It’s time to put an end to Thursday Night Football on both sides of the border

Photos courtesy: Perry Knotts/NFL, CFL

The 2021 NFL schedule is out and we’re hopeful for CFL football in August, but there’s one thing I’d like to see changed.

My thoughts here will probably fall upon deaf ears and I might be the old man who yells at clouds in this case, but I’m over the idea of Thursday Night Football — no matter where it’s being played.

No matter how hard I try, I find myself mostly going through the motions watching the game we all love on Thursday nights — and yes, that includes the NFL’s version as well. I end up watching because I love the sport of football, but it doesn’t take long before I’m keeping a closer eye on Twitter than the game itself.

Yes, bad games happen — no matter the league, no matter the sport. In football, it seems a number of those games happen on a Thursday night, a night that isn’t traditionally a football night. A night where most of the players playing the game simply aren’t used to playing.

Football isn’t hockey, basketball, or baseball where you can play on any day of the week. As you rise through the ranks in football, you generally play on weekends, be it Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Athletes are creatures of habit and playing on Thursday night just isn’t a habit they’ve developed.

It’s not good for the coaches, either, who usually end up with less time to prepare their teams, adding to the crappiness of the games.

All of this could be forgiven if it was good for the lifeblood of the sport: the fans. However, it’s hard to argue that the fans love Thursday night games either.

TV ratings are generally on par with other nights and it doesn’t look like there are a bunch more butts in seats either, especially for the Western CFL teams.

Even the mighty NFL has had an interesting go with it’s Thursday night package.

Since it’s inception, it’s gone from being exclusively on NFL Network to bouncing around all of their TV partners to date, excluding ABC and ESPN. Now, the Shield has signed on with Amazon, taking the package off traditional TV for the most part. No one has wanted to keep this thing for more than a few years.

For the casual fan, it feels like they’ll watch if their team is playing. Otherwise? Meh. Even some hardcore fans I know aren’t all that broken up over missing games on Thursday night.

I can’t blame them, either. Football games are events. There are only so many of them.

There’s always another hockey, basketball, or baseball game. In football, that number is limited. Fans want to be able to tailgate or go for dinner before the game, enjoy it and then perhaps go out after. Very little of that is achievable on a Thursday night. A lot of us are working before the game and the next day — so much fun.

Years ago, Friday Night Football captured a nation because it was something different. It was a revolution in Canadian football broadcasting. It was also a night that worked for the sport. Same with Monday down south (though, ESPN has done a great job killing MNF as an institution.)

Thursday night also feels like a night where a lot of people just have stuff going on in general, at least during non-pandemic times.

Sometimes we don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

If the CFL is going to bow out to the NFL once their Thursday schedule begins, then give me a game on Sunday afternoon between June and Labour Day over Thursday night.

That said, if it gets us CFL football this year, I’d watch an entire schedule of Thursday nighters.

Joel Gasson is a Regina-based sports writer, broadcaster and football fanatic. He is also a beer aficionado.