- The Washington Times - Friday, December 29, 2006

When it comes to sports, I always know what games are being aired on what channels, and I usually know their start times. And if I don’t know, I know where to look it up or who to call. That’s one of the advantages of being a professional sportswriter.

It’s not as easy for average fans, and this occurred to me over the holidays when visiting some relatives. It seemed every cousin, aunt and uncle was utterly confused by the NFL’s broadcasting setup, complaining that they never knew which game was on when, or where to find certain games on the dial.

Looking at it from their perspective, they have a point, especially when it comes to football. The NFL now has football on four different nights and five different networks.

NBC, which didn’t have football last year, now has games on Sunday Night.

Monday Night Football, which was on ABC for three decades, is now on ESPN.

And the NFL Network, which most people didn’t even know existed before this year, is showing games on Thursdays or Saturdays, depending on the time of year. (And half the country doesn’t even get the NFL Network, thus adding to the confusion.)

It doesn’t help that game times are routinely changed, thanks to the ability of the NFL and its broadcasters to move games in order to get the best ratings. NBC’s “Flex Game” concept may allow the network to get more compelling games, but it is murder on fans.

It was made perfectly clear how confusing this was when some relatives up in Pennsylvania asked me “Tim, what time is the Eagles game against the Falcons?”

My response: “Well, it was originally scheduled for 1 p.m. on Fox. But they might move it to 8 p.m if NBC picks it as its flex game. Unless Fox exercises its right to protect the game, in which case it stays on Fox but probably will be moved to 4:15.”

I might as well have given them instructions on assembling a bomb.

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