Since 2004, the opening game of the NFL regular season has typically been held on a Thursday night (unless Barack Obama is speaking that night, in which case they move it to a Wednesday night) and played at the home stadium of the previous season’s Super Bowl champions. For my money, it’s the perfect way to get back to football – you start the season essentially where the last one ended, the Super Bowl champs get to raise their banner and their fans get their moment to scream their lungs out and bask in the post-championship glow one final time in front of the whole country. Not bad!
Unfortunately for the Ravens, this tradition is in danger of being broken this year because of…baseball? Frigging baseball? Sadly, it’s true. You see, M&T Bank Stadium (the Ravens’ home field) and Camden Yards (the Orioles’ home field) share the same parking lots and the Orioles are currently scheduled to play a home game against the White Sox on September 5th (the night the NFL season is scheduled to open) at 7:05. Leave it to the White Sox to screw everything up, am I right? In any event, the NFL doesn’t want to move the game to Wednesday the 4th because that’s the beginning of Rosh Hashanah (even though the Lions and 49ers played on the first night of Rosh Hashanah last year) and the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961 prohibits the NFL from playing games on Fridays or Saturdays during the high school and college seasons. So…that basically means either the Orioles and White Sox move their game up to the afternoon on Thursday the 5th or the Ravens have to open the season on the road. NOT COOL.
Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, obviously having a vested interest in keeping the tradition alive, has offered to make up any revenues the Orioles may lose from potentially moving their start time up, but right now MLB (through the mouth of Katy Feeney, the league’s senior vice president for club relations and scheduling) is talking a big game:
The White Sox would take a broadcast revenue hit and the O’s would take a broadcast revenue and attendance hit. And there is a baseball operations impact. Conceivably both teams could be in playoff contention, so it wouldn’t be fair to them to make them play a day game after both teams played a night game and traveled the night before. We make accommodations in our scheduling in the postseason. We work with the NFL. But this was something that was brought to us as a possibility just three weeks or a month ago. We always want to work with whoever wants to work with us, but why should these teams be punished?
Because no one cares about those two teams? Would that be a good enough reason? The Orioles made the playoffs in 2012 and the White Sox were in contention until the last week of the season, but neither team could fill 60% of their home parks on an average night. And according to these articles, the Orioles were watched by an average of 61,200 homes last year and the White Sox about 70,000. Let’s be charitable and say each of those households had three or four people watching the Sox-Orioles game on September 5th. Even with that figured in, you’re talking about 500,000 people at an absolute MAX who have a vested interest in the outcome of that game. Tell me, internet: just how many people watched last year’s season-opening NFL game between the Giants and Cowboys?
Overall, NBC averaged an estimated 20.585 million viewers to go with a 12.7 rating/20 share for Wednesday primetime.
So there would only be 40 times more people watching an NFL game that Thursday night than local telecasts of a likely meaningless baseball game. No biggie. By all means, MLB, keep the White Sox and Orioles at 7:05 on September 5th! We’ve got to get our priorities in order here.