Hobson's Choice: Prime number only 1


It seems the Bengals still get no respect when it comes to the primetime airwaves. Looking at the announced primetime schedule for ESPN and ABC (which includes Saturday, Sunday, and Monday night games) I notice an unfair trend.

Out of all of the teams playing one or no primetime games, the Bengals and their opponent for their Sunday night game (Jacksonville) are the only teams with a winning/non-losing season in 2004. In addition, 5-11 Oakland has 4 primetime games, 7-9 Kansas City has 3, 6-10 Dallas has 3, 7-9 Houston has 2, 6-10 Washington has 2, 6-10 New York Giants have 2, and the three other 8-8 teams (Minnesota, New Orleans, and St. Louis) each play 2 primetime games.

In total there are 8 different teams that play 4 primetime games, 4 different teams play in 3 primetime games, and 9 different teams play in 2 primetime games. Why can't we spread the wealth and just let every team play 2 primetime games each? What makes the TV execs think the country wants to see Oakland, New England, Indy, Philly, Atlanta, Green Bay, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore 4 times in primetime during the fall? I, for one, do not.

As a Bengals fan, I already get to see Pittsburgh and Baltimore too many times and as NFL fans, we all get to see these teams (minus Oakland) during the playoffs. If primetime games are based on final record (Oakland not included) then why are the Bengals stuck with one primetime performance? It seems to me, no one is willing to give the Bengals the respect they deserve. Any thoughts?
Matt MATT:
Plenty. Great research. Everything but the footnotes, and I'm not going to quibble with your numbers. Here are some stats that have me wondering.

The one thing you kept hearing last year when Monday Night Football came to town is the Bengals have to make the playoffs in order to get another gig on ABC. Well, they don't make it, but New Orleans didn't either at 8-8, and they get a Monday night shot. Yes, the Vikings and Rams made the playoffs at 8-8, but what does 8-8 in the AFC mean compared to the NFC? The bottom line is the Bengals are the only 8-8 team not on Monday night and the league can't be surprised if the fans and players are mad.

Hey, New England, Indy, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Philly, they deserve it. I'll watch them. It's good football.

But, let's face it. People today are infatuated with celebrities and names. The Bengals clubbed the Cowboys, 20-3, last year on the way to Dallas going 6-10. But Jerry Jones and Bill Parcells are a lot sexier than Mike Brown and Marvin Lewis, so they're on three prime times to the Bengals' one as they ooze Dallas all over the screen.

Of course, they're going to make the argument winning and tradition is sexy. Well, Mike Brown built two AFC champions and Marvin Lewis coached a record-setting defense, but, yes, the Bengals are responsible for some of this because they haven't been in the postseason in 15 years.

Still, look at the Raiders.

They look to be where the Bengals were pre-Marvin with nine wins the past two seasons, and may blow themselves up Pickens-style with Randy Moss. But Al Davis and Moss are the bad-boys-Jimmy-Dean-Brando guys that are a lot sexier than fourth-rounder Rudi Johnson signing up for a mega deal in Cincinnati because he likes the coach and city. So the Raiders have almost as many wins as prime-time appearances in the last two years with six, including four prime timers this season.

I don't mean to abuse the NFL because the league did put the Bengals back on Sunday night, so there is some recognition there. There has never been a better pro sports league. Or amateur. Ever. In the last 10 years, the NFL has been textbook. General Motors in the 1950s or Sony in the 1970s.

But I think you make a great point when you say you have to share the wealth. There are people in this league who don't want to.

Sorry if I'm a little paranoid here, but you get that way when you recently approached one of the new breed of NFL owners from the torch-and-burn corporate culture. In a media setting, you identified yourself as "Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com," and the guy said, "Why should I talk to Bengals.com?"

Gee, maybe because it's a league of 32 partners and not a confederation of 15 or so venture companies trying to squeeze whatever they can at the expense of the other 17 or so concerns.

I get a little whiff of that with this TV schedule.

But, like Marvin said in today's press release.

They win, they take care of it.

But I can see why Bengaldom often feels their team has to win two games to get credit for one.

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