When it comes to the personal touch of being the president and CEO of the Green Bay Packers, Mark Murphy is no Bob Harlan.
Sure, the Packers are one of the premier NFL franchises, enjoying a level of success both on and off the field most organizations only dream of. But they are still a community organization, something Murphy likes to use to his advantage — the latest stock sale raised $67 million toward a $143 million Lambeau Field renovation project — but conveniently seems to forget when it comes to something as simple as putting together the preseason schedule.
Tonight, for the fifth time since Murphy inherited Harlan’s post in 2008, the Packers will be playing a preseason game on a night usually reserved for high school football.
It’s the second time it will be a game at Lambeau Field. In 2011, the Packers claimed they didn’t know the WIAA moved the start of the season up a week, thinking their Aug. 19 game against the Arizona Cardinals wouldn’t interfere with something that’s sacred in towns both big and small.
Murphy’s predecessor, a man who helped a once-proud franchise reclaim its NFL glory, knew the importance of Friday nights and why they should be left alone.
In 2006, Harlan — who embraced the community aspect of his job so much that he’d answer his own phone, sometimes during games — moved a preseason game with the Tennessee Titans to 3 p.m. after the NFL said it couldn’t move the game to Thursday.
“It’s not perfect for everyone. We realize that,” Harlan told the Associated Press. “But it does protect the high school teams.” The AP article also said the Packers held preseason games at the same time as high school games in the past, and Harlan said it was a mistake to harm a tradition that’s “so big in this state on Friday nights.”
It’s a shame Murphy doesn’t think the same way.
Murphy told the Green Bay Press-Gazette earlier this week that because tonight’s game against the Seattle Seahawks is nationally televised by CBS, the Packers didn’t have a say in when it’d be played.
“No, the league just says, ‘This is when you’re playing,’ Murphy said.
Murphy also was quoted in the article as saying that having a set policy of not playing games on Friday nights “would be really hard because of TV” and “in terms of teams putting together their schedule.”
Give me a break.
The NFL, which technically is a non-profit organization, prints money. It doesn’t need anyone’s help in paying the bills and should recognize the value of protecting Friday nights for a future generation of players.
I think it will survive if it can’t televise preseason games on Friday nights. It already does so on Thursday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. And how much longer before we see Tuesday and Wednesday night football as well?
You’d also think the Packers have enough pull to say to the NFL, “You know, when you make that schedule, how ’bout you leave Friday nights open for us?”
Some Green Bay-area schools played Thursday night, including the 108th meeting between East and West High Schools. Those that do play tonight — and not just in Green Bay, but state-wide — will do so in front of smaller crowds, and those who are there will have their attention divided, either checking scores on their phone or listening to the game on the radio. That’s because radio stations which normally carry high school football will carry a relatively meaningless game in which the starters play a quarter or two at the most. TV coverage will be limited in certain markets, split in others. Newspaper column inches normally devoted to high school football will have to carry way too in-depth analysis about punting hang times and whether or not the Packers will keep four tight ends or three fullbacks.
The Packers — and the rest of the NFL, for that matter, should never force their fans to choose between high school and preseason games. Shame on them for continuing to do so.
And Murphy should take a page or two out of the playbook from the guy he replaced. If he can’t answer his own phone, he can at least save Friday night for the high schools.