The NFL and Thanksgiving go together like turkey and stuffing; you just can’t have one without the other. This year, the NFL’s Thanksgiving match ups are the best they’ve been in years, with all 6 teams fighting for a playoff spot. But, as is usually the case in life, you just can’t have it all. You see, during what was supposed to be the best game, on America’s favorite holiday, Andrew Luck might be sitting on the bench due to concussion protocol.
By Matthew Jarecki
When I heard the news, my hopes and dreams for the perfect Turkey Day were crushed, and I’ve got a feeling the NFL’s were too. During what could be the best day of ratings so far, the American public might have the misfortune of witnessing Scott Tolzien vs Ben Roethlisberger. Or, even worse for the NFL, the American public might just decide not to watch at all. You’d think that Goodell would be sitting in his office shaking his head at the unfortunate circumstances, but there are two sides to this coin.
Due to the anti-NFL movement by a media that’s becoming increasingly left-leaning, we’ve all heard skewed explanations for the NFL ratings decline this year. The general message being portrayed by writers and talking-heads is that America is getting sick of the violence, and that a mediocre quarterback has kneeled his way onto the not-American-enough list of the public. Nobody actually knows why the ratings are down after record-highs last year, but one thing is certain: an after-dinner shootout between two of the league’s best quarterbacks would be grade A television for America’s game. It makes you wonder, is the NFL pushing for Andrew Luck to play on Thursday night?
Sitting at 5-5, and 2nd place in the AFC South, it’s a no-brainer that the Colts are pushing for Andrew Luck to start against one of the league’s most explosive offenses in Pittsburgh. Without him, the Colts have one of the 10 worst rosters in the league, and his backup, Scott Tolzien, has thrown 1 lousy touchdown pass (with 5 interceptions) during his NFL career. It’s safe to say that an Andrew Luck-less Colts will get blown out on Thursday night, bottom line. In a league that keeps fans around with its endless parody, a blowout game will see viewers tuning out for a round of “Monopoly” and pumpkin pie sooner than the NFL is comfortable with.
Without going too nut-job on you guys, am I crazy to think that the NFL may be encouraging their concussion protocol officials to simply look the other way on this one? I’m not accusing anybody of anything, but if I was Roger Goodell, I’d have to think long and hard about my next move.
Besides a lousy television product, there’s other disadvantages to Andrew Luck missing this game. If Luck is forced to sit, you’ll have a lot of American viewers, many of whom are not the NFL’s target audience, listening to Mike Tirico and Chris Collinsworth talk about yet another concussion.
In quite possibly the only regular season game that moms will tune into this season, their growing, and media-imposed fear of football will be re-affirmed by the big story of the night: Andrew Luck’s concussion. This is Roger Goodell’s worst fear. There’s a reason the NFL has strategically devoted an entire month to breast cancer awareness: Mothers, more than anybody, decide the future of the talent flowing into the NFL. Who signs their kids up for youth sports? Mom. Who makes their eleven year old son get off the couch and go to practice? Mom. And who loves their kids more than anything, and would do anything to keep them out of harms way? That’s right, Mom. You can bet that the NFL is taking “Mom’s” perception into consideration, whether they’ve said anything to their concussion protocol officials or not. Maybe, though, they’ve considered the other side of the coin.
If Andrew Luck does, in fact, sit out on Thanksgiving night, it’s not all bad news for the NFL. To me, it’s a delicate situation, but if the NFL spins it the right way, it could turn into good publicity.
Imagine Chris Collinsworth, during the opening series of the game, explaining to mothers across America that the NFL is very serious about player safety, and that this type of thing will be customary going forward. Knowing that the NFL doesn’t make exceptions for big games might just be the most reassuring thing that a mother could hear. After all, anybody with a good head on his/her shoulders has realized by now that concussions are, and will be, a part of football as we know it. As they say, “it’s a man’s game”, and in nature, it’s a violent one.
If the NFL gets too far away from what’s made it the most popular league in the world, it could risk losing more of its audience than would be lost to fear of violence. The key now, along with streamlining the game to make for less head to head collisions, is to show the media and public that the NFL will continue to give its players the necessary time to heal from inevitable concussions. As much as I’d hate to watch Scott Tolzien stink it up to cap off my Thanksgiving day, forcing Andrew Luck to sit might be crucial in brightening the league’s image going forward.
All things considered, Thanksgiving will be a day full of of family and football for most across America. Even if Andrew Luck does sit out, Americans will have had their fill of two very important divisional games already. No matter the outcome, there’s no guarantee that a referendum by the league’s office was set in motion to determine Luck’s status. Those are simply my theories. More likely than not, Luck’s future will be determined by how healthy he actually is. The effects of him playing, or not playing, though, will have a real impact on the perception of the American public, mothers in particular, as it relates to the safety of football on all levels. I’ll have my day to speculate today, and I’ll take Thursday to be grateful for what I have. Whether or not that includes Andrew Luck vs Ben Roethlisberger on Thanksgiving night, I hope you do the same.