AMERICAN SPORT IS almost sickly at times, isn’t it?
The NFL fixtures for the 2011 season came out yesterday and where will the New York Giants open their season on Sunday, September 11 – the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon?
In Washington DC, of course, the home of the spent force that is the Washington Redskins.
The two teams are divisional rivals in the NFC East so it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility for them to meet in Week One.
But at the same time, it’s difficult not to be cynical about the thought that went through the heads of the NFL when faced with the prospect of a pairing that would make for perfect televisual theatre where pomp and circumstance would draw a star-striped veil over the player lockout.
And that’s the ideal scenario because of course yesterday’s announcement was a transparent (and probably necessary) bit of opportunism for the league who, in releasing the fixtures for 2011, distracted everyone from the ongoing labour dispute.
They seemed to be telling the ever-obedient fans: keep calm and carry on.
That will be the same message in eight days when the three-day draft gets going tomorrow week. The build-up has been incessant and at barbecues up and down the country, there will be only cursory mention of a process that gets more and more entrenched by the week.
But will the sugar-coated marketing have the desire effect for the league? Or will the players see this as further reason to believe that soon, the owners will cave?
The two sides resumed their court-ordered talks yesterday after a weekend break but there is no sign that an agreement is any closer. A federal judge is expected to decide soon on the players’ request to overturn the lockout.
Keep calm and carry on.
Because, look! Sunday Night Football, September 11, the New York Jets welcome the Dallas Cowboys to Meadowlands. And for a moment it looked as though Jets coach Rex Ryan’s brother Rob, who has moved to the coaching staff in Dallas, would precipitate more pre-game hi-jinxery after the ‘banter’ that dominated the build-up to last year’s game in Cleveland. Mercifully, Rex has already nipped this one in the bud.
“That stadium is going to be full of emotion, not only the people from the area but in the entire country,” he told ESPN. “The fact that it’s the 10th anniversary of 9/11, that’s where the focus should be, not me playing against my brother.”
Keep calm and carry on.
The opening weekend offers too much in the way of sport imitating real life (and real tragedy) for the stakeholders at every level to leave next season start late.
On the face of it, yesterday’s brief fanfare and flurry of media activity looked like providing a further boost for the players who have put together an unflinching show of unity up until now and that doesn’t look like changing.
When the stars of the future step up to the stage next week, it will be a further reminder that the game is bigger than the greed which has brought such uncertainty to the close season.
And in ratcheting up the excitement for a series of games that may never happen, the NFL may have backed itself into a corner.
The prospect of no football in September becomes more and more terrifying by the day.
John Riordan writes a column for the Irish Examiner. He works as a freelance journalist in New York; check out his blog here.