NFL owners are pushing to extend the NFL regular season from 16 to 18 games. Remember the 14-game season?
The upstart All-America Football Conference, the league that Paul Brown’s Cleveland Browns dominated, the league in which the 49ers made quite a good impression, played 14-game seasons during its four years of existence, 1946-50, while the NFL was content with its 12-game seasons. Those AAFC folks were irreverent radicals, weren’t they?
But the tenor of those times was no-risk, close-to-the-vest conservative. So when the Browns, 49ers and Baltimore Colts became NFL teams in 1950, it was back to the old tried-and-true 12-game regular-season schedule. Until another upstart, the American Football League, came along with its 14-game season in 1960.
A year later, the NFL was on board, too, and before you knew it, people hardly remembered the ancient history of 12-game seasons. For 17 years, the NFL played 14-game regular-season schedules, and all was right with the world. Well, almost. There was greed, of course. And two other things called supply and demand.
We loved our pro football and wanted more of it. So, in 1978, presto, the 16-game season was born, and it seemed as natural as a 100-yard field with goalposts on the goal line. Oh, strike that last observation. That’s right, kickers had become so good, so proficient, so automatic, so boring, that it was time the NFL did the unthinkable and adopted the college style of placing goal posts on the end line of the end zones.
The point being that the 18-game season is inevitable because the idea has already been spawned. It’s unstoppable.
And if the 18-game season is imminent, can the 20-game season be far behind? Do I hear 22?