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Thursday Night Football is the NFL’s way of saying it doesn’t care what the world thinks

Instead of scrapping its mostly unpopular Thursday Night Football package, the NFL will now force teams to play more games on a few days’ rest. It may also ask its fans to attend Thursday night games they originally wanted to attend on Sunday.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cleveland Browns Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

There are few things Americans agree on anymore.

We’re divided on topics like {redacted}, {redacted}, {redacted}, etc.

But there’s one thing all Americans are in total agreement on, regardless of our differences on everything else: We all hate Thursday Night Football.

We’ve been telling the NFL that for years. The players, themselves, have been telling their bosses how much they hate playing football on Thursday nights, on just three-full days' rest.

People tried to tell the NFL how much they hated Thursday Night Football in 2022; that was the season that TNF went streaming, thanks to Amazon’s $1 billion-per-year purchase of the rights.

The package started out fine for Amazon, as evidenced by the 13 million viewers who tuned in (or is it streamed in?) to see the Chiefs take on the Chargers last September 15.

Of course, that was Week 2. It was also a great matchup between two AFC West contenders. It was also Amazon’s debut—people like to check out new things.

But it became apparent fairly quickly that Amazon’s Thursday Night Football package just wasn’t all that attractive. The football was subpar. The matchups were generally the same. Even the announcers—Al Michaels and Kirk Herbstreit—seemed to be mailing it in.

In other words, Amazon’s TNF package was just like the one on Fox the year before or any other network that has aired the sport for the past decade or so.

Thursday Night Football just isn’t a very good product, and most people don’t seem to want it.

The ratings reflected that in 2022, perhaps more than ever before. According to Nielson, an average of fewer than 10 million viewers tuned (or streamed) into Amazon’s Thursday Night Football package in 2022.

Other than the traditional Thursday Night Kickoff on NBC, the annual Steelers game, and whatever matchups air on Thanksgiving, I can’t remember the last time I sat down to watch a regular old Thursday Night Football game.

It just doesn’t interest me.

When I think of football, I think of Sunday afternoons and Sunday evenings. I think of Monday Night Football.

I don’t think of Thursday—other than Thanksgiving, of course.

For me, Must See TV on Thursday nights is Friends or Seinfeld, not the Giants playing the Falcons.

It’s a tradition to sit down and watch a good, scripted television show (or shows) on a Thursday night.

It just feels more organic.

Just like it was organic to watch Monday Night Football for years until the NFL decided to make it the red-headed stepchild of its football packages (the NFL secretly hates ESPN and is jealous that it’s never had the same kind of coverage and reach with its very own network).

It comes back to tradition for me, and I guess that’s why I have never watched TNF on a consistent basis. (Not watching something you don’t like is boycotting without bringing attention to yourself, btw.)

I’m a diehard football fan, and if I can’t make the time for Thursday Night Football, it stands to reason that millions of other NFL faithful feel the same way.

And they apparently do.

The league’s solution: The NFL will now force players—players that, mind you, don’t like playing on Thursday nights—to play two games on Thursday Night Football.

The teams involved will obviously be the contenders, which means the risk of injury to their star players will be higher. Also, the odds of these contenders making it to the postseason relatively healthy will be lower.

The NFL is also considering a move to flex Sunday games to Thursday night late in the year—Weeks 14-17. This will also force contenders to play on short notice and cause their fans to totally change whatever plans they made to attend these contests in person.

The NFL doesn’t care about anything other than television ratings, of course.

If the league was concerned at all about player safety, it would have never created a TNF package in the first place. I get adding an extra regular-season game or two. I understand adding extra playoff seeds to the mix.

That’s organic and the natural evolution of a professional sports league.

But Thursday Night Football? There’s nothing organic about playing football on a few days' rest, especially when it comes to player safety or quality of play.

As for your in-stadium experience?

It doesn’t matter if you attend or not, just as long as you’re watching at home.

Oh, sure, the league doesn’t want totally empty stadiums—we saw how that hindered its ability to do business following the 2020 COVID season—but it knows enough fans will still attend games, regardless of how much they may be inconvenienced by ticket prices, parking, food, flex scheduling, etc.

TV is king to the NFL—always has been. That’s mostly been a good thing for the league and its fans, but TNF is an example of too much of a good thing being bad for everyone.

The NFL is perfectly okay with peeving off millions upon millions of people—players and fans, alike—just so it can get an extra 10 or 12 million eyeballs on its product each and every week.

Is it worth it? It must be to Amazon and the previous networks that bought the rights to TNF.

I guess the bottom line is this: The NFL has had us eating out of the palm of its hands for years, and it’s perfectly fine with including gruel in the form of Thursday Night Football.

The NFL simply doesn’t care what anyone thinks because it really doesn’t have to.

Maybe it really is too big to fail.