O’Boyle: Players and fans lose out in Thursday Night Football
Daniel O'Boyle | Thursday, April 12, 2018
For more than 600 Thursday nights, Club Fever stood as a light in downtown South Bend to the world. After tonight, Michiana’s self-proclaimed “hottest nightclub” will be no more.
What will replace it? As of now, nobody knows.
Thursday nights may never be the same (the vastly-overrated Finnies is far from an adequate consolation). Without other options, former “Feve” — the shortened name common among those who mention Feve so often that their lives would be significantly changed by shaving a syllable worth of time off the name — regulars may be forced to spend that night watching the worst-possible product the NFL has to offer: Thursday Night Football (TNF). Almost every week, it seemed Thursday night was the spot to see two mediocre teams with little to play for in a sloppy and non-competitive game. Sure, there were one or two exciting games, including Oakland’s 31-30 upset of a previously 5-1 Kansas City team, but it seemed that more often than not over the last few years, we’ve seen games like 4-9 Denver’s 25-13 victory over the 3-10 Colts.
New TNF broadcaster, Fox, no doubt recognizing the conundrum the closure of Feve has brought to the world, attempted to save the midweek product. Fox scrapped the recent gimmick of Thursday “Color Rush” uniforms and in return promised more high-profile matchups.
Previously, Thursday night games only featured two teams from the same time zone, typically located close together within the time zone too. But alongside the highly-publicized death of Color Rush, Bill Wagner of Fox Sports announced TNF games “now can feature teams beyond one time zone.”
Great, right? Now we can see matchups like the defending-champion Eagles and the much-hyped Dream-Team Rams instead of hoping to find two contenders that are also a geographic fit.
Except that just compounds Thursday Night Football’s bigger problem. Yes, at least one team playing each week usually sucked, but the real problems were sloppy play inexcusable for even the worst teams in the League and the effect the games have on player health.
When Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman tore his Achilles in his team’s 22-16 defeat of the Cardinals, he was quick to blame Thursday night games. The NFL was adamant that this wasn’t the case, with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell citing data showing that reported injuries suffered on Thursdays are only marginally higher than normal, but Sherman’s injury may have distracted from the more important point: Significant injuries like a torn Achilles may be no more common on Thursdays, but there is no doubt that most players are facing some sort of pain that never shows up on the injury report.
The list of player complaints about Thursday night games go on and on.
“It kind of feels like getting in a car accident, trying to recover and then all of a sudden you get in another one,” Broncos linebacker Todd Davis said to Sports Illustrated.
“Thursday Night Football should be illegal,” Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin said to ESPN.
“Is this smart as it pertains to guys’ health and safety? No, absolutely not,” Saints quarterback Drew Brees said.
As long as Thursday night games continue, players will be taking part severely hurt. Maybe it doesn’t lead to than many more injuries like Sherman’s, but for player well-being, it can’t be good, and the piling up of sub-concussive hits — a more significant cause of CTE than concussions themselves — in a short span of time may lead to even worse damage down the line. Throw some extra travel into the mix and players will have even less opportunity to overcome pain. The teams involved in 2018’s Thursday Night Football might be more talented, but the play may not get any better.
I understand it might be tough to part with another Thursday night institution, but like the last months of Club Fever, Thursday Night Football is clearly dying either way. Don’t try to save it, just bring it to an end and let players get the rest they deserve.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.