The final day of the English Premier League season is one of the most exciting days in the sports year. Even if the league title race has been decided beforehand, those matches help determine which teams qualify for European football, which live to fight for at least one more Premier League season, and, unfortunately, which teams get relegated. One thing that makes "Survival Sunday" so special is that all games start at the same time. The lack of multiple sets of match kickoff times prevents teams with something to play for at the beginning of the day from phoning in a full 90 minutes due to knowing the results of games that occurred earlier that afternoon. While discussing the May 13, 2012 games with a few fellow fans earlier in this week, we all asked the one inevitable question.
Would something like this work in American sports?
One thing everybody agrees on whenever I discuss this subject with American sports fans is that the NFL is the only sports league in this country that could pull it off. Face it. The last day of the regular season in other leagues just isn't as special. Even fans of lackluster NFL teams watch the final Sunday of regular season football because, well, it's the end of regular season football. Somehow, starting all NHL games at the same time on the final day of hockey season just doesn't scream "fun times and high TV ratings."
The 2012 edition of Survival Sunday is special for soccer fans in the United States due to the fact that seven contests will be airing live on TV on the morning (ET) of May 13. There's no question that the FOX/CBS/NBC/ABC family of networks have more than enough stations to show an entire slate of NFL games all at the same time. For this to happen, though, the league would first need to have a chat with DirecTV regarding NFL Sunday Ticket. As a wise man once said; good luck with all that.
Every game wouldn't need to air on free national television for an NFL Survival Sunday to be a success. After all, how many games that take place in Week 17 of the season actually matter that much? Broadcasting less than half of the regular season's final games should do just fine. Quite frankly, they'll probably be some years where having games on just CBS, FOX, ABC/ESPN and NBC would work.
Another television-related problem that may arise is the Week 17 Sunday Night Football contest. At the conclusion of the 2011 NFL regular season, NBC aired the Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants game, a "winner takes the division" battle that resulted in record TV ratings. For this to be a possibility, we may have to sacrifice one game to NBC. What must be must be, I suppose.
Time may be a little bit of a problem due to the NFL's Survival Sunday coming at the early stages of winter. All games can't start at 1:00 pm ET because of west coast contests, and some fans and franchises may complain about east coast teams hosting 4:00 pm ET games in January. Football is a winter sport, though, and I'm sure everyone involved would survive. You could, for argument's sake, even move the games back to 3:05 or 3:30 pm kickoffs.
All games starting at the same time doesn't eliminate the problem of some starters not playing during the final week of the campaign. It would, however, prevent certain teams hoping to earn a playoff berth in Week 17 from potentially being able to take it easy due to getting a favorable result during the 1:00 games. Making a permanent change to a Survival Sunday format may not be right for the NFL.
It sure would be fun to at least give it a shot one of these years.
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