On Tuesday night, the league is planning a two-hour celebration of itself on the network it owns to trumpet the possibly meaningless release of a master schedule of games that may not be played because of a labor disagreement. And they expect us to watch it and care about it and talk about it, all while ignoring the 800-pound gorilla in the room.
The problem is, we will. As much as I'd like to ignore the schedule release because of the uncertainty over whether that schedule will be played, I'll be checking my phone at 7 p.m. ET Tuesday night, eager to see which primetime games the Redskins will play in and then subsequently lose. I'll scan the list of nationally televised games to complain about how far the "Monday Night Football" schedule has fallen and get excited about the Patriots-Colts game and then text my mom to request that we eat Thanksgiving dinner so as not to coincide with the better afternoon game. I'll look at it Tuesday night and then again Wednesday and then probably the next day.
I don't want to. I'd like to take a stand against the NFL and shun its self-promotion until it gets the labor deal worked out. Instead, my lone act of defiance is that this year I won't print out the Redskins schedule and put it on my fridge. I'm like that guy in front of the tank at Tiananmen Square.
Why should we get our hopes up for something they may take away? Why should we be easy rubes while they haggle over billions over dollars? If they don't care about the fans, why should fans care about them?
It's not logical but, then again, not much about being a sports fan is. Consider the whole concept of the schedule release. It's not so much an event as it is the uploading of a .pdf file, but it's always been a thrilling, impromptu part of the spring sports calendar that whets the appetite of football fans during the game's dead period. I love nothing more than gazing at the schedule and imagining all those fall afternoons I'm going to plan around my favorite team's games. Looking at the Week 16 schedule, which should fall right around Christmas, I always think to myself, "that's never going to get here." When that Sunday inevitably comes, I look back on April and wonder how it all went by so fast.
That's just for the release of games that are, hopefully, five months away! That's how great the NFL is; we get worked up about the mere idea of football. I may not like it, but I'm watching the schedule show Tuesday night. If you're reading this, I'm guessing you are too.
Let's hope that in September, we'll look back on this evening and laugh about why we were ever worried in the first place.