In a clandestine meeting at a Doubletree by Hilton conference room in Grand Rapids, Mich., in late March 1987, Pete Rozelle, Paul Tagliabue and Roger Goodell secretly hatched a plan for worldwide, around-the-clock NFL expansion, according to multiple sources at or near the gathering who are unauthorized to speak publicly about the undertaking because they might not even know what they're talking about.
And, from all indications, this covert NFL manifesto is now in its final stages.
Here is what the NFL is considering for as early as the 2021 season, according to a report from cbssports.com's Jason La Canfora:
-- Add a 17th game to the regular season and a second bye week.
-- Additional game for each team would be played out-of-market.
-- Out-of-market games every week internationally or in U.S. cities without an NFL team.
-- Add a wild-card playoff game in each conference.
-- Move the Super Bowl to end of February.
Impressively, the NFL is considering doing all of this in the face of growing science about neurological damage to its players and growing resistance from parents to allow their kids to play football.
Then again, the NFL still retains a pervasive hold on much of the sporting public. Heck, the NFL could've sold DirecTV Sunday ticket packages to passengers on the Titanic.
Although the NFL has not added a team since the Houston Texans became its 32nd franchise in 2002, the league has continued to expand in other ways, including scheduling games as many as four days a week and playing multiple games annually in England and Mexico.
Frankly, I believe the NFL should stop its tippy-toe crawl toward global domination and rather stomp its feet en route to replicating the early-20th-century British Empire.
My NFL plan is bolder, brasher and more in line with Jerry Jones' wildest, non-Jason Garrett hopes:
-- A 32-game regular-season schedule.
-- Expand to 48 teams.
-- Back legislation to literally change the calendar to better oblige NFL scheduling needs.
Let's start with this 17th game the league is pondering. One more game? What's that? Reminds me of the U.S. Postal Service upping postage two or three cents at a time. JUST GO FOR IT; double the length of the season, for goodness sakes. More replays! More comebacks! More records! More injuries!
I mean, if they had already done this, Matthew Stafford could've made it to 100,000 passing yards by now without ever winning a playoff game.
By growing to 48 franchises, the NFL can put teams in London, Mexico City, Moscow, Hong Kong, Montreal, Pyongyang, San Antonio, Anchorage, San Diego, Kenosha, Wis., Tunica, Miss., Trinidad and Tobago, Paris (France), Paris (Texas) and Monowi, Neb.
I'd also contemplate taking the Jaguars out of Jacksonville, because nobody ever goes to Jacksonville unless they are already in Jacksonville.
To accommodate this bloated enterprise – and allow the NFL to better command the nation's TV programming – the key would be to replace the seven-day, 52-week year with a six-day, 60-week year.*
(* If you give Donald Trump a team while he is still in the White House – Eric can run it – he will back this calendar change with or without congressional approval.)
Just get rid of Tuesdays – Tuesdays are for losers – and then the NFL could broadcast games on Sundays, Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; this would leave Wednesdays for ESPN to run an all-day NFL studio bonanza blowout in which 24 of its talking heads debate Stephen A. Smith one hour at a time on various league topics.
Sure, some snowflakes likely will whine about player safety concerns over a nearly year-round season. Not a problem. Through a unique fan promotion that will ensure sellouts every week, if the last available player on the home-team roster gets hurt, one eligible season ticket holder's name will be pulled from a hat and play the rest of the game!
And with in-game betting apps on the horizon, this means you'll be able to watch, gamble on and even play in an NFL game all for the price of a ticket. Wow.
Ask The Slouch
Q.Can you explain to a 78-year-old man the rationale of a player celebrating a touchdown by impersonating a dog peeing? (Joseph Dreyer; La Porte, Tex.)
A. What, you'd prefer he impersonate a dog pooping?
Q.Do NFL players really pin their ears back? (Mark Cohen; Gibsonia, Pa.)
A. Not since Odell Beckham Jr. was fined by the NFL for nonstandard pins.
Q.Using your rapier-like wit, could you discuss the Washington R*dsk*ns? (William Case; Sterling, Va.)
A. They stink.
Q.Why is revenge a dish best served cold? (Bob Lipman; Spokane, Wash.)
A. Search me – I microwave everything.
Q.If Russia is banned from the 2020 Summer Olympics, do you think President Trump will pardon them? (John Oetting; Columbia, Md.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
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As the Astros prepare to play their first game of spring training against the Nationals this Saturday, we're starting to see reports about how the players approached the offseason, and what tweaks they made to improve in the 2024 season.
Cristian Javier is a player Astros fans are hoping bounces back this year, as his ERA jumped from 2.54 in 2022 to 4.56 in 2023. Workload was thought to be one of the main factors causing his regression, he dealt with a dead arm last season and threw more innings than ever before (162).
Another explanation could be the pitch clock. This was another new element all pitchers had to deal with last year, and that also likely played a role in his struggles.
But according to The Athletic's Chandler Rome, Javier believes he was carrying some extra weight last season. Add that to some mechanical issues he was experiencing, and his struggles in 2023 make a lot more sense. And to be fair, he wouldn't be the first person to get a little fat and happy after winning a World Series.
Cristian Javier said he lost around 15 pounds this offseason. He acknowledged that some of his struggles last year could be attributed to some extra weight he was carrying around in addition to the already-documented mechanical flaws he had.
— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) February 22, 2024
In an effort to get back on track in 2024, Javier said he lost around 15 pounds this offseason. With the pitch clock not going anywhere, pitchers need to be in better cardiac shape than ever before.
Hopefully this modification helps Javier return to form and put up jaw-dropping numbers like he did in 2022. This rotation needs Javier to be the dominate pitcher we all know he's capable of being. With Justin Verlander behind schedule and Framber Valdez trying to bounce back from his own down year, Houston will depend on Javier like never before.
The Astros are certainly counting on it after giving him a 5-year, $64 million contract last season. Javier will definitely be a player to watch this spring.