The NFL is a better league than MLB. I’m a lifelong baseball fan and player, mind you, but even I can acknowledge that the NFL does a better job promoting and developing its product than MLB does. There are certain instances, though, very rare ones, in which I think the NFL should take a page out of MLB’s book. In this case, I’d like the NFL to respect the importance of record-keeping and tradition, something MLB has always done. That way, we wouldn’t have to deal with a stupid 17-game season.
Baseball loooooves its records. No sport is more attached to numbers like baseball is. Every baseball fan knows what 762 means. The home run record, held by Barry Bonds. Every fan recognizes what .406 means. Ted Williams’ batting average in 1941, the last time a hitter hit over .400. Us baseball fans understand that the number 56 means Joe DiMaggio’s record-long hitting streak, also from 1941. These sacred numbers are the lifeblood that is passed down from generation to generation of baseball fans.
What sacred football records are there? Do you know what the record for most touchdowns scored is? You probably don’t (208, Jerry Rice). How ’bout most interceptions? That would be 81, by Paul Krause. Bet you didn’t know that either. MLB isn’t good at promoting much, but goddamnit can they market the shit out of a record chase. The NFL lacks in this area, and these issues are compounded by changing the length of the season.
The NFL doesn’t have many traditions, certainly not as many as MLB. Some of this is understandable, as MLB has been around for so much longer. Another reason for the lack of tradition in the NFL is the fact that they change the rules and regulations so damn much.
The 16-game schedule was one of the few aspects of football that stuck around for a while. They’ve been playing 16 since 1978, before which they played 14. These four plus decades have allowed the sport to develop some consistent record-keeping, specifically when it comes to single-season records. This is severely hindered by adding an extra game, as many single-season records will likely soon fall due to the extra game.
MLB had this issue in 1961, the year they started playing 162 games per season and year Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record. That was 60 years ago, though, plenty of time to solidify the record books. The NFL doesn’t seem to care about that sort of thing, so they’ll be playing 17 next season.
We know it’s about the money. This extra game is meant to produce more revenue, obviously, which is a sensible and straightforward tactic. Now, there’s a bit of a player safety issue involved, but that’s another discussion. Adding another game is an easy way to make more money.
It is the only way, though? Why not expand in another way? Why not add a team or two to the league? That way, you integrate your product into a city I’m sure is hungry for professional football, while also playing more games overall. And there’s no added safety risk.
But hey, what do I know, right? Records schmecords.