Why Is The NFL Playing Possum With The Schedule Release Date?

Can anybody explain why the NFL is so hush-hush about confirming the schedule release date every year? It appears that they will be doing so once again on short notice, because I was actually able to confirm that the 2012 schedule will be released this Tuesday, April 17, at 7 PM ET. A little bird at a place in Miami called Duffy's told me.

Once again, the National Football League has not given their fans advanced notice on when to expect the release of the 2012 NFL schedule.

Clearly, all signs point to the day being Tuesday, April 17, based on the release day in recent years. Such as last year, when there was still no official word “48 hours until showtime” – yet there were several clues, including a listing on ESPN2 for the “SportsCenter Schedule Release Special” beginning at 7 PM. NFL Network had their own schedule release show at that same date and time, but I do not recall a lot of promotion building up until the date of the 2011 schedule release.

Fast forward to 2012: Once again, there’s a listing for a “SportsCenter Special” this Tuesday night, but on ESPN. It was initially logged into TVGuide.com’s listings as “SportsCenter Special: NFL Schedule Release.” But that since has been updated to remove the “NFL Schedule Release” part of the title, and there’s no description of the special. And here we are once again, 48 hours until showtime, and there is still no official word from the NFL confirming the 2012 schedule release date, and the league-run cable network still has a scroll on the bottom of the screen that reads: “Find out where and when your team will play next season. Watch the 2012 NFL Schedule Release Show, coming soon on NFL Network.”

“Soon.” The same explanation that NFL public relations whiz Greg Aiello gave Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio. And mind you, this was last Tuesday.

In an attempt to get down to the bottom of this conundrum, I did some Googling and I came across an interesting search result description. It read, “Tue. Apr. 17, 2012. 5 PM – 8 PM EDT. Schedule Release Party. Join us at Duffy’s in North Miami Beach on April 17th to celebrate the release of the 2012 NFL schedule.”

Please do yourself a favor and just click on this Google search equation. You’ll find that there are several references to the aforementioned “schedule release party” on pages belonging to the official website of… the Miami Dolphins… which, last I checked, is a team in the NFL.

Yet, when you go to the Dolphins’ actual website, you will find nary a reference to this schedule release party happening at Duffy’s this Tuesday. Was it canceled? Or perhaps an intern with keen scheduling habits posted the information a little too soon?

There was only one way for me to find out for sure: I called Duffy’s.

I first spoke to a waitress who, when asked if there were any events scheduled for Tuesday, she was not aware. After explaining that I found a promo for a schedule release party at that location on Tuesday, she placed me on hold for a minute. Continuing my call would be a woman who identified herself as Yaya, presumably a manager at the North Miami Beach Duffy’s location (the first woman I spoke to offered to connect me with the manager, and since the manager of the North Miami Beach location is listed on their website as Frans Kobus, Yaya might be an assistant manager – either that, or they need to update their website). Anyway, within seconds of taking my call, Yaya was anxious to inform me that there will be a schedule release party at Duffy’s on Tuesday night, complete with appearances from Dolphins cheerleaders, and possibly Dolphins players, as well – but the start time won’t be 5 PM – it will be 7 PM.

I repeat: I got an employee from a restaurant endorsed by an NFL franchise to confirm the schedule release date, before the actual league itself confirmed it for everybody else.

Which begs the obvious question: Why must the NFL be so coy in leading fans on to the official schedule release date? Does the league really need all of that time to “make up mock schedules to test the full schedule,” as Aiello had explained? I mean, we know for months when the NFL Draft is scheduled, and that’s considered a big deal. Since you’re able to get tickets to attend the event live in New York, it certainly would bode well to know what the date is ahead of time and have your schedule cleared.

Like the annual draft, the annual schedule release is also considered by some to be a big deal.

But what about establishments that hold schedule release parties? Like Duffy’s? For the NFL to all but wait until 24 hours until confirming the schedule release date, anyone who wants to attend schedule release parties would certainly have to do so on short notice. They may have already committed to alternate plans on Tuesday night, and thus would not be able to learn along with other Dolphins fans who their first opponent will be in the 2012-13 season.

And that doesn’t only hurt fans – that hurts eateries and drinkeries that depend on fans’ patronage. Like Duffy’s.

So, there you have it. Mark your calendar. Set your DVR. The 2012 NFL schedule will be released on Tuesday night at 7 PM ET.

And if you’re in the Miami area, why not swing by Duffy’s.

Tell ’em Diamond Joe sent you.

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