Additional Thoughts on the NFL/MLB Scheduling Conflict

I have just a few more comments and thoughts on the NFL/MLB situation involving the Orioles’ scheduled game on Thursday, September 5th. (1)    To reiterate, the NFL declaring that a game cannot be played on Rosh Hashanah is contradicted by their own history.  The NFL has had no problems scheduling games on the first night of Rosh Hashanah in the recent past.  Week 2 games were canceled in the NFL in 2001 following 9/11.  However, the Monday Night Football game scheduled for that week that year fell on the first night of Rosh Hashanah and was scheduled to be the Vikings vs. the Ravens IN Baltimore.  Oddly enough, the NFL did not refuse to schedule a game on Rosh Hashanah in Baltimore that year.  In 2008, Monday Night Football again fell on the first evening of Rosh Hashanah and a game was played that evening (Ravens at the Steelers).  Just last season Rosh Hashanah began at sundown on a Sunday and the NFL hosted a full slate of games that day, some of which last past sundown in their respective locations.  This included Sunday Night Football in San Francisco (which happens to have the 6th largest Jewish population in the United States) in a game that was played well past sundown.  The NFL has also scheduled many games during the second night/day of Rosh Hashanah in the past decade.

The NFL has made is abundantly clear by their past actions that they are willing to hold games on the first night of Rosh Hashanah.  We don’t know why the sudden change of position – largely because nobody has bothered to question the NFL in this regard – so we are left to assume for ourselves.  Given Steve Biscotti’s comment that the team checked in with prominent leaders of Baltimore’s Jewish community who informed them it would be a “bad idea” to hold the game that night, my assumption is that the Ravens and NFL did not want to hold a game when some of the fan base will be unavailable.  That’s nice and all, but that hasn’t stopped the NFL from doing just that in Baltimore and elsewhere in the past.  I don’t mean to come off as uncaring about Jewish fans who might miss the game, but the reality is the NFL has shown a willingness to put games on that night in the past.  For whatever it is worth, Baltimore-Washington has the 8th largest Jewish population in the United States.

(2)    Article V-C(17) of the current MLB/MLBPA Collective Bargaining Agreement states the following:

“Only postponed, suspended and tied games shall be rescheduled, except as may be required to accommodate network television commitments or to comply with stadium leases, in any of

which events the rescheduling rules set forth in this Article V shall apply.”

For those equating this situation to rescheduling for a rainout, that is a big reason why this is a completely different situation than a rainout.  The CBA allows to rescheduled games for those purposes only unless agreed upon by all involved.  These agreements in the CBA are not randomly plucked out of thin air.  They are well-thought out, negotiated terms.  When a union – especially once as powerful as the MLBPA – comes to terms on any issue, they generally do not like to bend from the agreed upon terms at the risk of setting precedents and losing bargaining power.  The MLBPA simply will not agree to a rescheduled came that is not beneficial to its members (Major League Baseball players) in order to benefit the NFL.  Any other union would act the same way as is their right.  For the NFL to even suggest that they could or should accommodate their request shows a laughable misunderstanding of how these things work.

(3)    The NFL has not given any indication why the game could not be scheduled for Tuesday.  For that matter, they have not given any indication why the game couldn’t be scheduled for Sunday or Monday in a primetime slot.  The Ravens do not “have to” open on the road as the NFL is stating.  The Ravens only “have to” open on the road if the NFL must open its season on Thursday with the Ravens in that game.  There are plenty of scenarios where the Ravens could open at home and get their celebration but the NFL is not willing to be even a little flexible to make that happen.  The NFL is forcing the Ravens into this situation – not the Orioles nor MLB.

(4)    Lastly, as I wrote yesterday, a solution to this problem involves the NFL showing the tiniest amount of flexibility and making one of the following decisions:

  1. Move the game to Wednesday and play on the first night of Rosh Hashanah like the NFL has several times in the past decade.
  2. Move the game to Tuesday since nothing at all is holding that up and the Ravens would get the added “reward” of a couple of additional off days before Week 2 of the season.
  3. Do not play a Thursday night game and give the Ravens the Sunday night slot to celebrate their Super Bowl victory.
  4. Do not play a Thursday night game and give the Ravens the Monday night slot to celebrate their Super Bowl victory.

Like a petulant child, the NFL has chosen to cover their ears, flail their arms, and cry out that they want a game on Thursday night involving the Ravens and nothing else, even if a simple one-step solution could be had by choosing anyone of the four options above (there are other options as well that I can see, but those seem like the most obvious).

For MLB to accommodate the NFL’s request, the following steps would have to be taken:

  1. The Orioles agree to move the game to early afternoon
  2. The White Sox agree to move the game to early afternoon
  3. The players and the MLBPA agree to go against the carefully negotiated terms of their contract with MLB and allow for the game to be rescheduled for a purpose not specifically accounted for under the CBA.
  4. MLB agrees to the schedule change thereby setting precedent for the NFL to force MLB to reschedule games so that they can schedule previously unscheduled games to the same date/city.
  5. The NFL compensates all the parties appropriately.
  6. The White Sox and Orioles play a day game after traveling in from different cities – in September – with possible playoff implications for both organizations all to avoid the NFL having to make one simple move.

It is obvious which path is the one of least resistance.  Unfortunately, the NFL would rather get its way – its exact way – then take the logical path to a solution.