Don't worry about losing NFL 

End Zone

Somewhere online during the past week, I read a woeful comment that feared the worst for America and its sports followers if the National Football League loses its 2011 season to the ongoing labor dispute.

It'll be a disaster, this NFL fanatic insisted. We might never be the same. It could be devastating to each city with a franchise, ruining everything from stadium suppliers to sports bars. It would kill the casinos and put bookies everywhere out of business, and the mushrooming industry surrounding NFL fantasy leagues everywhere would go into the tank.

Most of all, the fan lamented, we'd have nothing to do on Sundays, not to mention Monday nights. But that would be just fine with me.

Somehow, I think the United States could make it through an autumn and early winter without pro football. We could survive without seeing whether Green Bay might win another Super Bowl. Somehow, we could make it through a year without Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Philip Rivers and Aaron Rodgers. Not to mention, closer to home, the Broncos.

In fact, it would be refreshing.

We could enjoy, truly enjoy for once, Major League Baseball's stretch run in September and the ensuing playoffs. They might even move World Series games to Sunday (and other) afternoons again.

Come October and November, we could pay closer attention to the start of hockey and basketball seasons, especially around here. Colorado College, looking ahead to a potentially huge season in 2011-12, might consider moving some early weekend series to Saturday-Sunday. And this entire state could really get into the rejuvenated Denver Nuggets.

For those who simply can't get enough football, there's the college game. Sure, it has its own morality issues with the clouds that continue to hang over Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel and, more recently, the Fiesta Bowl and, by extension, the Bowl Championship Series. But those storylines aren't so prominent here, with Air Force positioned for even better than its 9-4 record last year and two straight bowl wins. Meanwhile, up the road in Boulder, the University of Colorado heads into its first year as a member of the Pacific-12 Conference.

We could have weekly Sunday college games on national TV, since the networks obviously will be looking to fill their programming schedules.

That's not just a passing thought. If the NFL lockout lasts much longer, taking away the minicamps and other offseason workouts that have filled many recent springs, the uncertainty will quickly build.

My guess is, the major college conferences soon would be fighting for the chance to have Sunday telecasts each week, with the Southeastern on CBS, Notre Dame on NBC and who knows what other shotgun marriages? We'd have less of a glut of college games on Saturdays, with marquee matchups spread out to fill Sunday afternoons — even perhaps Sunday and Monday nights.

And the country would love it.

Here are just a few games that could easily move a day later: Sept. 3, LSU-Oregon, Boise State-Georgia; Sept. 10, Notre Dame-Michigan, Brigham Young-Texas, TCU-Air Force, Utah-Southern Cal; Sept. 17, Auburn-Clemson, Ohio State-Miami, Florida-Tennessee; Sept. 24, LSU-West Virginia, Missouri-Oklahoma, Oregon-Arizona; and on and on.

First, though, brace yourself for a surreal April. In another week or so, the NFL promises to release its official 2011 schedule, just like clockwork. That begins the final buildup toward the NFL Draft, also still on for April 28-30. Amid all that, there's a court case before a judge in St. Paul, Minn., with the NFL players trying to end the lockout. Good luck with that.

The public message is that the NFL won't worry too much about losing the 2011 season unless this impasse continues into July and delays the start of training camp. But if you ask me, the alarms would go off far sooner.

With coaches unable to talk to players, teams unable to keep up with players recovering from injuries, nobody studying playbooks or staying in shape, and no offseason drug-testing going on, we could be looking at delaying, if not postponing, the season as soon as the end of May.

And that wouldn't be so bad. Not at all.



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