Just days before the start of the 2006 regular season, I was talking to a guy who was very excited about being able to watch NBC's NFL Kickoff Game that Thursday night between the Steelers and Dolphins at Heinz Field.
The reason this man was fired up wasn't just because he'd get to watch the Steelers, who earned the right to host the inaugural game of the '06 season by virtue of their very satisfying victory in Super Bowl XL the previous season. He was super-excited because he thought Pittsburgh would be playing again three days later on Sunday afternoon.
When I explained to him that Thursday Night Football was just an extension of Week 1, and that the Steelers wouldn't play again for another 11 days (their Week 2 game would be on Monday Night Football), the dude was very disappointed. (OK, he was angry and he used swear words.)
I can't say that I blamed him. After all, there's simply nothing like watching a Steelers game on a Sunday afternoon. And I don't mean at 4:25 p.m., either. I'm talking one o'clock Eastern Standard Time, when you sleep in an extra hour so you won't have to wait so long before you plop yourself down in front of the TV with food and drink in hand.
I hate to say things like "This is how football was meant to be played," because that's what people always say about the running game (if running the football was how the game was meant to be played, why is passing very, very legal?), but Sunday afternoon football games sure are a tradition.
I grew up watching Steelers games during that time of day and, for my money, it'll always be ideal.
But games that start at 4:25 p.m. ET, those aren't bad, either. Although, they do normally involve either a trip to the West Coast (usually a coin-flip outcome) or they're against a really good team (again, a toss-up), so a late afternoon time isn't quite as comfortable as the 1 p.m. kickoff.
Monday and Sunday nights are fairly cool for Steelers football, with Monday night being the better of the two options. It's like Bob Newhart said in the Don't Go to Bed Mad episode of his 70s hit show, Newhart, Mondays kind of stink, and Monday Night Football gives you something to look forward to.
But Thursday night is the worst for football, at least when it involves the Steelers.
I don't mind NFL football on Thursdays, but I just don't want Pittsburgh to play that night. And it's not because I'm worried about them not having enough rest or whatever (that's their problem); it's because, well, isn't this sort of like eating dessert before the main course?
Sure, eating dessert first means you'll be hungrier and more apt to enjoy it, but isn't it all downhill after the sweets are out of the barn? I mean, nobody wants to eat peas and carrots after having a couple helpings of pumpkin pie.
When the Steelers do play on Thursday night, it sure is fun and exciting (if they win, of course), but there's that sinking feeling afterwards that a whole weekend of football awaits which won't include the Black and Gold.
CBS bought the rights to Thursday Night Football and will broadcast eight games in 2014 (maybe you've seen the millions of ads over the summer), and Pittsburgh will help the network kickoff its new endeavor when it travels to M&T Bank Stadium this Thursday evening for a Week 2 clash against the hated Ravens at 8:25 p.m. ET.
After the Steelers take on Baltimore this week, there will be praise or criticism depending on the outcome. There will be winners and losers. There might even be quotes from John Harbaugh, Terrell Suggs or Warren Sapp (not a Raven, but why not?) to fire us up for the next Ravens clash on November 2.
But the one thing there won't be is another Steelers game for 10 whole days. We'll have to sit through an entire Sunday of Week 2 NFL action, a Monday night game, another Thursday night game, and then another whole Sunday of NFL kickoffs before Pittsburgh takes on the Panthers on Sunday Night Football in Week 3.
It's like having two bye-weeks in the same season.
So, I'll enjoy this Thursday night's game thoroughly (if the Steelers win), but in the back of my mind, I know I'll have to prepare myself for the following Sunday afternoon when I sit down to watch Saints/Browns and/or Falcons/Bengals at 1 p.m.
Talk about peas and carrots.