Opinion: Move made for TV, not players

The Vikings had a chance to play in Philadelphia Sunday at noon. The game was originally moved to Sunday night accommodate NBC's request. Then it was moved to Tuesday night to stay away from ESPN's game. Who says the networks aren't controlling the NFL? Plus, players express frustration on Twitter and Kluwe explains the pitfalls of directional punting.

Players and media members alike see some hypocrisy in the NFL citing player and fan safety as reasons to postpone the Vikings-Eagles game from Sunday night to Tuesday night, especially after the NFL declared TCF Bank Stadium fit to play in last Monday night when the Vikings needed to move their game from what became a partially open-air stadium at the Metrodome.

First, the NFL moved the Vikings-Eagles game to Sunday night instead of Sunday noon at NBC's request as part of the network's flex-schedule option. Then the NFL chose Tuesday night instead of Monday night to play the Eagles game after a Sunday snowstorm hit Philadelphia. Why? Most likely because ESPN didn't want its coverage of the Saints and Falcons on Monday night to be compromised.

But the hypocrisy wasn't limited to the NFL rescheduling the game, but also the way in which ESPN framed the decision. During a live report from Philadelphia on Monday morning, ESPN Sal Paolantonio questioned why the NFL delayed the game two days instead of one. Does anyone really believe that ESPN didn't influence the NFL's decision to keep Michael Vick from competing against its Monday night football game, especially after the Vikings' game on Dec. 12 was moved to Dec. 13 (a Monday night) in Detroit against the New York Giants. That decision two weeks ago took away most of the New York and Minnesota markets from ESPN's viewership, and it sure looks like the sports network giant put its foot down this time to protect its investment.

The Tuesday night game means there were Week 16 games played on Thursday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday – the first time in NFL history that the NFL has played a week of games on five different days, according to NFL Network.

The Vikings were left to stew in and around their hotel for three days after packing enough clothes for an overnight trip. Free in-hotel movies and free room service were part of the accommodations being made for them, but none of the players, at the least those married with children, want to be away from home that long during the holidays. They'll be home around 4 a.m. Wednesday morning and back at work on Thursday trying to stuff preparation for the season finale in Detroit into half the time they normally get.

A loss in Detroit could have the Vikings in last place in the NFC North. There were some bad decisions and bad circumstances before this weekend that led to that predicament, but if the Vikings are expected to foot the extra hotel, food and general travel expenses for this latest misadventure, they should forward the bill to ESPN and the NFL.


Several Vikings took to Twitter over the last few days to express their frustration over the situation.

  • From linebacker Erin Henderson: "Im so Bored in da hotel...Almost watched a soap opera, then I remembered I'm livin 1 right now."

  • From punter Chris Kluwe: "Someone just raised an interesting point. Maybe we're all on The Truman Show!"

  • From Kluwe again: "I'm going to start a petition to get our Detroit game scheduled for Wednesday, so that after the meteor impact we'll play on Sunday."


    Kluwe also got into a debate on Twitter with Sports Illustrated columnist Peter King. The topic was directional kicking, and King said that Giants coach Tom Coughlin had a right to publicly berate punter Matt Dodge for failing to kick the ball out of bounds in New York's Week 15 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. The result of Dodge's failure was a game-winning DeSean Jackson 65-yard punt return for a touchdown with no time left after Dodge mishit the ball and kicked a line drive in the middle of the field.

    Kluwe can relate. He mishit one punt against the Chicago Bears in another cold-weather game and Devin Hester returned that for a touchdown. So after going back and forth with King on Twitter, King invited Kluwe to contribute to his Monday Morning Quarterback column explaining the art of the directional kick.

    Kluwe listed body alignment and the drop of the ball to the foot as two keys to directional kicking, but Hester and Jackson's returns both came in inclement weather conditions, and that was another factor that Kluwe addressed.

    "Wind is the punter's worst enemy. An inopportune gust can make a mockery of the best plans (just ask Sean Landeta)," Kluwe wrote. "Good punters will compensate for this by holding the ball as long as possible in windy situations but you'll always have that moment of vulnerability as the ball free falls towards your foot. Also don't forget that you'll have to take the wind into account when you're aiming downfield. Do you aim a little further to avoid a 10-yard punt from a wind gust and risk leaving it in play? Or do you keep your aim the same and hope you get lucky?"

    Tonight, Kluwe will have a chance to go from Hester to Jackson, both in less-than-ideal weather conditions.

    Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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