Punting Thursday Night Games off the Airwaves

One of America’s popular sport during the fall/winter season is Football.  Families and friends gather around on Sunday night to watch their favorite team try to win.  Fantasy football fanatics are glued to their TV and laptop in the hopes of scoring more points in their league.  It’s one of America’s greatest pastimes when baseball season ends in October.

Football games used to air only on Sundays, but popular demands for the sport extended televised games for a few extra games.  Monday Night Football started in September 21, 1970 and became one of the highest-rated prime time programs, particularly among male viewers.  These Monday night games featured celebrity guests to “liven up” the games when it was starting.  NFL games have been airing on Thursdays for a decade now, but they could soon become a thing of the past.

The National Football League is considering ending, or at least limiting, Thursday Night Football. Their current contract with CBS and NBC runs through 2017, so certain changes to the negotiations could start in 2018.  Audiences have been tuning off from these Thursday night games because the two teams don’t have their A-game (literally!).  With both teams not giving it 100%, this leads to poor plays throughout the game and people will starting tuning out.

What’s interesting is that Thursday games weren’t a part of the NFL season until the post season race in November 2012 (when Obama was reelected for his 2nd term as president).  The first game that aired on Thursday was Thanksgiving night in 2005.  Thursday night games slowly became popular in 2012 and it started to take a serious toll on its players.

Seattle Seahawks corner-back Richard Sherman joined a number of NFL players who speaking out against Thursday Night Football.  He calls out the NFL for their hypocrisy about preaching player safety, yet sending their players into games with only four days of rest.  Sherman also tossed the complaint about playing on Thanksgiving night and having to miss a home-cooked meal with his family.  Former Houston Texans running back Adrian Foster accused the NFL of “putting every player on the football field in danger” when it came to Thursday games.

Viewership ratings have been decreasing during the 2016-2017 season, causing the NFL to look at what isn’t working with its viewers.  The NFL is faced with various options:  one of those is to eradicate Thursday Night Football completely.  Another option would be to start Thursday games at Thanksgiving and going until the season ends in January.  Decisions will need to be made in order to protect both the players health and approval rating from their audiences.

To better understand the major tolls Thursday night games take, let’s look at a typical scenario involving one NFL player.  We’ll go with Rob Gronkowski as our example (because of his awesome social media involvement!).  It’s Sunday and the Patriots play against Oakland Raiders.  The Patriots win 22-14 and their next game is on Thursday night against the Miami Dolphins.  After the game, Rob Gronkowski has exactly 4 days until his next game on Thursday.  This means that Rob would have about 96 hours to rest, eat, train, hydrate, and practice to get himself prepared for his next game.  Gronk may be a young spring chicken, but all those tackles will take a serious toll on both his physical/mental health.

So we seem to have an interesting marketing problem here.  We are seeing more football games than the past decades, yet the audiences are tuning out due to their sluggish performance.  Keep in mind that sports is a part of ENTERTAINMENT and the players PERFORM this sport every week in front of a live audience.  The ironic thing is that audiences are complaining that football isn’t what it used to be.  Other problems audiences see in football are harder tackles, more rules that dubbed the NFL the ‘no-fun-league’, players taking knees during the National Anthem, mediocre half-time shows, and more time broadcasting the game.  It seems as though the NFL is spurring up this razzle-dazzle concept to fluff up their programs, but the audience isn’t buying it at all.

Thursday Night Football is just flaming the fire of a branding nightmare the NFL has been facing the past few years.  This and the increase of Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (more on this exclusive subject later!) has caused serious issues among the NFL, it’s players, and their audiences.  What should the verdict be for Thursday Night Football?  Could we really do without football on Thursday?

Who knows what the future will hold for the NFL.  With more players suffering life-threatening injuries in football, the NFL really needs to think about the future of American Football the next 5-10 years.  If nothing gets sorted out, then football will become extinct in the near future.  This isn’t just about football games on Thursday nights; it’s about the teetering future of one of America’s greatest weekend pastimes.  Football helped shape America to what it is today and our country’s most important values could soon be punted off the field.


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