17th Game? Not So Fast

Talk of "improving" the NFL has delved into adding another regular season game and eliminating one of the always-riveting preseason contests. While most fans would sign off on such a plan, don't hold your breath. It could turn out to be a "line in the sand" moment for NFL owners.

Some things are universal to football fans. The sun rises in the East. The Lions take wide receivers in the first round of the draft. Preseason games suck.

Best testing indicates we can't change the first two. However, the NFL is seriously considering amending the "suckability" of No. 3.

The league is currently considering adding a 17th regular season game – something that has been promoted from various circles for years. Before going from a 14-game schedule to 16 games, NFL fans endured six preseason games – a torture by today's standards that would make Abu Ghraib look like an ant-free picnic. We've had four preseason games – with the occasional mega-road trip fifth game awarded to some teams – for some time. Why? Economics.

The NFL is the last true bastion of communism. Everyone shares in the revenues – be you New York or Green Bay. The only area in this burgeoning business that the owners get their sole taste of the NFL pie is in the preseason. Player salaries are currently divided in 16-game checks. Whether you make $10 mil a year or league minimum, your paycheck is pro-rated for 16 games. But there are 20 games played by all teams – four of them being preseason games. Those are the games in which there is no sharing – what you get is yours.

Under the proposal to add a 17th regular-season game, taking away a preseason game in which teams can pull in revenue that doesn't have to be shared with the "have nots" of the league is a commodity the owners likely won't give up without a fight. Nor should they.

While it's hard to take a pro-management stance considering the history of professional sports, the players in the NFL have won every staring contest with owners over the last 20 years. The one avenue NFL owners have to cut their own piece of the league pie is in the preseason. To think that they will willingly surrender a home preseason game every other year, to surrender 59 percent of an additional regular season game just doesn't make good business sense.

The talk will continue, but don't expect to see 17 games any time soon. With the prosperity of the NFL, there's no reason for either side to dig their heels in the sand. Push a 17th regular-season game and you might see it.

Pre-season games – especially the fourth one – stink. There's no two ways about it. But they are a necessary evil we must endure.

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