The National Football League’s ability to convert a few table scraps for Fido into a pig roast for millions never was more apparent than on Tuesday, when the league revealed its 2012 schedule.
Although the Who and Where part of the deal had been common knowledge – every team’s slate of eight home and eight road opponents was set after the 2011 regular season – Tuesday’s news dwelled on the When.
And there was some serious dwelling. ESPN devoted three hours to The Schedule, which isn’t surprising. ESPN is the network that turned LeBron James’ free-agent destination into a one-hour circus sideshow promoted as The Decision, which could’ve been condensed into the time somebody requires to say: “I’ve decided to take my talents to South Beach.”
Not to be outdone, the NFL Network, desperate for something to fill its live-programming void besides another preview of the draft (“We’ll be back in a moment to discuss the outside linebackers who figure to be available in the sixth round.”), turned the schedule announcement into a similar three-hour symposium.
Why confine a discussion topic to three minutes when it can be probed, poked, pried, disassembled, reassembled, gutted, stuffed, sautéed and simmered for three hours?
The determination of two networks to cover every last detail of Schedule Announcement Tuesday continued a trend. We’ve come to acknowledge the NFL’s domination of the sports-news market between late July and the middle of February. But now the league, in a rapacious frenzy, has gobbled up the spring as well.
During the first week in April, fans figured to be savoring a heavenly confluence of sporting events: The NCAA tournament championship game on a Monday, the domestic opening of the Major League Baseball season on a Wednesday, the first round of the Masters golf tournament on a Thursday.
And in the Pacific Northwest, what was the most talked-about story that week?
The unveiling of the new Seahawks uniforms on a Tuesday.
I understand why the Nike-fied uniforms were such a hot-button topic: Replacing stripes with a vertical pattern of feathers is the sort of change that invites deep and passionate dissent. After all, what could be more important to an NFL team than a different design on the side of the players’ pants?
But I can’t fathom the fervor over the announcement of a schedule we already realized would bring Dallas, Green Bay, New England and the New York Jets to Seattle, and take the Seahawks to Carolina, Detroit, Chicago and Buffalo (er, Toronto).
I’ll give the NFL this much: It not only knows how to stay in the news, but it also knows how to stay in the front and center of the news, even when there’s little in the news the NFL is making.
Major League Baseball, by contrast, doesn’t have a clue on how to participate in the sports-news cycle. Take the schedule. Remember when MLB’s 2012 schedule was released? Permit me to intercede here: You don’t?
The 2012 MLB schedule was released on Sept. 13, 2011, a few weeks before the playoff race got crazy. The Red Sox and Braves had solid holds on wild-card berths last Sept. 13, while the Rays and eventual world-champion Cardinals seemed done. Maybe MLB suspected there was some late-season boredom afoot and figured Sept. 13 was an ideal time to go public with its 2012 schedule.
I don’t recall the MLB Network devoting a three-hour special to the 2012 schedule, but then, I don’t recall anybody saying anything about the 2012 MLB schedule.
As for the Seahawks and 2012, their 16-game schedule can be assessed by quarters. The first four games pack some glitz: the Cowboys for the CenturyLink Field opener on Sept. 16, followed by the Packers – quarterback Aaron Rodgers versus his former protégé Matt Flynn, perhaps? – for a Monday night home game on Sept. 24.
The second quarter is tough. It calls for three on the road (at Carolina, at San Francisco, at St. Louis), with the only home game against the Patriots on Oct. 14.
The third quarter is a mixed bag: home for the Vikings and the mood-swinging, soap-opera troupe that is the Jets, followed by an ideally placed open date – in the middle of the season – before the Seahawks take their talents to South Beach and play the Dolphins. Then it’s on to Chicago on Dec. 2 for the only potentially inclement-weather date on the road.
The fourth quarter will determine the Seahawks’ playoff fate. There are three at home against the rest of the NFC West, and a road date against the Buffalo Bills in Canada – the team’s first regular-season foray onto a foreign stage. (Anticipate no stress. Toronto offers all the charm and conveniences of any big city in the U.S., except more.)
From our distant vantage point of April 18 – a week before the draft, more than four months before the season kicks off against the Cardinals in Arizona – the Seahawks 2012 schedule appears to be less of a sprint than a marathon.
But you might consider the source: My definition of a marathon is three hours of television coverage devoted to an NFL schedule announced in the middle of April, regarding home and road opponents we knew about in January.