Schedule mess is NFL's problem, not O's

Schedule mess is NFL's problem, not O's
March 22, 2013, 6:30 pm
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It didn’t take long after word got out on Friday that the Ravens would open the 2013 season on the road that fans began aiming their vitriol at the Warehouse, and more specifically, Orioles owner Peter Angelos.

But that’s completely misguided. This isn’t, and was never, the Orioles’ problem. It is, and always was, the NFL’s problem.

To review, the Orioles are scheduled to play at home on Thursday night, Sept. 5. But the NFL has established a tradition in which the reigning Super Bowl champion opens the season at home on Thursday Night Football, which this season happens to be, you guessed it, Sept. 5.

Since the Ravens and Orioles share parking lots, the two teams cannot play at home simultaneously. The NFL wanted the Orioles to move their game to the afternoon so that the NFL could have center stage Thursday night. And what the NFL wants, the NFL gets. Except not this time.

After back-and-forth discussions got nowhere, the NFL and Ravens announced that they would open on the road that night. Fans immediately howled, vilifying Angelos (again) and criticizing the Orioles for being stubborn or trying to stick it to the Ravens.

But it’s not nearly that simple.

Moving that game to the afternoon would require the approval of both the Orioles and their opponent, the White Sox. Both teams will be arriving late the night before – or more accurately, in the wee hours Thursday morning – after playing night games in other cities. Both expect to be in pennant contention in early September. Why would either team approve moving a gametime that could have a significantly negative effect on their team in the heart of a pennant race?

Ravens vice president Kevin Byrne told WNST Radio that the Orioles were, in fact, open to switching the game time. It’s unclear whether the White Sox or the players union would approve, and that would be required as well.

But significant hurdles remained. When would the parking lots be cleared for Ravens fans to begin arriving? What if the Orioles game went 16 innings? What if there was a two-hour rain delay?

The bigger issue is: Why was the NFL unwilling to just move the game to Wednesday? This year’s season opener was moved to Wednesday so as to not conflict with President Obama’s address at the Democratic National Convention.

Goodell and the NFL leaned on religion, saying Wednesday was off the table because it was the beginning of Rosh Hashanah. But the NFL has played on the first night of Rosh Hashanah before. It has played on Christmas before. And, if Easter Sunday happened to be during the season, you can bet the NFL would play that day, too. No, the NFL wanted the Thursday night slot and the Thursday night ratings. To find religion at this point is a little disingenuous.

So now the Ravens will open on the road. Fans are up in arms about that, but at least one player isn’t.

 “Am I the only person who didn't really care if we opened up on the road or at home?" wide receiver Torrey Smith tweeted Friday. “Get a road game out of the way and a few extra days to recover...sounds like a plan to me...(glass half full)”