Bleak Friday?

This was supposed to have been a seminal event for the National Football League.  For the first time in its history, it was making a land grab for yet another opportunistic day and time to galvanize a national audience for a game.  Despite the fact that it has played on Thanksgiving Day since the 1930s with the traditional Detroit game that served as the second helping for the Hudson parade, and since the 1960s with the Dallas game, and for more than a decade since NBC added a third night game to the mix that once gave us the thrill of Mark Sanchez’s infamous butt fumble, they had yet to encroach upon Black Friday.

Black Friday has long been the domain of college football rivalry games and occasional afternoon hockey games, plus lots and lots of lots of college basketball.  Nothing too big on most occasions, and so much the better, as people tended to queue up before dawn, often in frigid conditions, to be one of the first of 9 lucky shoppers to be able to grab a TV for a fraction of its original cost.

But thanks to the pandemic, and the concurrent mercurial growth of Amazon as the preferred way to shop for a majority of America, the ritual of those early morning lines and ensuing battles for merchandise has diminished.  And fresh off an encouraging first season as the league’s streaming partner, putting new life and slightly younger eyeballs in front of Thursday Night Football, with Thanksgiving night still he domain of NBC, there was an opportunity to expand this relationship, not to mention put another $75M into the league’s coiffeurs, by adding a Black Friday game.

And on paper, this looked to be great.  A divisional rivalry game between the improving Dolphins, out of their usual warm-weather element, visiting New Jersey and taking on Aaron Rodgers.  And Amazon apparently had other reasons for their interest in giving the New York metropolitan area a Turkey week home game of their very own besides that.  Per CBS Sports’

Since New York is the No. 1 retail market in the country, Amazon noted it would make sense to have a game involving one of the New York teams on a day that is all about shopping.  After the Jets were chosen for the Black Friday game, they also began thinking of making it a new New York tradition. 

But as we know, Rodgers’ season was derailed four plays into the season opener, and while he’s hell-bent on somehow returning to action before the season ends, he won’t be behind center on Friday afternoon.  And because he’s been virtually incapable of generating a shred of offense this month, neither will Zack Wilson, who has apparently played himself out of a starting position for the second time in as many seasons.  Instead, the Jets will be led into a game that they all but have to win to even give Rodgers a valid reason to still consider the risks of a comeback by one Tim Boyle.  And as THE SPORTING NEWS’ Jacob Camenker details, his resume is a whole lot less daunting than Rodgers’:

Boyle first broke into the NFL in 2018 when he signed with the Packers as an undrafted free agent. He spent three seasons with the team, learning as much as he could from Rodgers and forging a relationship with the quarterback. That is part of the reason that he landed in New York as the team’s third-string quarterback.

Before turning pro, Boyle spent three years playing for UConn and two years at Western Kentucky. He struggled with turnovers in each of those spots but evidently showed enough upside for the next level with his 6-4, 234-pound frame.

His “upside” is essentially his inexplicably strong relationship with Rodgers, the same kind of connection that saddled the Jets with fading Packers receiving castoffs Allan Lazard and Randall Cobb, who weren’t able to forge any sort of connection with Wilson.  Which kind of puts Rodgers, the heartthrob of the summer HARD KNOCKS series, still in the limelight against a Dolphins team that is serving as the subject for the in-season version that premiered last night on HBO/Max.  And at least the Fins enter this game relatively healthy, with its concussion-challenged quarterback Tua Tagovailoa ready to go with a prolific offense of wide receivers that actually have been delivering (and are somehow keeping my fantasy team, which actually has a worse record than the Jets, still in a race for a playoff position).

And Amazon will be delivering enough distractions and side dishes to make these leftovers go down easy.  As Amazon Global Sports topper Jay Marine told the NEW YORK POST’s Andrew Marchand and his comrade in arms John Ourand on today’s MARCHARD AND OURAND SPORTS MEDIA PODCAST:

For Black Friday’s game between the Jets and Dolphins, Amazon Prime Video is going to have some special elements during the game, including exclusive deals for holiday shoppers.

He wants Amazon to deliver a great, entertaining experience, beginning with the main broadcast featuring Al Michaels and Kirk Herbstreit and on the alt-cast with “Dude Perfect,” whom Marine sounded particularly high on. Post-game, they will have a Garth Brooks concert.

He promised the placement of the Black Friday deals would not be too intrusive, but they will be present.

Here is the money quote:

“You’re going to see us introduce various things, including dropping exclusive deals for our viewers throughout the game that you’re only going to get if you’re watching,” Marine said.

At this rate, the more distractions, the better.

So maybe the total viewing experience won’t be quite as bad as the level of competition.  Garth Brooks once played a pre-season game for the Mets, so I’m mildly intrigued.   And the NFL simply cannot not deliver a larger audience that anything else will tomorrow, so even a blowout won’t necessarily derail this.

Perhaps calling this Bleak Friday was a bit harsh.  Bleech Friday, anyone?




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