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NFL and MLB Face Showdown Over Baltimore Ravens Opener

The NFL and MLB have a scheduling conflict, or a potential conflict, should the NFL not gets its way. The football league wants to open its season with a Ravens vs. Patriots game at Baltimore on Thursday Sept. 5, when the Orioles already have a home night game scheduled against the White Sox. The stadiums are adjacent. Pandemonium might ensue.

The NFL wants MLB to move its game to the afternoon.

“I have talked to Major League Baseball,” Goodell told reporters. “I have called Bud Selig twice and spoken to him about that. We are trying to work out an accommodation to allow the Orioles’ game to happen earlier in the afternoon and the Ravens to celebrate their Super Bowl championship with their fans at home on Thursday night. We think that is the right thing. We have agreed to move the game a little bit later in the evening to try to accommodate the baseball game.

“We think it will be a great day. As a kid who grew up as an Orioles fan, to have the Orioles game in the afternoon and then go to the Ravens’ Super Bowl championship celebration for the Kickoff Game will be a great day. We hope that is the way it will happen.”

MLB does not want to move its game to the afternoon, because both teams are flying in from road night games the night before.

“It doesn’t just involve the Orioles,” Katy Feeney, MLB’s senior vice president for club relations and scheduling, told the Baltimore Sun. “There is another team. The Orioles and White Sox have been on the schedule for quite awhile. Both teams are coming off a night game (on the road). It’s late in the season. To ask them to play a day game is rough, plus you have to factor in the impact on attendance and broadcast revenue.

“Conceivably both teams could be in playoff contention, so it wouldn’t be fair to them to make them play a day game after both teams played a night game and traveled the night before.”

Expect MLB to cave on this. Sure, the league has already made its schedule. Yes, Selig won’t want to appear bullied. But is hard to see might not making right here. Baseball is a schooner on starboard tack. The NFL is a freighter heading at full steam.

The NFL is bigger. This concerns the season opener, not a random regular season game. The Ravens sell out a 70,000-seat stadium. Last year’s Orioles/White Sox series at Oriole Park, with both teams in playoff contention in August, averaged just 11,800 fans. That was the listed attendance. It’s hard to argue MLB, the league that makes contingency plans every time it rains, faces an undue burden adjusting the start time. It’s hard to argue one slightly moved game out of 162 would create significant disparity.

Forcing the Ravens to open on the road, right or not, would seem petty. The NFL would ensure that is the narrative. Perhaps, after thinking long and hard about this, baseball might realize having a few thousand extra people pre-gaming at Oriole Park might not be a bad thing.

[Photo via USA Today Sports]

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