As snow hit the East Coast hard Sunday night, football purists, media types and even the Givernor of Pennsylvania hit the NFL for postponing the Eagles-Vikings game. Yes it would have made for great TV and big ratings for NBC (although Tuesday night's buildup with a traditionally larger audience than on a Sunday should also do well) and it would have continued the football tradition of play whenever, but it today's blame everyone society the decision actually made good overall business sense. here's why.
1- The NFL and teams over the years have been held more and more liable for incidents that occur after fans attend games. Drunk driving accidents, fights etc. come back to haunt those who sold beer, did not have enough security etc. The game was at night, and with clearer weather during the day, it meant fans getting to Lincoln Financial field earlier to tailgate. That means more chance of issues, more drinking, more frostbite, more fights and then a long trek home in horrible weather. If it were a day game, different story. Less hours of accumulating snow, better visibility, probably more people on the road, less time for issues. Avoiding playing the game no doubt caused less angst, and less minor incidents to innocent people on the roads postgame, than had the game been played.
2- It's holiday week. More people are off and can get off earlier Tuesday probably than for any other day during the year. If it were a regular Tuesday maybe it would have caused more issues for fans, but this happened at the best possible time for scheduling, so the risk or inconvenience factor for anyone going to the game is lesser than it could have ever been.
3- It's the year of the injury. Injuries, especially going into the upcoming discussions with the Player's Association, are talked about more today than ever before. The rock hard field in Minnesota earlier this year was, by some, blamed for Brett Favre's latest injury. While football and the elements are a big part of the game, another huge injury in very bad conditions would have stirred yet another debate at a time when the NFL is doing all it can to minimize injury and maximize athleticism.
4- Short term pain, long term gain. The amount of dollars spent on professional sports is rising every day, we all know that. Every league is trying to create the ultimate fan experience and generate more return for the fan dollar. With the cost of tickets, parking etc., if there is a way to make sure that there is a better experience not just at the game but also going and coming to the game, then the NFL has to look at what that is. yes the experience of football in the snow is amazing, but it is sometimes not worth the risk.
5- There was precedent. The predicition was for huge snowfall, which could be catastrophic to travel. No one blinked when games were moved becuase of catastrophic events like hurricanes in Florida that moved games. Same should be held up here.
While the NHL chose to play games in Long Island and New Jersey at the same time, in many ways it was mixing apples and oranges. On the best of nights the Islanders would draw 11,000, while the Devils probably 18,000. That is far different than the 60,000 plus at the Linc, many of whom would have risked going becuase there is no makeup or extra game afforded to an NFL fan like the NBA or the NHL could do in extreme weather conditions (Devils and Isles ticket holders had many options for another game to attend if they did not make it).
Yes it did seem unusual to cancel. The NFL did not make the decision in a vacuum. It consulted with all involved, teams, officials, government and TV among others to make the call. As a business, one that takes into great account both the fan and the player experience at a crucial time in the financial and labor relations areas of sport (like it or not), the NFL played the right card at the right time.