Football as A Movable Feast: spring season NFL

 By TJ Hatter

Some month’s back Deadspin’s brilliant polemic Drew Magary pondered the idea of giving us all more football. His solution was to move college football to the spring (see here) in order to get us closer to the Nirvana that would be a British Premier League style expansion of the sport. I was impressed with the idea initially but having mulled it over, I reject the solution but not the premise.

Here’s the argument as to why we should change to begin with: expanded pleasure. Let me put it this way, if you could enjoy naked time with Leo DiCaprio/Kate Upton/choose your own celebrity, you’d probably prefer doing so once or twice a night for a series of weeks than doing it seven or eight times in just one night. You’d probably also be better at it and enjoy it more by making the experience less extreme and claustrophobic. What’s happening now with football is we’re all trying to jam as much of it as possible into the same limited amount of time. We can fix that, and therefore enjoy the experience more in the process. But that doesn’t mean it should be College Football that has to move.  

Here’s why:

College Football thrives upon traditions. Whether it’s the Third Saturday in October, The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, or the Iron Bowl, dates matter in College Football. They matter to teams and programs, and they matter to fans. And by the way, people of the South who schedule weddings on fall weekends: you are inconsiderate and borderline communists.

Academia still matters. I know it shouldn’t, in fact it really shouldn’t, but it does, so the academic calendar is in play. This is not the case for the NFL. The only schedule that really matters to the NFL now is the individual court dates of some of its players.

Weather issues. Fall in the South is a thing of beauty, an event that has to be experienced to be truly appreciated. Making College Football fans tailgate in the cold months that would start a spring season would lead to a coup d'état that makes what’s happening in Egypt look like an episode of the West Wing.

So how are we going to square this circle? Simple: we’re going to move the NFL Season.

And let me just stop you, people who are going to argue NFL traditions are as strong as College Football: No They Are NOT. They’ve changed the amount of games they play and when they play them with regularity. They’ve expanded the playoffs on a whim. The NFL is not baseball. They adapt. The NFL Season is already transient by design. There are no set weekends where hated rivals play each other; and I have to say the NFL has done a shabby job at encouraging what would be some natural rivalries. For context, I’m a New Yorker (and I can feel many of you clicking the ‘x’ button at the top right of your screen now that I’ve revealed that, so thanks, I love you too), and it boggles my mind that the Giants and the Jets don’t play each other every year. I am a Jets fan. I despise the Giants and the horse they rode in on. Why can’t I watch my team, in the rare years that they’re good, beat the Giants upside the head? You’re denying me something I want NFL. What’s your deal?

Furthermore, people who are going to argue historical NFL tradition, historical tradition isn’t a good enough reason to do anything in perpetuity, (for further research see slavery and the subjugation of women on the topic, and also, someone give the people of Ole Miss and Alabama a dictionary to look up the word “perpetuity”).

Now that we’ve swept that ad hominem argument aside, it’s actually the case that this is a win for everyone: consumer, athlete, college and the NFL itself. Here’s why:

Work life balance. After a respite for vacations and families in the summer, we as football fans will be eagerly awaiting time away from those families watching football with our friends in the fall. That will begin with the magic of college football on Saturdays. For many college football fans, including myself when I attended the University of Tennessee, Saturdays were day long, glorious affairs that included enjoying food that will eventually kill me and women adorned in sundresses that aspire to kill me in its place. This meant that Sundays required some degree of recovery, and it also meant that it was the day I had to do assignments and achieve some degree of work life balance. To the degree that I, and many college fans, would peruse the NFL whilst recovering from the orgiastic nature of the day before, it was a vaguely passive experience. It shouldn’t be. Moving the NFL to the spring allows us all time to heal and continue our love affair with football in the process.

Moving the NFL inconveniences no one. Unlike in the south, Northerners are accustomed to tailgating in the cold. We’ve adapted. Come late October every year, I had to adjust at many a Jets game to the notion that I really didn’t need to bring ice to cool my beer. Nature would do it for me. Do you think the good people in Green Bay are going to be bothered by the season starting in February? Balderdash. They’re going to revel in it.

It’s going to make the NFL more money. People around this country love football and love to watch football, but not everyone wants to attend games in the hot or the cold. That means they’ll be watching on a television or computer screen. Sometimes, as it stands now, they’ll be watching in a public setting like a bar or at a friend’s house. When it’s cold or snowing outside, there is less of a chance of me going to a friend’s house or a bar to watch the game. I think that’d be true of a lot of y’all. What does that mean? Higher ratings for the NFL, their broadcast partners and the NFL network. Why? Because more individual computer screens and television sets are tuned to their product, which means they have quantifiable data to justify upping the fees advertisers will have to pay to put commercials on during NFL games. As it stands right now, the NFL, the most ruthlessly profit driven league in professional sports (and they’re creeping up on the NCAA for most ruthlessly profit driven league in ALL sports) is leaving money on the table. By putting their games on when it is still nice enough outside to do other activities and when college football fans are nursing their hangovers with a ‘hair of the dog that bit them’ beer, the NFL is denying itself both money and the opportunity to have a more engaged fan base, which would lead to more money. “But surely TJ,” you say to yourself quietly, “we’re all insane NFL fans now. How could we get more insane?” Easily. It’s snowing so hard and your wife is bugging you to start shoveling. I’m giving you an excuse to do it later: “Honey, after the game is over,” you’ll say to the lovely woman who stupidly fell for you and who understands how important football is, and that excuse will be accepted. How happy would that make you? I’m guessing insanely happy. And you’d have the NFL moving its schedule to thank. You’re welcome.

So now, let’s unpack how this would impact your world as a sports fan and a television programmer. The college season begins unabated and, now that we’ve fixed the whole “National Championship by ridiculous cartel behavior” thing, a worthy champion, probably from the SEC, is crowned. A week later, kids would declare themselves eligible for the draft. Then the combine would happen mid-January. Then the draft would happen. “Woah there TJ, you’re jamming a lot of things in there that usually happen over a pronounced period of time.” Yes I am, because those things are scams. Beautiful scams, but scams nonetheless. We watch them because they’re appetizers and we can’t get the meal we want, which is an actual football game. And yet, here still, the NFL would see their ratings for these events increase were they to do them in January. Why? Again, because baby it’s cold outside. The NFL Draft now happens when it’s pretty nice out most places, which means that people can keep up with it via Twitter and be outside drinking beer from a mason jar and not watching their television. Put it on in January and I’m cold and not going outside and I’ll sit here and scream at the television screen as the Jets do something stupid for the 282,712,938,292,298th time.

Then, you start the season in February. Why February? Because it rewards your television partners who are looking for ‘Sweeps’ programming; for those not in the know, although on this site that’s quite rare, ‘Sweeps’ months are November, February, and May. They cause TV executives to use drugs and set the advertising rates until the next cycle. The reason the Superbowl is now on in February every year is precisely because the NFL is appeasing its Television underlings. Opening weekend would likely produce similar numbers for TV partners, and the TV executives would now have the boon of having the NFL to boost them in May as well. They’d be losing November, but College Football would likely sustain them, if not bolster that revenue completely.

“But aren’t you screwing over baseball and basketball and hockey? Shouldn’t they have their time to shine?” In short, yes I am and no I do not care. I do enjoy other sports, but that does not mean I’m not Ayn Randian enough to prize football over hurting their feelings. Besides, Major League Baseball is increasingly a niche sport as it is, and hockey is already in that zone. Baseball actually PROFITS by not having to compete with the NFL in the fall, also known as the only time of year that the sport is must watch for the populous at large. The NBA can ensure that they protect themselves by adjusting their schedule so that playoffs happen in their own months as well. And by the way, Vegas would love this idea. Can you imagine the action there, having both March Madness and the NFL happening concurrently? Madness indeed.

So that’s it. That’s how we do this. Congratulations America, we’ve figured out how to give you what you want, Football, and still retain your sanity and your collective livers in the process. All whilst making money for everyone who wants to suck it out of your wallet as voraciously as possible.

You’re welcome.

TJ Hatter attended Law School at the University of Tennessee and can be screamed at on Twitter at @TJ22Hatter. Warning: he does not feed trolls and blocks freely.

Written by
Clay Travis is the founder of the fastest growing national multimedia platform, OutKick, that produces and distributes engaging content across sports and pop culture to millions of fans across the country. OutKick was created by Travis in 2011 and sold to the Fox Corporation in 2021. One of the most electrifying and outspoken personalities in the industry, Travis hosts OutKick The Show where he provides his unfiltered opinion on the most compelling headlines throughout sports, culture, and politics. He also makes regular appearances on FOX News Media as a contributor providing analysis on a variety of subjects ranging from sports news to the cultural landscape. Throughout the college football season, Travis is on Big Noon Kickoff for Fox Sports breaking down the game and the latest storylines. Additionally, Travis serves as a co-host of The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show, a three-hour conservative radio talk program syndicated across Premiere Networks radio stations nationwide. Previously, he launched OutKick The Coverage on Fox Sports Radio that included interviews and listener interactions and was on Fox Sports Bet for four years. Additionally, Travis started an iHeartRadio Original Podcast called Wins & Losses that featured in-depth conversations with the biggest names in sports. Travis is a graduate of George Washington University as well as Vanderbilt Law School. Based in Nashville, he is the author of Dixieland Delight, On Rocky Top, and Republicans Buy Sneakers Too.