How much flex scheduling can NFL fans withstand?
Most sports ticketing is done electronically these days, but NFL teams ought to consider giving out an old-fashioned paper supplement with them:
A sign that reads “Kick Me” that can be taped to one’s back.
Such is the state of “flex scheduling,” a concept evolving from merely annoying (moving kickoff times) to absurd (moving kickoff days).
The NFL already is planning on flex scheduling for “Monday Night Football” in 2023, which is bad enough and will create massive logistical headaches.
But Sports Business Journal reported that “Thursday Night Football” flexing is on the voting agenda for owners to approve at league meetings in Phoenix next week.
The proposal would cover late-season games and relax limits on the number of games a given team can play on a Thursday after it plays on a Sunday, which currently is one.
So, to review: The NFL is considering making suckers of ticket buyers and putting players’ health at risk to give TV viewers better prime time games – and more to the point, to give Amazon Prime Video better prime time games.
Last season’s inaugural Prime Video slate got unwanted attention because of its lack of pizzazz, notably during an Oct. 6 game in which the Colts beat the Broncos, 12-9, and play-by-play man Al Michaels seemed less than engaged.
“It was a bad game,” Michaels told Newsday in December. “I thought I had fun with what that game was.
“What was I supposed to do, be a used-car salesman and sell you a 20-year-old Mazda?”
That used car salesman reference is uncomfortably on-the-nose now in a different context, as the NFL ponders selling tickets to one thing, then delivering another.
The Jets and Giants both are scheduled to play in Las Vegas in 2023. That will be a no-brainer road trip for many fans.
Say one or both of those games is late in the season. Say one is flexed to a Thursday from a Sunday. Say you have plane tickets for Friday and a hotel room for the weekend. Oops, sorry.
The plan is for such flexes to be announced 15 days in advance. That’s not nearly enough, unless it comes with an NFL offer to reimburse fans for change fees on flights they booked months earlier.
Again, flexing games from Sunday afternoon to Sunday night has been going on since 2006 and is profoundly unfair to ticket holders. (It is done in baseball, too.)
But we at least have gotten used to that notion as a reasonable compromise between the interests of ticket-holders and the interests of TV viewers (and networks).
Changing kickoffs by days, though, is asking too much.
Buying tickets to a Sunday matinee on Broadway and being told the show now is Thursday at 8?
Showing up at the airport for your Sunday afternoon flight to Chicago and being told it left three days ago?
The best hope for averting this plan might be coaches, players and the players’ union, who naturally will be concerned about forcing top teams to play an extra game on four days’ rest in the season’s home stretch.
SBJ reported that the proposal would allow Sunday games to move to Thursday for Weeks 14-17 and allow teams to be scheduled for a Thursday game after a Sunday game twice every season, up from once.
If approved, it is not clear when the change would take effect. (Monday night flexes are set to begin in Week 12 of this season.)
SBJ noted that coaches will be in attendance at the league meetings, and figure to lean on their owners to vote “no” on this.
I am not sure fans’ opinions matter here, but they do have the ultimate power, which is not to buy tickets or watch TV and streams in the first place and move those “Kick Me” signs to the owners’ backs.