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Sports Then and Now




Waiting for the Weekend: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Football

Posted on November 13, 2009 by Dean Hybl
The NFL network began their fourth season broadcasting games on November 12th.

The NFL network began their fourth season broadcasting games on November 12th.

Like the proverbial question about the sound of a tree in the forest, I have a similar question about the NFL.

If they play an NFL game in prime time and half the people in the country can’t watch is it still considered an NFL game?

That is my question following the game Thursday night between the Chicago Bears and San Francisco 49ers, which was broadcast on the NFL Network.

Like many others across the country, my cable company, Bright House Network, is embroiled in a long-running disagreement with NFL Network over channel placement, pricing and other such things that seem trivial to me, but important to television executives.

Overall, seven of the top 10 cable providers in the country do not offer NFL Network.

Considering that the NFL Network started broadcasting just over six years ago on November 4, 2003, you would think these companies would have settled the disagreement by now, but unfortunately, it looks like many of us will be enduring another year of missing out on some exciting NFL matchups.

Now it is one thing not to have access to all game on a Sunday afternoon. That has been part of the NFL makeup since the very beginning and fans understand that they can only see one or two different games in their market at a time.

However, not being able to watch a “stand alone” NFL game on a Thursday or Saturday night is another animal entirely.

After all, isn’t it written in the constitution that American football fans have the inalienable right to watch prime time NFL games?

If it isn’t, then they need to make an adjustment to the constitution. After all, who really cares about being able to have a gun or freedom of speech? Freedom to watch Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Troy Polamalu seems far more important.

Yet, unless there is some kind of miracle I will miss the opportunity to see those players and many other stars at least once over the next few weeks.

Heck, the week before Christmas those greedy SOBs are going to keep most of us from getting to watch Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Tony Romo in the same weekend!

If both teams keep playing as they have lately, the December 19 game between the New Orleans Saints, led by Brees, and the Dallas Cowboys, under the guidance of Romo, could end up rivaling the Patriots-Giants game from a couple years ago as the biggest game ever broadcast by NFL Network.

If you will recall, that game broadcast on December 29, 2007 featured the New England Patriots trying to make history against the New York Giants.

After a national uproar, the NFL finally worked out a deal to have the game simulcast on NBC, CBS and the NFL network. The game ended up being the most watched NFL game in 12 years with nearly 35 million people tuning in to see the game. However, nearly 30 million of those folks watched the game on either CBS or NBC with the NFL Network having an audience of only 4.5 million viewers.

As a life-long NFL fan, I see this inability for the NFL to ensure that all prime time games are available to every NFL fan as a power play and sign of greed by the league.

If the league really cared about its fans, it would have ensured that all major cable providers were on-board with broadcasting the station. Instead, they reach only a portion of the national audience and no one really seems to care.

Even with a smaller audience than it would get if the game were available from coast to coast, the NFL is still getting additional exposure for their television network and a greater audience than it does the rest of the time.

Like usual, the folks with no options or recourse for getting this issue fixed are us, the NFL fans. Sure they will take our money for tickets, jerseys and satellite television packages, but don’t go asking to actually get to see all the games. That isn’t on their radar.

So, if you happen to be in a market where the NFL Network is available, please enjoy the games for the rest of us.

Did Someone Say Playoffs?

While the major schools in college football are winding down their regular seasons and angling for glamorous spots in the bowls, there are actually teams across the country preparing for college football playoffs.

I know it is hard to imagine a college football league where the best teams meet in a playoff and then one team emerges as unquestionably the top team in the league. However, beginning this weekend with the Division II playoffs, schools that play in Divisions I-AA, II and III will be spending the next several weeks battling it out on the field for a championship.

The 2008 Richmond Spiders advanced through the playoff system to win the Division I-AA National Title.

The 2008 Richmond Spiders advanced through the playoff system to win the Division I-AA National Title.

So in mid-December when Division I-A teams with 6-6 records will be battling it out in Bowl Games such as the Poinsettia Bowl, Meineke Bowl and Insight Bowl, schools from the other college football divisions will be crowning true champions based on success on the field, rather than success in computers.

Birthdays
Each week we look at some current and former athletes who were born during the week.

Here are some notable sports figures born during this week:
November 13 – Mel Stottlemyre (1941), Kevin Gamble (1965), Pat Hentgen (1968)
November 14 – Jack Sikma (1955), Willie Hernandez (1955), Curt Schilling (1966)
November 15 – Pedro Borbon (1967), Greg Anthony (1967)
November 16 – Chuck Finley (1962), Zina Garrison Jackson (1963), Dwight Gooden (1964)
November 17 – Bob Mathias (1930), Tom Seaver (1944), Marc Edwards (1974)
November 18 – Jack Tatum (1948), Warren Moon (1956), Jamie Moyer (1962)

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