The switch not only resolves a scheduling snafu, however. It also represents a convenient way for the NFL to take its latest step toward a master plan of dominating the sports calendar. Tuesday’s announcement, and other discussed changes to the NFL offseason, could expand pro football’s presence throughout the year – and provide additional proof that the NFL, with its own powerful television network and a draft that’s more popular than other sports’ playoff games, is taking over the sports world.
Maybe it’s a dream scenario for pro football fans, but some of the lesser-known residents of the NFL universe are already worried about how they’ll adapt.
“A simple recipe for disaster,” said player agent Ron Slavin, who thinks the changes to the NFL calendar could be harmful to players, potentially adding new health and financial threats, as well as threatening his own livelihood.
This, of course, is to say nothing of those who live outside the NFL bubble, including Major League Baseball, the NBA and the NHL, whose influence has been overshadowed for years by the sports giant with seemingly endless demand, revenue streams and television appeal.
An estimated 7.7 million television viewers saw the first night of the NFL draft last month, an event whose highlights include burly, unproven young men holding up jerseys. A fraction of that number watched that Thursday evening’s second-most-viewed sporting event, an NBA playoff game featuring the Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies.
Next May, the draft will be held in the heart of the NBA and NHL playoffs, competing with them for eyeballs and advertising dollars. Mid-May also happens to be television’s sweeps period, when TV ratings are most heavily valued. Considering the NFL’s shrewd business moves over the past decade, that Radio City scheduling problem offered quite the coincidental benefit.
Goodell said the league hasn’t decided whether to keep the draft in May beyond next year, but with success next spring – Goodell said the draft will be either May 8-10 or May 15-17 – another wave of changes could follow.
The NFL is interested in pushing its popular scouting combine — when college prospects work out for days in front of league talent evaluators — from late-February to mid-March, and moving the start of free agency from March to early April. The league has also raised the possibility of further pushing back the Super Bowl, possibly to as late as the President’s Day weekend in mid-February.
“On the other events . . . we think there’s great benefits to that,” Goodell said. “We didn’t reach any conclusion. We are negotiating that with the union. We have a discussion with them sometime in the next couple weeks. I’m sure that will come up. We think that’s a good change for the fans and for football.”