The Agony And Ecstasy Of The Proposed 18-Game NFL Season

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 03: National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell testifies on Capitol Hill on November 3, 2009 in Washington, DC. The hearing focused on doping in professional sports.(Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)

    The NFL owners are gathering today in Atlanta for a one-day meeting to cover a handful of topics, and to presumably smoke cigars while cackling and pay underlings thousands of dollars to dance while being shot at. Also on the docket today, a discussion of what is being called the “enhanced season,” per NFL spokesman Greg Aiello:

     

    On our way to Atlanta for league meeting. Key subjects: enhanced season, sale of Rams to Stan Kroenke, plans for Kickoff Week.

    “Enhanced season,” of course, is corporate stoolie-speak for an expanded 18-game regular season. Commissioner Roger Goodell has been an advocate of the 18-game schedule for a while now, and many view it as all but an inevitability at this point.

    The football fan in me is torn on the idea. On the surface of things, what isn’t to love about an 18-game season? That means MORE football, which means more fantasy and more gambling and more ignoring my children. Those are all crazy awesome things. Plus, those two extra games would come at the expense of the preseason, which is long and horrible and meaningless. Less preseason, more regular season. It’s hard to argue with that.

    But you sure can if you try. Here’s the thing about the NFL as it stands right now: It’s kinda perfect. People may complain about Week 17 laydowns and occasionally screwy playoff seeding, but those are relatively minor quibbles. The product the NFL puts out now is quite solid, and the ratings bear it out.

    Football is the only pro sport that, I would argue, does not have a regular season that drags on too long. In every other sport, the regular season is endless. I’m not even sure the NHL takes more than a week off. The NFL takes just over five months to finish its regular season and playoffs. The NBA takes two freakin’ months alone to get through their endless playoff rounds. The NFL, at least to me, is quite adept at leaving you wanting more by season’s end. That’s in stark contrast to baseball, which I can’t wait to see go away.

    Add those two extra games in, and you haven’t extended the season a ludicrous amount. But if you think the expansion will stop there, you’re wrong.

    An expanded regular season will almost certainly lead to an expanded postseason. I could easily see two or four teams added to the mix somewhere down the line. Factor in player attrition, and suddenly you have an NFL season that’s a six-month death march for players, with the team least injured staggering to the end to pick up the Lombardi Trophy. Hockey is like this in the postseason, and it’s not always pretty.

    Furthermore, this expanded season is throwing a goober in the labor talks between the NFL and the NFLPA. Players hate the idea, and won’t do it without serious compensation, and I don’t blame them for that. I hate the idea that an 18-game schedule could be the sticking point that leads us to a 0-game schedule. That will make me want to torch towns and punch teenagers.

    So take heed, NFL. I suppose you can have too much of a good thing, even if the football nut inside me thinks that’s a load.