When I first started watching the NFL back in the mid-80s, I fell in love with the game right away. Despite living in England, American Football (as we call it) was more entertaining to watch than soccer.
Back then, there wasn't much coverage. You had to wait seven days to see a one-hour highlight package of the previous week's games, including 20 minutes featuring the "game of the week."
If you wanted live coverage, this meant attempting to tune into Armed Forces Radio . If you were fortunate enough, you could get five minutes of uninterrupted play-by-play action at a time, before it was drowned out by other stations (which always included some woman singing opera). At the time, I enjoyed this, as I didn't know any different.
Throughout it all, there were various points of the year that I always looked forward to: Opening Day, the final weekend of the regular season, the start of the playoffs, and of course, the Super Bowl. (It was the one day of the year I was allowed to stay up until 3:30 am, despite having school in the morning.)
Another event that would get me excited was the release of the following season's schedules: Did your team get to open the season at home? Who and where would they play? Were there any appearances on Monday Night Football? These were just some of the questions that helped build up anticipation before the release of the fixtures.
Today, it's just not the same. I was particularly underwhelmed this year when the NFL confirmed the release date of the schedules. The question is: "Why?"
One factor is just the reality that I am now grown up (although my girlfriend would argue otherwise). As with everything in life, it's tough to feel that same sense of wonder and excitement that you got when you were younger.
There's more to it though. Part of the fun of the schedules being released was not knowing all of the teams you would compete against or, indeed, where you would play them.
The way the NFL has it set up now, you know who all of your opponents are for the following season and if it will be home or away almost as soon as the regular season has finished. It pretty much makes the release of the official schedules in April an anti-climax.
Don't get me wrong, I appreciate why the schedule rota was changed to its current format (helped by the realignment of the divisions and the expansion of the league). Under the old system, certain rivalries never had a chance to get going. For example, John Elway and Dan Marino only got to play each other twice in the regular season during their Hall of Fame careers (plus once in the playoffs).
Here were two of the greatest quarterbacks of their generation (and indeed NFL history) both coming out of the famous "QB Draft" of 1983, and yet they only got to compete for bragging rights twice during the regular season. That wasn't right.
As such, the (not so) new setup was formulated, increasing the odds of teams playing every other club in the NFL during a four-year span. This setup also means a greater chance for each fan base to see the superstars of the league play at least once in their own stadium.
And yet, I would be lying if I didn't say I almost preferred the "good old days" of the unknown, even though I known logically that the new system makes more sense. (The very fact that I have just used the phrase "good old days" just proves I'm getting old. Shoot me now.)
Still on the same subject matter, here are some facts and figures about the new schedules (for the NFC West) that may or may not have any bearing whatsoever on the Seahawks chances of success next season:
Schedule strength ranking (based on opponents' 2009 records):
Seahawks: 30th (116-140-0)
Arizona: 32nd (114-142-0)
S.F. 49ers: 28th (117-139-0)
St. Louis: 31st (115-141-0)
Miles to be travelled:
S.F. 49ers: 33,264
St. Louis: 18,364
Prime-time games/Appearances against 2009 playoff opposition:
Seahawks: 0 / 2
Arizona: 2 / 4
S.F. 49ers: 4 / 4
St. Louis: 0 / 2
It's interesting to note that every team's strength-of-schedule is near the bottom of the league, although that's what happens when you play in the weakest division in football and compete against each other twice a year. With the weakest schedule in the NFL, the Cardinals will never be in a better position to start the post-Kurt Warner era. (Matt Leinart, you have been warned.)
For the Seahawks in particular, it's good to see that they only have one trip to make to the east coast, together with three visits to the central time zone.
Also, with only three games kicking off at 10:00 am, the team will not have to worry as much about their body clocks getting used to an early start. With all the issues the Seahawks appear to have playing on the road, this will be one less factor to worry about.
Whether it helps them return to the playoffs, only time will tell.