If you’re looking for a day that crystallizes all the questions surrounding a decline in NFL interest, Friday, December 9 could be a good place to start. On the day after an exciting Chiefs-Raiders game, we are wondering what happened to Derek Carr’s pass, why Kansas City had to wear those pants, and learning the NFL will have 4 games in London next season. Oh joy.
With 9 minutes to play on Thursday night, Oakland trailed 21-13. The Raiders offense had been held largely in check all game. Carr’s damaged finger and the frigid conditions seemed to be hampering his ability to throw, plus Kansas City’s defense was its usual formidable self. But with a chance to tie the game and Amari Cooper streaking downfield five yards behind the defender, Carr’s heave fell awkwardly short. Was it a gust of wind that knocked it down? Probably not, it wasn’t a breezy night. An act of God? Doubtful since Al Davis is probably playing Keno with the Big Guy. Some have theorized it hit the NBC overhead camera wire, which would make sense.
These cameras are the network’s newest way to validate spending billions of dollars to broadcast these games. Toys, graphics, modern twists. But what does that camera angle truly give us? The overhead shot of the opening huddle? And in an era of massive technological advances, we’re using a camera on a rope in the field of play? The Raiders chances at homefield advantage may have swung on that moment, and a TV camera may have done it in. Ever the slaves to the networks, it’s so perfectly NFL.
The Chiefs and Raiders have two of the most iconic uniforms in the league, unis that have barely changed in almost 60 years. But since Thursday nights are the ghastly “Color Rush” games, two of the league’s best have to bastardize their looks for the sake of social media buzz. Thankfully the Raiders combo was a throwback to their earliest AFL days. But the Chiefs donned the red pants with the red jerseys, which made them look like Ronald McDonald’s blood clot.
This was one of the biggest games in recent memory at Arrowhead, one of the most perfect settings in all of football. Hated rivals. Cold temperatures. Natural grass. And first place on the line. But why leave a good thing alone? Because the NFL needs to prop up so many dreadful Thursday night games, give them an artificial boost, it forces teams to don all types of garish uniform combos. As though the Raiders and Chiefs for the AFC West would be enough? Nah, let’s make sure they look ridiculous while doing it. Perfectly NFL.
And in the morning after, a day we could be picking apart the game or looking ahead to Cowboys-Giants, Seahawks-Packers or Steelers-Bills, we are delivered more bad news. The NFL will (predictably) force feed an extra game (now four) into the London series next year. Of course, the NFL will announce the four matchups via Facebook Live for its international fans. Despite low ratings and questions about the quality of games played overseas. the league is once again expanding how often it plays there.
All of the London matchups have the feel of a preseason game at a neutral site. No true home field advantage, fans in jerseys of teams not even playing, and usually a sloppy effort from the opening kick. One game per season is 6% of an NFL team’s schedule. and playoff spots are decided by a single game every year. If the Warriors played 6% of their schedule overseas, that would be 5 games in Beijing for example. Think that might affect the race for the 1-seed in the West? Home court advantage in the Finals? If it seems utterly ridiculous to decide such important competitive outcomes of an American sport overseas, it’s because it is. In a climate where we are debating the reasons American interest in the NFL has waned, they are making sure they placate the British fans at all costs.
D.A. hosts 6-10 p.m. ET on the CBS Sports Radio Network. He has hosted The D.A. Show (aka “The Mothership”) in Boston, Miami, Kansas City and Ft. Myers, FL. You can often catch him on the NFL Network’s series “Top 10.” D.A. graduated from Syracuse University in ’01, and began looking for ways to make a sports radio show into a quirky 1970’s sci-fi television series. Follow D.A. on Twitter and check out the show’s Facebook page. D.A. lives in NYC, and is a native of Warwick, NY.