Friday Night's Alright for Football

By Johnny Ginter on February 28, 2014 at 2:30 pm

People are resistant to change. I get that. Just because I grew up in the 90s, look pretty nerdy, and will never, ever shut up about the Simpsons being the absolute zenith of cultural satire since Mark Twain, people expect me to be the opposite of the grumbly luddite that I am. No I will not fix your computer, and not because I don't like you, it's because I assume that they all run on a combination of black magic and children's prayers to God.

While I am reluctant to admit it, however, change is often good. I may frown and cross my arms because dammit, I'm used to an oily tomato afterbirth coming from my ketchup bottle before I use it, and any attempts to rectify that will be met with angry letters ending with "I am not a crackpot" (seriously, the Simpsons were so good). But then Heinz implements NASA technology on their bottles, their ketchup is less messy, and I slowly realize that okay yeah, maybe the new bottle cap was a solid move.

I suspect that a smart guy like Jim Delany may feel and react the same way to the idea of Friday night football games in the Big Ten. And about a billion other changes to Big Ten football, but let's start there.

CHICAGO -- Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said Thursday that the league is not looking to schedule more Friday football games, except on Thanksgiving and Labor Day weekends.

"Beyond that, I don't think while I'm around here you're going to see Friday night games," he said. "Down the road? Who knows?"

Delany also addressed the ideas of age restrictions in the NFL and player's unions in college football, but since it's Friday we'll stick with the topic du jour.

First, I think part of the reason that there's a decent amount of pushback on Friday games is that in football-heavy states with both big time collegiate and NFL teams like Ohio, Texas, California, and Florida, there's a natural progression during football season that people are reluctant to disrupt. High school on Friday, college ball on Saturday, and NFL on Sunday. It's easy, and gives people a decent idea of when things are going to be on and how to prepare for them.

And I like that! There's nothing wrong with a little consistency in life, as long as there isn't a better alternative. But given the current state of college football attendance (as reported by ESPN), a method that worked in 1958 might need a bit of tweaking in 2014.

Here's another quote from that ESPN article, which is especially fun because it makes Michigan look bad:

This year, the University of Michigan drew the most fans of any school for the 16th year in a row. But 26 percent of students who paid for their tickets didn't show up at an average home game this season. That's an increase from 25 percent last year and 21 percent in 2011.

It's easy (and fun) to imply that this is because Michigan students are apathetic, past husks that shamble around their Ann Arbor campus waiting for someone to tell them to jingle their keys, but unfortunately the truth is probably a little more complicated.

A lack of marquee games, rising ticket prices, bad weather, and a lack of modern facilities can all be part of this equation, and while schools like Ohio State might have the advantage of having fans that feed on hatred and the psychic torment of their opponents both big and small, other Big Ten schools do not necessarily have fans with the same kind of passion.

Eventually Jim Delany and the Big Ten at large is going to have to realize that Friday night games, despite how weird they may initially look, are not an anathema to college football. They enhance it, especially for a younger generation of fans that are more interested in seeing something new than trying to maintain traditions that were established fifty or more years before they were born.

If football, particularly college and high school football, is truly in danger of becoming outmoded and less popular as a live event, then it needs to change. Adding Friday night games is about the smallest possible change that Delany and company could make in that regard, and I hope that they can have the same kind of foresight about something as simple changing the timing of their games as they did about something as complex as creating their own sports channel.

Football is fun. Fridays are fun. I'm not a math guy by any means, but this doesn't seem to be particularly complicated.

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