Synopsis: Each year, the NFL playoffs culminate in the Super Bowl, which takes place two weeks after champions of the AFC and NFC are crowned. Prior to the Super Bowl, each round of the playoffs is played only one week after the previous round. For this week’s Point/Counterpoint, Daily Campus Sports writers Katherine Sheridan and Sam Zelin debate whether that two-week waiting period should continue to exist, or if the Super Bowl should be played only a week after the conference championships conclude.
Katherine Sheridan: “It is one more game, but it is one more very important game.” These were the words of Los Angeles wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. offered up to reporters during media day. Although the Super Bowl is the biggest football game of the year, it really is just one more game right? So why should it be treated any differently? The two-week grace period that occurs in between the conference championship weekend and the Super Bowl should be done away with. Compared to other leagues, the NFL’s season is contrived of a very succinct schedule with weekly games being played every Sunday, so adding a second week off from play before the biggest game of the season is not as ideal as some argue. Similarly to the augment on when the All-Star Break should occur, it comes down to the momentum a team may have and the things they need to do in order to maintain it for the following week. When preparing for any game and especially the championship, routines are crucial as it can dictate the way a certain player performs if they are to stray away from their normal rituals. Although travel and recovery are of immense importance in their own right, players just want to play. Ahead of Super Bowl 50, former Denver Bronco Von Miller told reporters, “I am just going out there and I am just playing.” In any case, waiting to go through with something is more challenging than actually being in it so for these NFL players staying patient is the real opponent. To minimize this, the NFL should seriously consider what works best for their athletes during moments that carry larger weight.
Sam Zelin: Most importantly, the Super Bowl serves two main purposes: It must decide the best team in the NFL for the season leading up to it as fairly as possible, and it is the league’s premier entertainment product. In order to satisfy both of these objectives, one important factor to mitigate is player injury. On top of the obvious truth that no one wants people to get injured, injuries to players hurt both the competitiveness as well as the marketability of the game. For example, the aforementioned Beckham Jr. was injured during the Super Bowl last month. Had his team not won the game, whether or not his absence influenced the game’s outcome might have been a prominent discussion. Beckham is a hugely recognizable star, and had already caught a touchdown pass during the game, so losing him could have serious consequences both for the game itself and for the ratings. Circling back to how a two-week break correlates to this, there are two main reasons. For starters, an extra week allows players that were previously injured more time to get healthy before the big game. This means more starters will play, lessening the chance that someone would play without fully recovering. On the other hand, a whole extra week of rest can prevent injuries from occurring in-game. According to a 2018 article by UConn’s Dr. Deena Casiero, M.D, “rest is critical to avoiding injury.” While capitalizing on the momentum of the rest of the playoffs is tantalizing, it should be more of a priority to focus on the health of the players, as fans having to wait one week for more NFL action simply isn’t that serious of a consequence.
Katherine Sheridan: While the league must keep their athletes at the top of their priorities, the people who make the game atmosphere what it is are the fans. Granted, fans should not have such persuading powers over the league to change the schedule of the games, however, the NFL must consider their audience. As patience begins to weaken and attention spans grow shorter, keeping people tuned in becomes a new challenge. There are only so many things the NFL public relations team can do to keep the hype constant before becoming repetitive. The Super Bowl for many, is the first football game they may be watching of the season so it would be advantageous of the NFL to plan for the big show as early as possible so they don’t lose out on potential viewership. Provided by CBS17.com Super Bowl planning usually starts up to two years in advance. Despite COVID-19 being a thorn in everyone’s side, it allowed the staff to learn what would work for the following year. Fast forward to the NFC Championship Game that took place in the same arena that Super Bowl LVI would be in, this caused the event planners to work faster than usual but was treated as a great dry run. Knowing that this isn’t always the case in terms of location it is difficult to plan on how things will run. If the NFL ever did consider a change in the two-week bye period, it could be used as an example to make the coordination as smooth as possible but also shorten the time between play.
Sam Zelin: Fan engagement is obviously very important, but with a brand as strong as the Super Bowl, retention is not a problem. Yes, we do live in an era where attention spans are incredibly short, but because of how institutional the Super Bowl is to our society, it almost seems to create an exception. According to CNBC, over 112 million people watched this year’s big game, while only 6.69 million tuned into the Pro Bowl one week prior, according to Statista. If fans truly were starving for football content, they would have watched the Pro Bowl — instead, they waited the extra week for the Super Bowl. Taking the break not only naturally builds anticipation, but it allows for more content to be created to hype up the main event. The point about the fact that this might be the first game fans watch all season also brings up an interesting issue with fan engagement: If the necessity to consume football as soon as possible was so strong, wouldn’t more diehard fans watch preseason games? Just as the Super Bowl might be the first game a casual fan watches, many more dedicated fans’ first game is the first official game of the season. According to sportsmediawatch.com, preseason games generally pull in a few million viewers, while regular season openers can average double-digit millions, per sportspromedia.com. In short, the vast majority of fans are willing to wait for football, and the other factors simply point more in favor of the two-week break.