Why can’t the Eagles play tonight? Once the NFL moved Sunday’s Eagles-Vikings game, the next question centered on the make-up date. Why not Monday night, which is at least a regular night for football and would give the Eagles more time to get ready for an important game Sunday against the Cowboys?
The Inquirer’s Bob Ford has an excellent take on this today, writing, “welcome to NFL Nation, where television is king and the fans and players are mere subjects to the crown. This is a system that has made the team owners very rich and, therefore, isn't one likely to change very soon.”
Of course, the league downplayed television considerations. Here is what the NFL and the Eagles had to say about the decision to move the game to Tuesday and the influence of TV, given the potential conflict between national showcases on ESPN and NBC Monday.
“The primary considerations were public safety and the uncertainty of whether the storm would enable us to play Monday. Tuesday night was much more certain,” NFL spokesman Michael Signora said in an e-mail we reported today.
Of course, that comment emphasizes public safety as concern number one, but doesn’t dismiss thoughts about TV ratings.
According to the league statement first announcing the change, the NFL was concerned that the winter storm warning would last until 1 p.m. Monday.
“Because of the uncertainty of the extent of (Sunday’s) storm and its aftermath, the game will be played on Tuesday night at 8 pm. This will allow sufficient time to ensure that roads, parking lots and the stadium are fully cleared. The National Weather Service states that a winter storm warning in Philadelphia remains in effect until 1 pm on Monday,” the NFL said in the statement it released Sunday.
The decision was up to the league, though the Eagles had input. They said they would have worked hard no matter when the game was played, without indicating a preference.
“We would have done the best that we could do whenever (the game) was. So if it was (Sunday), we were going to do our best, if it was (Monday) we were going to do our best, if it’s Tuesday we’re going to do our best,” said Eagles chief operating officer Don Smolenski.
“Monday, we would have worked as hard as we could. It’s hard to know what the timing of the storm is, when it ends, when the roads would be passable, so, we just would have gotten after it and done what we could.”
As you may have seen last night, the Eagles-Cowboys game Sunday was moved to 4:15 p.m., from 1. Today Jeff McLane broke down the Eagles playoff scenarios after Sunday’s games and Phil Sheridan had a look at how the day impacted the Birds. I had reactions from the Eagles and Vikings on the game’s delay, the impact on Adrian Peterson and word from NBC that Brett Favre is likely still out, even with extra time to heal.
For what it's worth, I think the league made the right call in postponing Sunday night's game. I’m sure the players and fans could have toughed out the elements once they made it to the stadium: as many have pointed out, football has been played in the snow for decades and decades.
But having 70,000 people drive through a snowstorm that was at its worst shortly before the game would have been a recipe for tragedy. Fans would have been left to decide: drive through a storm, or see a ticket go to waste. (And yes, some would take public transit, but thousands of others wouldn't; and yes, there might be a car wreck any week, but the odds were significantly increased Sunday night). If there had been even one serious accident involving fans trying to fight through the snow, playing Sunday would have proved to be a short-sighted decision.
Many are using this decision to say the NFL has gotten soft. I disagree. The Vikings, after all, played a game last week in what reportedly felt like nine degree weather, with wind chill. You can argue that maybe the Eagles should play tonight, TV contracts or not, but preventing fans from driving through a snowstorm was responsible and smart.
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