On Tuesday, the NFL announced that it was expanding the regular season (for the first time in 43 years) from 16 games to 17. It also reduced the number of preseason games from four to three.
When I was 15 years old in 1976, the NFL played 14 regular season games and 6 exhibition games. Yes, they were called exhibition games. The stars—even the superstars—played in them. Six weeks of meaningless games. Just try and find the stats of them. Box scores of them. Accounts of them.
Yet, it seemed normal that football players needed that much time to ramp up for a regular season.
And fans seemed to love it. CBS would televise a Friday night exhibition game four consecutive weeks in August. And my guess is that the ratings were great, easily beating summer reruns. Here’s a note from August 26, 1968; about a weekend of NFL exhibition games. Imagine exhibition games attracting more than 70,000 people. But if you move the exhibition games around to non-NFL cities (like Birmingham, Alabama) of course there will be interest.
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