The NFL season never actually ends. At least, this is what ESPN believes. In Bristol, the NFL year is a continuous strand of fabric to be stretched beyond its physical properties, the limitations of which have yet to be discovered. This is the philosophy which brings us months of draft speculation masquerading as expertise and, Wednesday night, a two-hour schedule release program.
In an effort to generate as much slack from the definition of “entertainment” as possible, four men — Trey Wingo, Tim Hasselbeck, Jerome Bettis, and current Redskins safety Ryan Clark — gathered around a desk to share their thoughts on the 2014 NFL schedule, despite the draft yet to occur and opening kickoff more than four months away.
It’s not as if there’s a Selection Show-esque suspense, revealing opponents or seeding. We have known for months each team’s opponents, just not the order in which they will play. It’s fundamentally impossible to overstate what a non-event this was, and yet, it competed with the NHL playoffs in terms of news coverage and the NBA playoffs in Twitter volume.
Real power is not exhibited by what can be accomplished with sweat, but by what can be done without the slightest exertion. The NFL has tried very hard to dominate the ratings and create an on-field product people seek. But forming a schedule is a logistics exercise. It’s not an event. It never was before. Yet the NFL has gotten so big, so mighty, so demanded, that even the league’s administrative processes have become newsworthy. It’s not even trying anymore, but it’s still working. This is the behemoth the NFL has become, with which all other sports must reckon, and ESPN is only so happy to make a network out of it.