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The NFL Schedule Release Is A Beast That Won’t Stop Growing

Jets fan holding up a "Thank you schedule makers" sign at a game
Ralph Waclawicz/NFLPhotoLibrary

Peter King, the old parish priest of NBC's National Football League coverage, needlessly unnerved the bovine army the other day when he hinted that the schedule might not be ready for today's release date because the network bastards (redundancy intended) were still trying to figure who gets what games.

Nobody else thought that much of it, though, because the idea that the NFL might delay erecting of the tentpoles of its offseason "You Need Us Every Day, You Weak Pathetic Grain Weevils" campaign is a silly one. The schedule release appears to be on schedule, since the NFL site continues to implore, "Tune in to Schedule Release '23 presented by Verizon on NFL Network for a comprehensive overview of the 2023 NFL Schedule powered by AWS." The league even announced its five games being shipped out to Europe yesterday, as well as opening night (Lions-Chiefs), Aaron Rodgers' first and maybe last game as a Jet (the Bills), and Raiders-Chiefs on Christmas Day, because Santa hates the Raiders the same way the league office used to.

Indeed, the 8 p.m. announcement will be pre-pimped by beat writers across the country getting their own teams' schedules an hour or two before because they need to convince their bosses that covering the NFL is exhausting work even in May, when even the coaches cannot be bothered to move the hammock. Indeed, the whole idea of the schedule not coming out on time would have gone off like Christmas being moved to Valentine's Day because of a delay in shipping. Nobody could fathom it. If it got delayed, there would be hell to pay in its own time, but not until. The NFL doesn't screw up stuff like this.

Not that things couldn't happen to the schedule en route to the printers, mind you. It's just that the NFL has made this thing its own little monster, and the monster must be fed on time lest the couch get destroyed while you're out getting the mail.

The NFL goes to a lot of trouble every year to give us all the information we need about something we already know. Indeed, the only thing the NFL is providing today is the order of opponents for each team, since we knew at the end of the regular season who every team's opponents would be and where the games would be played. It is the reading of a phone book with colored helmets, which is normally sufficient to get football fans to birth calves in ways that they don't seem to for any of the knockoff leagues inflicted upon them. We're not hooked on football as a nation, you see. We're hooked on The Brand, and Roger Goodell's role as the connect is never more in evidence than it is today.

The draft we can understand if you're bent that way, because it attaches the names of players you pretend you know to teams you definitely know. Even the combine, that festival of mesomorphs in tight-fitting athletic gear running fast in a straight line to prove their worth in a sport in which almost nobody ever gets to do that, can bleed the purposefully delusional into making an association with the draft.

But the schedule release is the league laughing at you, knowing you're in on the joke and don't really care that you're the butt of it. They even leak single games here and there, mostly as a free taste for the brick you're getting today and will pay through the eyelids to have. This is the NFL flexing its biceps through a raincoat because you just like to imagine the gun show underneath the sleeve. They're giving you games, but not even that. They're giving you a grid, nothing more, and you will behold it like a Christmas pony.

That's why King's little hint was so potentially seismic. The NFL never misses a marketing deadline, even as we're still waiting for a resolution to the years-long Danny Snyder dry rot eradication plan. They know their customers care more about the product than the producers, especially someone who has produced so little of value like Danny The Snarling Imp.

So we're guessing the schedule will come out on time, intact, and if the network bastards still need to fight over who gets Jets-Colts or Bears-Falcons, they can fill it in later. The announcement is due, the train is approaching the station, and the caterers have been called. Besides, the network bastards aren't going anywhere, either. They're a hell of lot more invested in today than you are, and they're bringing big kids' money to prove it.

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