Column: Thursday Night Football has to die

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell (26) is tackled by Tennessee Titans' Austin Johnson, left, and Johnathan Cyprien after a short gain during the first half of an NFL football game in Pittsburgh, Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017. (AP Photo/Don Wright)

I think Ghandi once said something along the lines of “professional football is intended to be played on Sundays.” I wouldn’t bother fact-checking that, just take my word for it.

 

Thursday Night Football is the worst thing to happen to football since the creation of the Dallas Cowboys. Saturdays are, contrary to popular opinion, for college football, and Sundays are for sitting down on the couch and watching seven straight hours of NFL games. I’ll even allow Monday Night Football, simply because it has been around for awhile and it makes Mondays slightly more bearable.

Thursday night is not a football night. Thursday night is when you’re painfully close to the weekend but know you still have an entire day to get through. Football is for relaxing on a weekend and watch grown men beat the life out of each other. They just don’t go together.

Playing a professional football game on Thursday night benefits one party and one party only, and that’s the NFL. From a business standpoint, it’s easy to see why the NFL tries so hard to promote TNF. Rather than have six games going on at the same time on a Sunday afternoon as God intended, why not oversaturate our product even more than it already is and stretch it to another night of the week? Perhaps it’s only a matter of time before the NFL starts scheduling a game for every night of the week.

But outside of the satanic corporation that is the NFL, Thursday Night Football hurts everyone. It hurts fans, who must force themselves to watch their favorite team play a lifeless game on a Thursday night. It hurts fantasy football owners, who must try to plan their entire lineup three days in advance despite having approximately 13 players listed as questionable with no idea if they’re going to play or not. And most of all, it hurts the players—literally.

Football is a punishing sport. No matter how many measures the NFL implements to improve player safety, by the game’s very nature, it’s always going to take a massive toll on the physical health of its players.

If a team plays on Sunday, they then have a mere four days to recuperate, game prep for the next opponent, possibly travel cross-country, and be ready to go on Thursday night. There are only 16 games in the NFL regular season, and every single one is important. So although the rest of the country does not care about watching you play on a weeknight, the players have to try to summon the same level of intensity and physical ability as any other game. Spoiler alert: that’s impossible. And it shows.

Thursday Night Football, as a product, is a trainwreck. It is simply unwatchable at times. It’s sluggish, uncreative, and just boring. If you don’t think game-planning and practice make a difference, just watch one game of Thursday Night Football. Star players who might normally be ready by Sunday are forced to rest, penalties are rampant because of fatigue and unpreparedness, and the matchups are usually some of the least interesting and competitive of the whole week.

The players’ bodies are simply not ready to take another beating, and their minds have not had ample time to study the opponent. It makes for terrible football. Certainly, there are occasional diamonds-in-the-rough, like the wild Raiders-Chiefs game in October, but those entertaining displays are few and far between.

Injuries have absolutely decimated the NFL this season, and Thursday Night Football is not helping matters. Last week, Seahawks’ star cornerback Richard Sherman tore his Achilles on Thursday night, one of six starters to go down for Seattle alone. Perhaps it’s unfair to say that the injury happened only because of short rest, but such non-contact injuries are far more likely when players are not completely physically recovered.

After the game, numerous Seahawks voiced their hatred for TNF. Wide receiver Doug Baldwin said it “should be illegal.” Sherman was mum this year, but partly because he already ranted about TNF last year, elegantly calling it a “poopfest,” and saying it’s a “middle finger” to players.

And they’re not alone. More and more players are speaking out, such as Ben Roethlisberger’s comments that it’s “miserable” and “terrible,” and the criticisms will only continue to build. Lucky for us, the NFL has a sterling reputation of listening to its players, and making changes for the good of the game, rather than financial gain! (That was sarcasm, just to be clear.)

For a league that is so desperately striving for an illusion of player safety, Thursday Night Football is proof that at the end of the day, the NFL really doesn’t give a poopfest about its fans or its players.

But if it does care solely about money, the NFL must realize that TNF is hurting them in the pockets as well. It’s diluting football to the point of being unbearable. It’s easy to blame the tanking NFL ratings on player protests and injuries, but there’s a far more disturbing trend: people are simply losing interest in the sport.

I can personally say I’ve watched maybe half as much football I did last year, and that has absolutely nothing to do with protests. When you are constantly barraged with NFL marketing, and fantasy football talk shows, and uncompetitive football four days a week, you stop watching. It’s no longer entertainment, it’s an oversaturated product that couldn’t care less about its fans.

Killing Thursday Night Football will not solve the NFL’s problems, but it’s a great place to start. Without players to take the field and an audience to watch, the NFL is worthless. I hope they realize that before it’s too late.


Andrew Morrison is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at andrew.morrison@uconn.edu. He tweets at @asmor24.