Read the opposing argument from Loyal Homer.
By now, even the most diehard NFL fans have come to the realization that the NFL preseason is too long. Fans are forced to endure four meaningless games – if you can even call them “games” – where the star players they paid regular season prices to see take the field for a few fleeting possessions. The preseason serves to dilute the top notch product that the NFL aims to put out.
“What’s the solution?” you may be asking. Why, expanding the regular season of course.
It finally seems that those with some actual football clout are coming around to the idea fans have held for quite some time. In reality, season expansion is actually just a little bit of history repeating itself, as Bleacher Fan wrote in his introduction. Today, owners and NFL personnel – most notably Commissioner Roger Goodell – are joining the ranks of fans who have grown increasingly dissatisfied with the poor quality product the NFL passes as preseason entertainment. Green Bay Packers President Mark Murphy said of the issue, “This is an idea [expanding the NFL regular season] that is really gaining momentum, particularly with the owner.
The only group that seems to oppose the idea of expanding the regular season thus far has been the players. But even they acknowledge that there is a growing dissatisfaction with the product. Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, who is an opponent of regular season expansion, states, “I know our fans may not like preseason games, and I don’t like all of them.” He goes on to voice his concerns that exchanging two preseason game for regular season games could further stress already worn down players. But this is a misconception.
Admittedly, the biggest knock against expanding the regular season is that it could lead to an increase in player injuries. I will concede that two more regular season games, where starters see four quarters of playing time rather than just one or two, could lead to increased injuries among starters. Undoubtedly coaches, agents, and the players themselves, will push key players to tough through the war wounds, pains, and the general wear and tear that results from the grueling nature of the sport. But it is not as if they will not be justly compensated. It would be crazy to think that the players union would agree to such a change without negotiating extra payment and guarantees for the increased meaningful play. Still, it is important to not overlook the fact that the preseason offers its fair share of opportunity for injury already.
Preseason games are more than capable of ending a player or team’s season before it even starts. That was certainly the case for former Atlanta Falcons when their star quarterback Michael Vick went down for a large portion of the season because of a broken leg during a meaningless preseason game. Back in 2003 when Michael Vick was one of the most marketable faces in the NFL, long before his conduct and criminal activity sent him to the dog house (hey-oh!), a needless injury cost him and the Atlanta Falcons a season. The Falcons finished last in the NFC South that season with a record of 5-11, largely the result of an injury sustained during a game that was nothing more than a glorified scrimmage. There are lots of other injury stories like Vick’s. Some are not as serious, and others are far more severe. Consider the story of Harry Williams, who suffered a traumatic spinal injury during a preseason contest that would no doubt end his football career. Unfortunately injuries are a sad reality of professional football. It is a shame when they occur, but they somehow seem more of waste when they occur in a game that means nothing.
There are other solutions that have been suggested to preserve the health and wellbeing of the players while improving the quality of the NFL’s product. Packers’ President Mark Murphy, a vocal figure on regular season expansion, suggested larger rosters or a developmental league. Commissioner Goodell proposed creating guidelines and policies to ensure true downtime and rest for players during the offseason.
Expanding NFL rosters would accommodate more change-of-pace players to keep stud players fresh over the long haul of the season. Similarly, an expanded roster would provide for more backups should an untimely injury occur. Likewise a feeder league would more than make up for any lack of opportunities to bring rookie players up to speed, to say nothing about expanding pro-football to previously untapped markets. This all sounds like the first steps down a bright path for football, and it all starts with the expansion to 18 regular season games.
In the end, football is a business that succeeds because it pleases the fans. Right now the fans are making it abundantly clear that they are not happy with the length of the preseason, so why not give them what they want – more meaningful games. When the fans are happy, business should be booming.