Starting Lineups: 3 Nights Of NFL Mediocrity


First, before we get into today’s Starting Lineups, on behalf of the team here at The Sports Fan Journal, our hearts go out to the families and friends of the victims of yesterday’s tragedy at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. Violence is horrendously commonplace, but this is the 19th mass shooting in the United States since New Year’s Day 2009. Even when we think we’re numb to the news, it still hurts each and every time we learn of these calamities. Now, for words of a far lighter fare.  

On Sunday afternoon, FOX did most of the viewers who were watching Aaron Rodgers embarrass Washington a favor by switching to a more competitive match-up. At least here in New York City, we got Dallas vs. Kansas City, which both Kenny and Joe Simmons told you all about yesterday. It was as if for one fleeting moment, the NFL truly cared about its television audience.

That panacea was surely appreciated, but it’s also not as hard to do on a Sunday afternoon. As seen by JP Kirby at, there were six other games FOX and the NFL could have switched to and all were far better options than that demolition in Green Bay.

That cannot be said for Sunday Night Football, Monday Night Football and Thursday Night Football.

With MNF, at least it’s an institution. Even at its nadir in the final seasons on ABC, Monday Night Football didn’t ask for as much out of the teams and fans because it was almost like a plus-one game to the weekend. ESPN’s imprint to the broadcast is the added insider nuance — think of how Jon Gruden speaks as if he’s in a film room with his assistant coaches as opposed to fans with varied levels knowledge of the game.

With SNF, despite its massive flaws — overcrowded group of analysts and hosts; presentation of the game as a drama (Acts I & II? Really?); obsession with the AFC East, NFC East and market sizes — the lone saving grace is that millions have already dedicated their Sundays to the NFL since 1 p.m. with no hesitation.

The advent of TNF (and at one time, Saturday Night Football) was fine on occasion when the games began on Thanksgiving 2006. That first season of TNF was unusual but cool because it was considered a push into the playoffs. The schedule was changed because of antitrust exemptions — no competition with college football on Saturdays — but even though Thursday games were few, they were perfectly late in the season for the five people in the world that had NFL Network at the time.

The more carriage the league’s channel picked up over time, the more games were taken away from Sundays and added to Thursdays to the point that the network announced that it’ll have a 13-game slate starting last season.

And that was when the shark not only jumped, but sped back over to jump all over again.

This country loves the NFL, but having three networks with special showcase games has led to mediocrity of the televised product. NBC, ESPN and NFLN have to somehow fight for the best games while acting as partners in this bizarre dance. Yet, while Sunday Night gives us an occasionally entertaining, if not great, contest, the watered-down TNF hasn’t given us what would be considered classic football. Blame short weeks of preparation for teams exhausted from their Sunday games and schedulers who assume that people truly want to see Buffalo at Cleveland on October 3.

And of course, last night’s game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals pushed a lot of you to Monday Night Raw, Netflix or Desperate Basketball Housechicks of Turkmenistan.

The NFL believes that the parity of the 2000s has extended into the 2010s without interruption. It believes that “all things constant,” we’d have quality match-ups in these showcases to satiate the appetite of a football-mad nation. The problem is that anything-goes-parity eventually becomes mass mediocrity — on the field and on the schedule — no matter what day of the week it is.

Here are some not-so-mediocre links.

SI’s Peter King Talks State of Sports Journalism – Cynopsis Sports

Why One College Sports Conference Had to Build a Brand from Scratch – Advertising Age

The Pixel Paradox and the NFL Game Experience  - The Classical

Retiring duo set standard for WNBA –

Dennis Rodman films bizarre commercial for pistachios – For The Win

Hollywood Wants Numbers on the Digital Box – New York Times

7 Ways To Be Insufferable On Facebook – Wait But Why (This applies on Twitter, too, but with a lot of fake names involved)

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