In the history of leagues, no league anywhere has thought more of itself than the National Football League. Or as the great genuflector himself, Howard Cosell, used to enunciate it, “The National (pause) Football League.”
The NFL’s love affair with itself goes way back. The relationship was officially consummated in 1969, when the league, in a burst of shameless pomposity, started calling its championship game “The Super Bowl” and labeling them not with the years in which they were played, but sequentially, stuffily, illogically, with Roman numerals, forever consigning confused future generations into having to constantly ask “what year was that?”
The gloriously reverential tones of the legendary John Facenda, narrator of NFL Films at the height of that myth-making machine’s heyday, further sanctified the league in the eyes of itself.
It’s been a runaway love train ever since.
Further evidence of the league’s self-worship arrived last week, with the annual announcement of — tah-dah! — the league schedule. That’s the annual exercise in which the league breathlessly announces, um, the league schedule.
That announcement is normally preceded by an announcement, a week earlier, in which the league announces that the league will be making an announcement on the league schedule on such-and-such a date.
To review: it’s an announcement in which the NFL announces that it is going to make an announcement. Not now, but in the future. Stay tuned!
The NFL is the only sports league that does this. Neither Major League Baseball nor the NBA does it. Neither tries to turn the simple announcing of the league schedule into a national holiday. MLB and NBA teams simply issue their schedules for the coming season at the appropriate time, and we get on with our lives.
The NFL schedule announcement, which comes a week after the schedule announcement announcement, is accompanied by more pomp than you can shake a circumstance at. And that’s not even counting the trumpets.
Because when it comes to highfalutin, no sport’s falutin climbs higher than that of the NFL’s.
It’s a schedule announcement!
It’s not like everyone in America is rushing around slapping their foreheads and saying to each other, “Can you believe this? They’re actually going to tell us what days the games are on, and which teams are playing! How great is this?”
OK, I’ll play along.
I was busy cleaning the lint catcher on my clothes dryer on whatever night it was that the NFL schedule was announced. But since then I somehow managed to come up with a copy of the Browns’ schedule. Since then I’ve been digging into it and really breaking it down and analyzing it. In depth, you might say.
Because exactly nobody has asked me, here’s my reaction to, and analysis of the Browns’ 2020 schedule:
The thing that jumps out at me the most is that, once again, the Browns have no doubleheaders. That should help to keep Baker Mayfield’s arm strong late into the season.
Another break the Browns were fortunate enough to get is that they have no Tuesday games. That is huge, because those two-day turnarounds from the Sunday games can be difficult for all coaches, much less rookie Browns coach Kevin Stefanski.
The Browns’ bye week comes in Week 9. So what, you say? So this: a Week 9 bye means the Browns have eight games before their bye week, eight games after their bye week, and — here’s the important part — NO games during their bye week! Last year, the Kansas City Chiefs had no games during their bye week, and they went on to win the Super Bowl. I’m not saying, I’m just saying.
In Week 1, the Browns play the Ravens in Baltimore. That’s a tough break for the Browns, because if the previous Browns hadn’t moved to Baltimore, the current Browns would have three bye weeks this season.
The Browns don’t play the Jacksonville Jaguars until Nov. 29 (Week 12). That gives us plenty of time to learn the names of some of the Jaguars players.
The Browns are at Pittsburgh on Oct. 18, which means they have to beat two opponents that day: the Steelers and bus lag.
In Weeks 15 and 16 the Browns play back-to-back games in New York, against the Giants and Jets. Fun fact: the Browns have never played back-to-back games in Green Bay.
The Browns will play two night games this year, both of them under the lights.
The Browns get their first look at new Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow in Week 2, although it’s possible they could see him again later in the year since he’s entered the Transfer Portal.
When the Las Vegas Raiders play at Cleveland in Week 8 it will be the first time a team from Las Vegas has visited Cleveland since Fredo Corleone & Associates had a connecting flight in Cleveland to their home in New York in the ’50’s.