SBD/February 3, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Much Ado About Nothing? AP Poll Finds Fans Lukewarm About 18-Game NFL Schedule

Twenty-seven percent of fans surveyed favor adding two regular-games
An AP-Knowledge Networks poll released today shows “only lukewarm backing at best for a switch from 16 to 18 regular-season games, one of the NFL's key -- and easiest-to-understand -- proposals in its labor negotiations with the players' union,” according to Howard Fendrich of the AP. Of 1,125 adults surveyed, 27% “strongly favor or somewhat favor adding two regular-season games and dropping two preseason games.” When the group was narrowed to 482 people identified as NFL fans, “support for the change rises to a total of 45 percent -- yet only 18 percent who strongly favor it.” Among those surveyed, 41% called football “their favorite sport to watch.” The online poll was conducted Jan. 21-26 (AP, 2/3).

CHIMIMG IN: NFL Exec VP & General Counsel Jeff Pash yesterday said, "We do think the economics of an 18-game season could be compelling. The best thing about an 18-game season is it is responsive to fan interest, and if fans have been clear on anything it's that they have little use for preseason games." But Steelers LB James Harrison said, “I don't think it's a good thing if you're so worried about player safety." In Pittsburgh, Scott Brown notes players “have been outspoken in their opposition because regular-season games generally exact a higher physical toll than preseason games.” Harrison: "The way these guys' bodies are feeling, and you're talking about adding two more games to that? It's going to be a far cry to get a guy through a whole season. The biggest thing that hurt (the proposal) is when Mr. (Dan) Rooney came out and said he'd rather stay at a 16-game season, they don't need the money." Brown notes Rooney “emerged as a lone -- though powerful -- dissenting voice among owners several weeks ago when he expressed opposition to an 18-game schedule.” Steelers S Troy Polamalu said, "That meant a lot" (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 2/3). Steelers WR Hines Ward said of Rooney, “He’s just speaking what we really feel about it. Nobody wants 18 games. He doesn’t want it. He doesn’t care about that extra money. He’s worried about his players and their safety” (Bergen RECORD, 2/3).
 
ADDITIONAL CHANGES IN SIGHT? ESPN.com’s John Clayton wrote he is “sure” the NFL will expand its playoff field “once it expands to an 18-game schedule.” Sixteen teams “might be too many, but 14 teams might be a fair compromise.” Clayton: “Fourteen playoff teams would be plenty. There were only 15 teams with winning records this season” (ESPN.com, 2/2).
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