After having some time to digest the whole situation over the last few days I’m still scratching my head over the NFL’s decision to postpone the game between the Texans and Ravens to November, while playing the Bye Week shuffle with both teams as well as the Bengals.
First, let me start by saying that any time a natural disaster hits, football is secondary. You need to make sure that people are safe and that the venue that the players will be appearing in will be free of worry as well. With the expected power outages and helping those that chose not to evacuate the area would have plenty on its plate.
That being said I’d rather take a look at the other options that could have been pursued and I can better outline my problem with the league’s decision.
Option #1 : The game could have been moved to Baltimore.
Not a likely option. Even though there is precedent for it in 2005 when the Giants hosted the Saints for an “away” game after Hurricane Katrina and M & T is a football only venue. It doesn’t seem like it would take much to do it but there was media and fan backlash over the Saints losing a home game and it didn’t feel like the correct thing to do. So that’s out.
Option #2 : Move the game to a neutral site in Texas or the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
Again there is precedence for this and it could have been possible to obtain those venues and work out a package with the Texans to recover lost revenues. This would have been in the interest of maintaining competitive balance. Isn’t that what the schedule should be about? I know that in some ways it is impossible with the at-large games around the league but after a team plays it’s division twice that was why the league went to a rotation. The AFC North plays the NFC East and AFC South, for example. By not choosing this option the league made it clear that they sided with Texas management who refused to give up their home game. I hate to sound cold but if your venue is unfit then the league must decide what is in the league’s best interest where to hold the game.
Option #3 : Switch the game to an alternate date and switch the BYE Weeks of the team’s involved.
This is league’s option and this is why it stinks. First the competitive balance argument that I discussed. Let me start with the Ravens, by having their bye week in week two it isn’t a bye week. They prepared for a game and as late as Friday still thought the game would be played Monday. They will not have an opportunity to rest and will play the next 15 weeks in a row, as well as 6 out of 8 on the road to make a difficult schedule just that much harder.
Second, would this be the best decision for the players. Player rep for the Ravens, kicker Matt Stover said this, “We don’t want to go to some neutral site or even cancel the game. In fact, as a player rep, I really don’t want that because that would be our bye, and that’s not good for us. We want to make sure, as a team, we play the game in Houston on Monday night and come back with a win.” I have yet to hear any reaction from the players yet but they can’t be happy.
Third switching the game to Monday seemed like a good idea. But money once again rears its head as ESPN/ABC has exclusive TV rights on Monday nights. That means NFL Direct Ticket is shut out. ESPN could waive it but why would they? It seems odd that everyone who was near a television knew by Thursday that this was a dire situation with serious implications for the area. A plan should have been decided by Thursday night but the league waited for a conference call by 5 PM Saturday. I have it on good authority that Roger Goodell was not a part of that call, which means they already had a decision they just needed to cross the T’s.
Finally this just gives further speculation of a league bias, I don’t necessarily subscribe to it but you do have to ask, would this have happened to the Dallas-Philly game? Would it happen to the Giants or Patriots? I’m not sure and I don’t want to go that route with this but can anyone answer that question.
So, the Ravens are left to get ready for their next divisional opponent and the two teams will meet back up in November. The deal is done and football moves on but the season is still young and I will be interested to see if this decision means anything at all as we get closer to December.