The Road Goes On Forever: A Not-So-Crazy Proposal to Fix the National Football League

All I am asking is that you hear me out for a minute. I know this sounds crazy. My wife has already told me it sounds crazy, so I don’t need to hear that from you. And, I get it, adding two teams to the NFL that do not, actually, have stadiums or fan bases or even practice facilities and asking them to play 17 road games a year, at first blush, sounds crazy. Not just crazy, but actually indicative of a deep-seated mental problem. Be that as it may. Just stick with me for a minute.

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One of the strengths of the National Football League is that, currently, it has 32 teams. This matters more than you might think. A 32-team NFL, playing a 16-game season, means that each team can have a predictable schedule, not just for the 2020 season, but for the next century. The Dallas Cowboys, next year, will play the three other NFC East teams twice, will play all four of the AFC North teams, and all four of the NFC West teams. The only two games that weren’t set in stone were determined once the Cowboys, um, completely gave the NFC East to the Eagles; the Cowboys will be playing the second-place Falcons and Vikings instead of the first-place Saints and Packers, and this is probably to the good. But the point of all of this is that you know, for 14 of the 16 games, exactly who any NFL team will play each year.

While this is a very nice thing for the NFL, having this kind of balance means that it’s hard to expand. The NFL had similar growing pains going from 30 teams to 31 teams (requiring that at least one team sit out every week) which it fixed in going to 32. But going to 33 or 34 teams, no matter how much the NFL would like to do that, will interrupt the carefully laid-out schedule.

Add to that the fact that the NFL would like to move to an 18–week schedule. Currently, the NFL plays 16 games over 17 weeks, with one bye week per team (the scourge of fantasy football owners everywhere). The NFL, and a lot of fans, would not mind at all if there were, say, one or two pre-season games and a 17-game schedule being played out over 19 weeks with two bye weeks. But, again, adding games to the NFL season fouls up the near-perfect alignment of the schedule.

So this is my not-so-crazy idea. The NFL should:

Canton Bulldogs logo, circa 1920
Well, it looks better than the Browns logo.
  1. Add two teams to the NFL, one in the NFC and one to the AFC. I would like one of the two teams to be named the Canton Bulldogs, to honor one of the founding NFL franchises and the home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but that’s just me. You can choose one of the other founding teams, like the Rock Island Independents, just because of their awesome uniforms, but whatever. Call them the London Monarchs. Whatever.
I mean, COME ON. Look at that.

2. So these two teams are, well, a little different from any other NFL team. How, you say?

3. Well, as you probably guessed already, the teams do not actually play in Canton or Rock Island, or in fact, anywhere. Why is this important?

4. This is important because these are road teams. This means that they never have any home games. They play every game in the road. They don’t have a stadium or a fan base or (this is key) an owner; they would be managed by the league.

5. As such, a league-appointed general manager would set up the rosters and a league-appointed coaching staff would coach the teams.

6. The Canton team would be in the NFC and would play each of the 16 NFC teams in their home stadiums. The AFC road team would do the same in the AFC. (Then the two road teams would meet in a neutral site to play each other the last week of the season.)

7. The road teams would get no draft picks. (So if they go 1–16, it doesn’t matter.) They would be working with minimal budgets, so no pricey free agents. The other NFL teams would be able to designate a player or two to play with a road team on a developmental basis (similar to what some teams did with the old World League).

8. This would probably — almost certainly — make these teams very, very bad indeed. But they could still make the playoffs as a wild-card (they wouldn’t be part of any division so they couldn’t ever be division champions).

What are the benefits of doing this?

First, every other NFL team now would have nine home games instead of eight, which automatically improves revenue by 12%. (This is offset by the loss of one preseason game.) This takes advantage of one of the most under appreciated problems with the league — that so many stadiums are empty half the year. This also may help a little with overall scheduling because you can shift around the road teams any old way.

Second, adding two road teams gives more players the chance to start in the NFL without displacing older players or diluting the overall product. The talent stays concentrated in the league, but the players on the road team can develop instead of being stashed on a practice squad.

But most importantly, I think, is the idea that the road teams would be a whole lot of fun.

Why would that be the case? Part of it would be that the road teams would be so undermatched in talent that they would have to resort to, well, trickeration. Different schemes. Wildcat formations. Why not? They would have nothing to lose. And as such, the NFL might hire coaches that were a little unorthodox. Tell me it wouldn’t be a lot of fun to see the NFL hire Mike Leach to run the Oakland Pirates or whatever you ended up calling these teams. (I realize this is a longshot; in the unlikely event the NFL ever implements this idea, it would hire some boring non-entity like Mike Shula or Dave Wannstedt to run the teams. But you can hope.)

And then secondly, well, how do you think that the American football-watching public will take to these teams? One thing the NFL doesn’t really have right now is underdogs. Nobody sees, for example, the Cleveland Browns or Detroit Lions as underdogs — they’re generally thought of as bad teams with bungling front offices. A lot more people would cheer for the Browns and Lions to go 0–16 (including some of their fans).

But these teams? You have to think that if the Canton Bulldogs play the New York Giants, there are going to be a whole lot of people cheering for the Canton Bulldogs (at least in Dallas). Any games that these road teams win are going to be terribly embarrassing for the loser — and very endearing for the road teams. It would be an event — like Appalachian State beating Michigan, or like Stephen F. Austin beating Duke in basketball. I am not saying you will ever have a lot of fans of these road teams, but (especially if they play fun) they would be a lot of fun to cheer for.

Why It Won’t Work

The owners won’t like it. These new franchises would have next to no value — and in theory, this would bring down the value of their franchises. And — yeah — maybe the road teams dilute the value of the product some, maybe it’s a little harder to sell tickets to a Jaguars-Monarchs game, even if it’s close to a guaranteed win for the Jaguars.

The league won’t like it. Running two teams is kind of a conflict of interest for the league, and it’s a huge administrative headache. Even running the road teams on a shoestring, the costs might be more than the revenue brings in — especially if ticket sales go down for these games.

The networks won’t like it. They might like having more games, but maybe not these particular games. You’re not going to see Troy Aikman or Joe Buck calling a lot of Canton Bulldogs games.

And the real reason — the union won’t like it. Even though it creates a lot of jobs, it doesn’t create good jobs — and by creating more opportunities, it creates opportunities for current players to lose their jobs to upstarts from the road teams. Add to that the fact that the unions don’t want the 17th game or the 18th week (even with the two byes), the whole thing is practically a non-starter.

So it’s crazy. But I still think it’s crazy enough to work. And it’s not like the NFL hasn’t done worse.


Can We Maybe Not Invite Hank Williams, Jr. Over For Our Monday Night Football Party?

I want to try to keep this really brief if I can, all right, guys? I know it’s a busy time of year, and I really don’t want to cut into your schedules any more if I have to, all right?

It really has been a great year for the NFL, and I’ve been privileged to have the time to watch some wonderful games this year with you guys. You’re the best friends a guy could have, really. We’ve all been able to go to each other’s homes and enjoy some quality time bonding over craft beer and football and those amazing curried chicken wings that Himabindu made for us that one time. Those were amazing. You’ll have to send me the recipe.

Like everybody else, I thought it was really a lot of fun, back in Week Five, when Avery got the idea to invite Hank Williams, Jr. over to the weekly Monday Night Football watching party. That was an inspired move, and I know everybody appreciated it. If you’re like me, watching Hank Jr. do the Monday Night Football theme song for all those years on TV was such a part of our lives growing up. Now that he’s semi-retired, and isn’t doing the theme anymore, well, it was just a natural thing for him and come and sing the theme at our party. We all had a great time — I might even say a rowdy old time — and Hank Jr. was just so nice to everyone and took pictures with all of us. I know Avery still has his picture with Bocephus up in his cubicle.

So it was even more surprising the next week when we were all at Isaac’s house, enjoying that great cider that Isaac had brought down from his trip to Michigan, and Hank Jr. showed up right before kickoff. I was never really clear who invited him — I guess Avery had given him his card or something — but it was pleasant to see him again, and then when he got up on Isaac’s coffee table and did an acoustic set, well, that was just magic. I’ve never heard anyone sing in such a heartfelt way before as when Hank Jr. sang “Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound” the way he did. Of course, once he was through, he did pass out and knock over that bookshelf with Isaac’s family pictures on it, so there was that.

So every week after that, Hank Jr. just kept showing up to our Monday Night parties. That time when the Cowboys were on, he sang “This Ain’t Dallas” twelve straight times, and when he left he backed his truck into the passenger door of William’s Acura. The next week, he tried to make up for it by bringing those twelve cases of Miller Lite, which was very generous of him, but almost all of you called in sick the next day because you were so hung over. And then he brought that gumbo over the next week, and half of us got food poisoning after that.

Most of you don’t know, but I confronted Hank Jr. that next week, and told him that he was being a little too rowdy, and that we didn’t want the police coming over and raiding our party. At first, he was a little defensive, and said that getting drunk and having fun was a family tradition, and that I ought to respect that. And then he told the story about his dad dying in the back seat of a Cadillac, hopped up on whiskey and pills, when Hank Jr. was just a little boy. I was really affected by that, and I told him he could come over on Monday nights whenever he wanted.

I don’t think Bocephus is a bad guy. I know he’s been through a lot in his life, and it was hard for him to lose that connection to Monday Night Football. And I totally respect his talent as an artist, although I think that his late 2000’s albums kind of represented him coasting, just a little.

And I know, it’s my turn to host this week, and I have to admit that I’m a little nervous about Hank Jr. getting really rowdy and maybe knocking over that glass case full of NASCAR cars that I worked so hard to put together, or digging a barbecue pit in my backyard, or breaking a bottle of Old Crow all over the beige carpet in the man-cave. Darren supposedly heard him say last week that he was bringing over some roadies and would be setting up some amplifiers, and I don’t really have the money if we get fined for violating the township noise ordinance.

I’ve already asked Avery if he wanted to reach out to Hank Jr., and he wasn’t willing to do it because he thought that Hank Jr. looked so lonesome he could cry after the game ended last week. And I think that any of us would have a hard time looking the man in his battered face and telling him that he wasn’t welcome, and that maybe we weren’t ready for some football after all.

I think if we all do it collectively, we could have a chance. We just all go up to him and say that, like most of his rowdy friends, we’ve settled down, and we’d like the chance to watch our football games without hearing him sing “Dixie On My Mind” during the commercial breaks.

I’m open to other ideas. I know that Ali has been vocal about shifting the party to Buffalo Wild Wings, but honestly I think that causes more problems than it solves.

Okay, look. Tell you what. I’ll call his agent. Maybe we can get him booked in a gig at the riverboat casino on Monday. That way he has a valid reason not to go to our party, and it’s not our fault, and it gives him something constructive to do and salvages his pride. And maybe next year we can invite him back for one game, okay? Does that work for everyone?

Great. Thanks so much for your input. And, Himabindu, seriously, send me that recipe, because those were some awesome wings.

They really were.

The Incredibly Awesome Story of the World’s Greatest Fantasy Football Trophy That I Made Myself


I won my fantasy football league last year.

You don’t care. I know that you don’t care. I know that you especially super-double don’t care if you lost your fantasy football league last year, as most of you did. But I won my league.

My team, “Ghost of Don Meredith,” went 10–4 in the regular season, and won the first-round playoff game by thirty points, thanks to strong showings by Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch and New Orleans Saints wide receiver Marques Colston on my team, and a total, epic meltdown by Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel on the other side. The championship game wasn’t even close, as running back Lamar Miller of the Miami Dolphins and tight end Antonio Gates of the San Diego Chargers led the Ghosts to a resounding triumph over my wife’s nephew’s team.

I cannot tell you how many fantasy football leagues I have been in over the years, mostly because I don’t care, but this was the first fantasy football league I had ever won. (Technically, my wife and I won — everyone else in the league is in her family — but she defers to me on most of the moves.) I guess that explains what happened next. Something had to.

Not shown: Pass being intercepted by opposing cornerback late in game.

I don’t remember where I saw the story about the OYO minifigs. You can buy tiny little OYO (note, NOT Lego) replicas of pretty much any NFL, MLB, or NHL star that you desire. I will stress again that these are not official Lego products, but they are compatible with other Lego stuff, at least as far as I can tell. I remember reading the story, thinking, “Huh,” and then not thinking about it any more after that.

Perfect for your next minifig Village People reunion.

But the Monday after the Ghosts of Don Meredith clinched their victory, there I was on Amazon, buying an OYO minifig for each of the players on my fantasy team. I did a little bit of Google searching and found someone on Etsy who made Lego minifig stands that made it look as though the minifigs were standing on risers, like you’d see in a football team picture.

From that point on, it was all simple. All I had to do was wait for Amazon to send me the various OYO figures that I needed. My fantasy league has deep rosters, so I went ahead and got fifteen different figures. Etsy came through again with a minifig that was supposed to represent Will Ferrell in “Anchorman,” and sported a perfect gold blazer to represent unofficial team captain Don Meredith, as he appeared during his Monday Night Football career.

Top Row: Lamar Miller, Miami Dolphins, Anquan Boldin, San Francisco 49ers, Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers, Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys

Second Row: Alshon Jeffrey, Chicago Bears, Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints, Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks, Richard Sherman, Seattle Seahawks (defense)

Third Row: Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts, Marques Colston, New Orleans Saints, Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals, Hakeem Nicks, Indianapolis Colts

Bottom Row, Don Meredith, Team Namesake, Steven Hauschka, Seattle Seahawks, Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers, DeSean Jackson, Washington Redskins

The use of the OYO figurines lends itself to a little pose-ability. You will note that the kicker’s leg is up, and that Dez Bryant is “throwing up the X,” as he does after touchdowns.

Everything didn’t go well when I put the figurines together. The facemasks on the minifigs aren’t attached to the helmets and have an awkward tendency to go flying in the air. Sometimes players would pop off their stands and knock two other players off. But overall, I was pleased with the results.

I say all of this to say three things. First, I do not have very much time on my hands, thank you very much, just enough to do this. Second, I don’t care what you think; I think this is the most incredibly awesome fantasy football trophy ever and I shall cherish it always.

Third, I have to tell the story of Don Meredith’s head. I decided to swap it out. The head that the minifig came with had muttonchop sideburns and didn’t look like Meredith. It turns out you can’t buy just a minifig head at the Lego Store; you have to buy three figurines. (The trophy that Meredith is holding is from the Lego Store, by the way.)

So I was at the local Lego Store, a grown man on his lunch break, trying to find just the right head for my awesome fantasy football trophy, and one of the cashiers came up to ask if she could help. “Thanks,” I said. “I got it.”

She said, “What are you working on?”

I said, “I can’t say. It’s too crazy.”

She shook her head. “No, baby. Whatever it is, I guarantee you, I’ve heard crazier.”

So there you go. I have a few more up-close pictures if you want to see them, below. Thanks for reading.

Curtis Edmonds is the co-owner of the “Ghost of Don Meredith” fantasy football team. He has written three books, WREATHED, RAIN ON YOUR WEDDING DAY, and the short-story collection LIES I HAVE TOLD. His work appears occasionally in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. He believes the Cowboys have a good chance to win the NFC East (if not the Super Bowl) this year.