Personally, I think April is a good month to hold the draft. The Super Bowl was a couple of months ago, and it takes a few months for the 2016 memories to fade into the 2017 anticipation. Except for the Atlanta Falcons, who I hope never ever forget how much the world hates them for handing a free Super Bowl to the Patriots.
So an April draft makes sense. Releasing the NFL schedule in April, however, is a horrible and unfair idea. It should be released the day after the Super Bowl. I comment on this every year, and I want to explain my thoughts on this.
To begin, let me explain what most of us already know. By Week 17 of the 2016 season, every NFL team knew who they were going to play in 2017. Same thing every year. The NFL figures out your opponents for you, but not the When/Where part. So far so good.
So beginning in December, the league knows who is playing whom. It then takes them 4 full months to announce where and when. Ridiculous.
First of all, the NFL is a multi-billion-dollar industry that can surely afford basic schedule-planning software that you can get at Target for about $19.99. Granted, getting 32 teams organized for 17 weeks can be complicated, but the NFL has the money and staff available to un-complicate matters.
Second, I feel teams have a right to know their schedule as far in advance as possible. The logistics of traveling with 100+ people a week on chartered planes is staggering. It’s unfair that some teams have to wait until late April to know what to expect, while other teams have a huge advantage of early planning. Dallas and Detroit, for example, know they don’t have to travel on Thanksgiving. That simply is not fair.
This year, the Dolphins already know one date: October 1. The Dolphins will have a “home” game on October 1 in Europe, thanks to Stephen Ross throwing away home-field advantage as if it were yesterday’s newspaper. Teams fight like mad to gain every possible advantage. Stephen Ross fights to give away his advantages.
It’s made even worse by the schedule makers giving unfair advantages purposely. Dallas had a home game last year on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, and then another home game 4 days later. After their Sunday game, the Cowboys went home and relaxed and got ready. Its opponent, Baltimore, had to miss a day of rest and/or practice to fly to Dallas. If the NFL clings to this absurd notion of playing games on a Thursday, they have to schedule in travel for both teams. Mandate that the Cowboys and Lions have to play road games the week before their privileged Thanksgiving dates.
The NFL also has a recent tradition of allowing the Super Bowl champions to open the season on a Thursday night. Again, this gives one team early knowledge of when they play one of their games that other teams don’t have. After Atlanta and Seattle both handed the Patriots free Super Bowl victories, you’d think the Patriots wouldn’t need any more favors. But no.
I think the worst aspect of this is for the fans. Many fans plan vacations and other family outings around going to see football games. I know that I myself try my best to coordinate my travel schedule around Dolphin games. Sometimes it can’t be helped, and I’m forced to miss games. Other times, I enjoy traveling to away games, depending on the city. It gets harder and harder each year, because the NFL announces it schedule so late. I was very interested in seeing the Dolphins at Seattle last year, for example, but that game ended up being Week One. Getting airfare to Seattle in September when it was already early May proved problematic. Sorry, but I am NOT one of those people who books a plane ticket at the last minute and can afford all the extra costs of doing so. Plus, it wasn’t enough time to get an international friend to meet up in Seattle.
This year, I want to build a vacation around the Dolphins game in Los Angeles. Obviously, thanks to the NFL, I cannot yet book airfare or hotels, coordinate with friends who also want to travel to L.A., plan other L.A. activities, etc. Again, I know others don’t see this as a big deal at all, but I don’t like booking a full vacation only a few months in advance…not when you can have so many more options available the earlier you decide.
The problem is, the NFL is taking its time in allowing me.
Dear NFL…your attendance and ratings are down. Way down. I am a paying fan with one hand on my wallet, ready to spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars on your product. But yet you’re making me wait? That breaks every rule of business! Fix it.