Friday, September 02, 2005

NFL Should Be Flagged For Decision On Saints' Preseason Game

The New Orleans Saints played a preseason game last night in Oakland, and you have to wonder what the NFL was thinking.

It shouldn't have mattered that the game was already scheduled as an away contest. The game could have been slated to be played in Timbuktu for all I care; it shouldn't have been played at all.

It seems absurd to me that if anyone in the league office saw ten seconds of footage of the destruction and calamity that is now the city of New Orleans, that they should have decided to go ahead as planned with a silly exhibition game.

The Saints are not just football players, of course. They are real people with real families and real relatives and real homes, all of which may have been dramatically affected by Hurricane Katrina. The NFL donated $1 million to the relief effort, and that is very admirable. But they gave the green light to a meaningless football game made even more trivial by the disaster along the Gulf Coast, and that almost cancels out the $1 million check.

The NFL seems to be faced with these types of decisions more than any other pro sports league. The most infamous instance was the decision to play NFL games 48 hours after President Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963. The league reacted correctly, however, when it cancelled games in the wake of the 9/11 tragedy. Now comes Hurricane Katrina, and the league fumbled once again, to borrow one of its own terms.

Now, you may ask me, "Eno, what if it was a regular season game? Should it still have been cancelled?" Probably not cancelled, but maybe rescheduled, if that was possible. The easiest thing would have been if both the Saints and Raiders had bye weeks on the same Sunday. The bye weeks could have simply been swapped. But outside of that good fortune, I still think a rescheduling would have been appropriate, to allow the players some extra time to take care of their personal affairs. Where there's a will, there's a way.

So in my book the NFL is batting .333 on these types of decisions whether to cancel or postpone games. That might be acceptable in major league baseball, but it certainly isn't in the NFL, or life for that matter.

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