NFL: You need geography lesson for this schedule

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 21, 2008

By Gene Collier
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Perhaps you noticed this week that two different sports networks spent two hours of live television examining the just-released NFL schedule, which begins just 4.6 months from tonight when the Super Bowl Champion New York Football Giants entertain the Not Even Close to Super Bowl Champion Washington Football Redskins.
At East Rutherford, N.J.
I emphasize the locale because you never can be certain anymore where these things are actually getting played.
Dec. 7, 2008, for example, finds the Buffalo Bills playing the Miami Dolphins in Toronto, home of the Argonauts, should they still exist. This is because, we are told, the Bills are trying to expand their regional appeal, if any, even if it means spending on average one to 400 hours looking for their passports.
Oct. 26, the New Orleans Saints battle the San Diego Chargers in London, England, with no conceivable implication to anyone’s regional appeal, so it must be some kind of social experiment testing the psychological impact of peaceful sky blue throwback Chargers uniforms on aspiring soccer hooligans.
No matter, for the betterment of American culture at large, at least one NFL game per week ought to be played in a foreign country.
The nation’s geography I.Q., if you will, is currently lower than its science I.Q., for which I believe the term “absolute zero” was invented. On a recent episode of “Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?”, in fact, one question was, “Having taken off from New York, Charles Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight ended in what city?” The adult contestant answered, “Boston.”
The next morning, figuring that the NFL might be the one shining entity that could lead our nation to a better understanding of world geography in much the way it has fueled our mastery of the criminal-justice system, I fired off a proposed schedule of games with appropriate foreign venues to commissioner Roger Goodell.
Unless I forgot.
Herewith a copy.
Sept. 7 ó Carolina vs. San Diego at Ankara, Turkey.
Sept. 14 ó Oakland vs. Kansas City at Vatican City (coin toss ó Benny the 16th)
Sept. 21 ó Tampa Bay vs. Chicago at Magnitogorsk.
Sept. 28 ó Washington vs. Dallas at Khartoum.
Oct. 5 ó New England vs. San Francisco at Bogota.
Oct. 12 ó Jacksonville vs. Denver at Panama City.
Oct. 19 ó Detroit vs. Houston at Kinshasa.
Oct. 26 ó New Orleans vs. San Diego at London.
Nov. 2 ó Baltimore vs. Cleveland at Tunhovdfjorden, Norway.
Nov. 9 ó St. Louis vs. the New York Jets at Copenhagen.
Nov. 16 ó Minnesota vs. Tampa Bay at Bucharest.
Nov. 23 ó Cincinnati vs. Pittsburgh at Islamabad.
Nov. 30 ó Kansas City vs. Oakland at Osaka.
Dec. 7 ó Miami vs. Buffalo at Toronto.
Dec. 14 ó Tennessee vs. Houston at Perth.
Dec. 21 ó Indianapolis vs. Jacksonville at Asgabat, Turkmenistan.
Dec. 28 ó Denver vs. San Diego at Ho Chi Minh City.
Schedule-makers bit on only two of ’em I see, but I’m generally not a complainant on the schedule, except maybe to note that five Steelers games will end after my bedtime (that’s right, it’s all about me) and six others are screwing with dinner time.
So far.
The league could provide additional 8:15 and 4:15 starts later, which would be all right if it kept college football analysts from saying, “You know Bob, I think Jamelle can play on Sunday afternoons.” Well not if the Steelers draft him he can’t!
Then, it’s a question of how well he can play between twilight and midnight, because the days of the 1 p.m. Sunday kickoff are going the way of the 1 p.m. Saturday kickoff for college football. Pitt can’t have a scrimmage (excuse me, the Blue-Gold Game) without situating it at 6 p.m. for TV.
The pro schedule again includes three Thanksgiving games, one in the traditional Detroit setting (against the visiting Titans), one in the traditional Dallas setting (against the visiting Seahawks) and one in the non-traditional Philadelphia setting (against the visiting Cardinals). One of the national schedule analyzers this week opined that the Eagles-Cardinals game was a good game with which to have a turkey sandwich. Is there a football game that’s a bad game to have a turkey sandwich with?
Even though the opponents had been known for some time, there was a brief re-whine over the frightful strength of the Steelers schedule. Although it is the most difficult in the league arithmetically, based on the opponents’ 2007 records, every team in the AFC North has a very difficult schedule, and every year one or two opponents that appear unbeatable in the spring are highly malleable in the fall (see Baltimore, 2007). On top of which, everyone has a difficult schedule in this NFL.
The Steelers’ first night game is Sept. 14 at Cleveland, where the Browns play the first of their unprecedented five prime-time affairs, one more than the Green Bay Packers, which, frankly, can’t be legal. I guess this is what happens when Brett Favre retires.