The NFL Attempts to Bully the Orioles



League sources says there’s a chance #Ravens may not open at home on Thursday Night Football due to cheduling (sic) conflict with Orioles.

League source said there’s a chance #Ravens could have to open on the road on TNF.  Said that’s the “least desirable” outcome.

The Ravens official twitter account sent out the following two tweets on Monday morning.  Putting aside the peculiarity of an official team twitter account citing an anonymous league source on a situation that directly involves the input of said team, the tweets struck me as odd for another reason.  While the first simply lays out the conflict – which has been anticipated since the Ravens won the Super Bowl – the second message is a little more provocative.  Not only might the Ravens not play at home on Thursday night to kick off the NFL season, they might “have to” go on the road to play that Thursday night game.

The tweets go from “scheduling conflict that has to be worked out” to “the Ravens may not even play at home the first week of the season”.  It is a big jump from A to be B, especially without any further information.

Why can’t the Ravens play the kick off game on Wednesday at home?  Why can’t they play at home on Sunday Night Football?  Why can’t they play at home on Monday Night Football like the Super Bowl champions used to?  I understand we live in a 140-character or less Twitter world, but it stuck out to me just how quick the team’s official twitter feed was to place the fear in fans' minds that the team might open on the road despite winning the Super Bowl last season.  Forgive me if it didn’t come off a bit as fear-mongering.

Well, the Ravens followed up with a tweet to explain why Wednesday is not an option:

Playing the season-opener on Wednesday is not an option because of Rosh Hashanah.

On the surface that appears reasonable.  Of course once you look at that reasoning with just a single ounce of scrutiny, it all crumbles apart.

Rosh Hashanah – like most Jewish holidays – is a 2-day sundown to sunrise affair.  Given the way the Jewish calendar works, holy days – Rosh Hashanah included – often begin at sundown of the day before the “actual” holiday and end on sunrise the morning after the “actual” holiday.  This year, Rosh Hashanah begins on Wednesday, September 5th at sundown and ends on Friday, September 7th at sun rise.

Yes, that’s correct – the actual, full Gregorian calendar day that Rosh Hashanah is celebrated on in 2013 is Thursday, September 6th.  The holiday simply bleeds into Wednesday night and Friday morning.  Yet for some odd reason, the NFL declared that Wednesday was not an option, while Thursday – the day the holiday is celebrated all day – is out of the question.

That defies logic to such a great degree that I do not know how someone involved with the NFL or the Ravens didn’t think about it before using Rosh Hashanah as an excuse.  Granted, I am not Jewish but it has been made fairly clear to me that Thursday is when most observers of the holiday will spend the day at temple services and in no way would it be better for Jewish people if the game were held on Wednesday as opposed to Thursday.

Putting that aside, the Rosh Hashanah excuse also falls apart when you consider that Rosh Hashanah moves along the Gregorian calendar the same way any holiday does between days of the week from year to year.  In 2012, for example, Rosh Hashanah ran from sundown on Sunday, September 16th through sunrise on Tuesday September 18th.  You will not be surprised to find out that the 49’ers defeated the Lions 27-19 in San Francisco on Sunday Night football on the 16th that year – the first night of Rosh Hashanah.  Obviously, the NFL was less concerned about this religious holiday just one year ago.

The Rosh Hashanah excuse was just that – an excuse.  Why the NFL does not want to schedule the game on Wednesday, who knows.  Maybe – as some have theorized – it simply does not want to mess with the tradition of the Super Bowl champs hosting the Thursday night opener.  Okay, except this “tradition” goes back a whopping ten years and was actually broken just LAST SEASON.  Due a speech from President Obama scheduled for September 6, 2012, the opening night game pitting the champion New York Giants against the Cowboys was moved to Wednesday, September 5th.  There is a precedent – just LAST SEASON –for moving the game to Wednesday.

Perhaps the NFL just doesn’t feel it needs to extend MLB the same courtesy it extended to the President of the United States.  That is a likely conclusion and given that the NFL has not bothered to clarify the situation yet, it is reasonable to assume that is indeed their line of thinking.

Despite coming up with an incredibly and obviously fabricated excuse for why the game can’t be played Wednesday, the NFL has nonetheless managed to convince the masses that its hand are tied.  It has managed to convince many Baltimoreans that the big, bad Orioles are forcing the Ravens to open their season on the road instead.  They have managed to convince many that the only options are for the Ravens to play week one on the road or play the Thursday night game in Baltimore.  Playing on Sunday Night football or Monday Night football has not been mentioned by the NFL so many people have just ignored that it is a perfectly valid option as well.

The NFL has managed to make the Baltimore Orioles (and to a lesser extent, Major League Baseball) the chief villains in this saga.  I have never seen such a bungled yet still overwhelmingly successful PR job before.

Baltimore fans want to know why the Orioles cannot play nice and accommodate the Ravens.  “How hard is it to move the game to the early afternoon?” they ask.  Well, harder than one might think.  The Orioles are scheduled to play the White Sox at 7:05 on that Thursday.  The White Sox play the Yankees at 7:05 ET on Wednesday in New York while the Orioles play the Indians in Cleveland at 7:05 ET on Wednesday.  Both teams, the players (and the very strong Players Association union), and MLB itself would have to agree to the time change, which would mean both teams arriving in Baltimore well into the early morning hours of Thursday for what would likely be a 12:35 PM start-time the next day.

“Okay, move the Wednesday games in New York and Cleveland to the afternoon so the White Sox and Orioles can get to Baltimore earlier.”

They could, but now four teams are being inconvenienced – Orioles, White Sox, Yankees and Indians.  The Yankees and Indians lose out on potential ticket sales from playing a game during business hours rather than in the evening, plus they simply might not want to play a day game they were not originally scheduled for.  The White Sox visit Baltimore in the midst of a run of 20 games in a row without a day off.  Why should they be forced into a day game and/or a quick turnaround between a night and day game?

“Play a double header on Saturday.”

No teams like to play double headers unless absolutely necessary.  They mess up starting rotations.  Nobody likes playing double headers in September when both teams could be in the midst of a playoff race.  Even with expanded rosters, teams are forced into making roster decisions for a double header (sitting regular starters one of the games, having a non-starting pitcher make a spot start in one of the games, ect.) that the White Sox and Orioles would rather avoid.  That’s not to mention the lost ticket sales the Orioles would like have as the result of a Saturday doubleheader.

“The NFL will compensate the Orioles or any other team whose bottom line is negatively impacted by schedule changes.”

Alright, that is enough.  We are now moving the start time of anywhere from one to three games and compensating teams for their losses or scheduling a double header and compensating teams for their losses all out of the kindness of MLB and several team’s hearts.  The NFL and MLB are jumping through several hoops just so the NFL can avoid having a game on Wednesday for some completely bogus Rosh Hashanah reasoning.  Sure, MLB, the NFL, Orioles, White Sox, MLBPA, and (possibly) the Yankees and Indians could all rearrange several schedules to make the NFL happy.  Or – call me crazy – the NFL could just move the game to Wednesday.  It is obvious which of the two solutions is the easier and more hassle free one.

One thing is for sure.  Unless the Ravens host a Thursday night game to kick of the NFL season, there will be a segment of football fans in Baltimore who will blame the Orioles for it.  It has already begun (go read a Ravens message board if you don’t believe me).  The facts – all of the overwhelming, obvious facts – point to the NFL (not even the Ravens) being the stubborn party in this situation but some people will remain blind to those facts.  It is unfortunate for the Orioles that they will be painted as the bad guys in all of this, but I for one commend MLB and the Orioles for not backing down from the NFL in this situation.  Maybe if that happened to the NFL more often, they would be more hesitant to throw their weight around and situations like this would simply go away before they get to this point.