The number just annoys me.
For most of us, 17 represents the most fun we’ll ever have. Our last year of high school, responsibilities flying carefree into the wind as we collect the last of our tax-free parental allowances. The world of college campuses, minimum wage paychecks, or dare I say both, linger safely in our still distant future.
But 17 is no way to host a season. 17 doesn’t even dare to be different. It’s just… an odd number.
The Major League Baseball season features 162 regular season games. While that might be too long for many, at least it’s a nice round number, one that’s existed since the league expanded from 154 back in 1961.
Both the NHL and NBA have 82 games in their season. Again, nice round numbers. Easily divisible.
Last year, the NFL decided to expand its season from 16 to 17 games. With the increasing irrelevance of pre-season games, designated starters and contracted players rarely seeing the field during them, and their mere existence now solely to determine final roster spots, the NFL powers-that-be decided one less pre-season game, and one more regular season game, would be in everyone’s best interest.
But 17 sounds like a cake that hasn’t been fully baked yet, which only makes sense as most NFL decision makers are also half-baked.
Operating under the premise that money makes the world (and most certainly the league) go round, it’s obvious why the NFL doesn’t feature 18 regular season games. Ownership wants to hold on to what it feels is theirs, which is the bulk of the revenue. One can put forth the argument that’s their right, as they are, the owners. It’s why everyone from Tom Brady to Pat Mahomes to USC quarterback Caleb Williams wants to become one. Shit, so do I.
But something’s got to give. With the amount of money that’s been pouring into the league with television contracts and streaming service deals ($1 billion with Amazon, $2 billion with YouTube), it makes little sense not to pay these players when they’re being carted off the field at increasing rates, unless owners secretly consider their vulnerability a bad investment. And before you respond, “But Chump, they are paying these players!” allow me to retort. While Justin Herbert makes a mind-boggling $52 million, the average NFL player makes under $3 million a year before taxes. You do the math.
I’m not sure why cooler heads haven’t proposed a) an 18-game schedule with b) teams having two bye weeks. It makes perfect sense to me. Players would get two weeks off during the regular season to rest their weary groins, hamstrings, ACLs, MCLs, HDLs, LDLs, neck injuries, neck tattoos, rotator cuffs, dislocated fingers, and turf toes. Heck, NBA players call in sick for a hang nail, yet we turn our heads and wince at every third injury that occurs on a football field.
And can we PLEASE expand the roster from only 53 players? I know this means more money distributed unevenly among the roster spots but as the cap has increased significantly every year over the past ten, so has the Commissioner’s. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what sort of salary Commissioner Goodell is pulling in in 2023 but it’s safe to say no NFL team could fit him under their salary cap. Besides, we all know players from 54-63 will be making a pittance of the salary cap anyway. Or maybe it’s the players themselves that don’t want roster expansion for it’d be their pocketbooks from whence this extra money is plucked.
The National Football League continues to dominate ratings like no other form of entertainment. It’s why Elon Musk cut the league a check for a billion dollars and is happy from the return on his investment from showing Bears and Giants games.
It’s about time the league finish what it started. Disband the 17-game schedule, add one more game that matters, and another bye week that matters more. 18 is a nice round number and the extra rest mid-season might bring with it a decrease in player injuries, or at least the time to rehab them when they happen.
Or maybe I should wait to propose this idea at the next owners meeting.