Michael Tomasky Says Move the Super Bowl to Saturday
Generally speaking, I eschew Super Bowl parties, and for two reasons. First, I’d rather actually watch the game and focus on what’s going on, which can be difficult to do with someone asking questions like, “But why are they called downs?” But second, and possibly even more importantly: I don’t cotton much to parties on Sunday night. Sunday is a night to keep things on the mellow side. Confident as I am that millions of my fellow Americans are in my corner on this one, I say it loud and I say it proud: they should change the Super Bowl to Saturday.
What?! But that’s apostasy! It’s Super Bowl Sunday and always has been. Well, yes, it has. And this, lame as it is, appears to be the NFL’s position. The question of moving the game to Saturday has been bruited for a while now. Last year, a league spokesman responded to a Sports Illustrated reporter by saying: “We hear this each year. The concept of playing the Super Bowl on a Sunday has worked well for 44 years, and we don’t anticipate moving away from this tradition. Fans expect to see the Super Bowl on a Sunday, the day on which 89.2 percent of NFL games are played.”
The response “But that’s how we’ve always done it” to the question “Why do you do it that way?” is my perfect definition of idiocy. I knew I was a liberal when I was 4 years old, even before I knew what a liberal was, because usually when some adult told me that something was always done in such-and-such a way, I thought, why? Don’t get me wrong. Some traditions are good. But many are not. And all of them, good and bad, deserve to be reexamined every few years to make sure the circumstances that made them traditions in the first place still obtain.
In this particular case, they assuredly do not. The Super Bowl was launched on a Sunday in 1967 because, indeed, that’s when professional football games were played in 1967. It was a Sunday-afternoon affair, kicking off at normal time. Those of you in my general age bracket will remember that the game was initially thought a gimmick that might not even last. The first one wasn’t even close to being a sellout (attendance was fewer than 62,000 in the roughly 90,000-seat L.A. Coliseum).
The game became iconic pretty quickly. Supe III, the Namath one and the first one I watched as a little tyke, took care of that. Then the leagues merged. Then they started playing football on Monday nights, unheard of at that point. By the mid-’70s, when the Steelers were playing the Cowboys, the game had gone from being a football game to a cultural event.
At some point in there, maybe about 15 years ago, I’m guessing, they moved kickoff to 6:30 p.m. Now that was a break with tradition. Why’d they do it? I’m sure it had to do with being able to charge more for advertising, since now the game bled into prime time. Plus it accommodated the millions of parties thrown around the country, because most people are a little hesitant about starting in on the booze in the early afternoon, particularly on the day they’ve set aside for the Lord.
In the meantime, football grew to be played not only on Sundays. Mondays, as aforementioned. There are lots of games on Thursdays and have been for years now. They have some games on Saturdays, after the college season ends. So that would be four nights a week, which, last I checked, is a majority of nights. Sundays are hardly sacred anymore, and that is the league’s own doing, in it quenchless thirst for more and more revenue and market dominance over all other sports. This puts the NFL in a poor position to play the tradition card. When busting a tradition in the jaw has produced revenue, they’ve been the first to do it.
So the obvious thing to do is move the game to Saturday. Have the kickoff at 7 p.m. People can party hearty. After all, it’s Saturday night. No Monday morning hangovers. No lost productivity ($850 million and 1.4 sick days, according to this report) on the following Monday across our brain-fogged nation. And remember—the children! Every time a Super Bowl runs past 10 p.m.—which is to say every year—I wonder, aren’t there third-grade boys all up and down the Eastern Seaboard shedding violent tears right now? I guess most parents grudgingly let them stay up, but if the game were on Saturday, this wouldn’t be an issue. So it’s a family-values move as well as one enabling more drinking. Of how many things can we say that?
I know where most of the protests are going to come from. The West Coast, where the 3:30 kickoff time suits most people fine. Look, I love the West Coast. But face it, we don’t set the starting time of anything based on what you want. It’s Eastern standard time that made this country great, so please just leave matters like this to us.
One of these years, it will change. The game will be played on Saturday, and nearly everyone will decide that it’s better this way after all, and what took us so long, and quotes like the NFL guy’s up above will read like quotes from various elders in 1964 declaring that The Beatles would last six months. The traditionalists will be proven wrong again.