the season in France or Italy, but the argument against Italy could certainly be that the weather is better there than in the English (and Wales*…which is probably why BPL is catching on). The same could be said for France, though not to the degree of Italy.

The Germans have a winter break with their four games and one cup removed from the schedule. Many want a winter break in England (and Wales, let’s not forget them). I’m not sure about other leagues with winter breaks. Some leagues, such as my beloved Fotbollsallsvenskan take off the entire winter, but that’s not what we are talking about here. We’re talking about taking December off, or something like that.


 

Here’s where we bring it all back to the NFL…the EPL/BPL has the same problem the NFL does (complete with head injuries). Christmas games are a big deal in England, and doing away with that would destroy traditions.

I realize people are resistant to change, but there’s no reason change has to destroy *important* traditions. I’d claim there’s a difference in “the way things have always been done” and a true tradition. True tradition has emotional value and not just stick-in-the-mud resistance to change.

Let’s assume we stick with 16 games in the NFL. If you don’t see where I’m going yet – the NFL could have some sort of winter break. I’d suggest in between Thanksgiving and Christmas for both the EPL and NFL. That way Christmas and Thanksgiving games could be held. Maybe between Black Friday and Christmas Eve. Let everyone do their shopping, watch basketball and hockey, spend time with their family, study for exams and anything else that a human might do when it’s not NFL season. Give the players some time to rest and come back refreshed so we can watch the best of the best battle it out for the playoff spots. No one likes it when their team is put out because of an injury…except the team that takes their place and even then there’s always that nagging “well, if [star player] hadn’t gotten hurt…”

The NFL would have to work out at what week to start the break. This year Thanksgiving is week 12. That may seem late to some, but if the idea is really to get teams healthy for the playoffs, it’s not a bad spot.

I’m not going to go into the options in detail, but one option would be to have the season moved four weeks sooner. This would give the southern teams the advantage the northern teams have in the winter. The advantage is then the break could easily be between the playoffs and the season, which is essentially what happens in college football (2015 UPDATE: this is less the case now that there is a 4-team playoff). It is potentially a dangerous option for the players, and I’m not sure how many fans will sit through the heat. There are other options and if you leave a comment asking for it, I’ll spend some time going through those, but for now, it’s just something to ponder.

When it’s all said and done, what could be better than a Super Bowl in late February, followed by March Madness, followed by NBA and NHL playoff pushes and then playoffs? All this and you still get to see Thanksgiving and Christmas games and spend some time with your family.

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douglasawhsport

douglasawhsport

I played four varsity sports in high school (gridiron, track, football and basketball). I went to states with a relay team in North Carolina and made the state semi-finals in football (soccer). I also coached travel football for TFC (http://www.trianglefc.org/) and worked for Eurosport/soccer.com. I graduated from the University of New Hampshire School of Law, where I study intellectual property and sports law.

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