The NFL’s annual release of its regular-season schedule has become an event of sorts. Some of us have joked in the build-up to the schedule release that it’s one of the only things in sports where a league makes an announcement (“the schedule will be released on Wednesday”) to tout an announcement.
I understand why some might think it’s over the top.
I don’t, however, and here’s why.
Shortly after we learned the Patriots’ 2014 slate, I received a text from my best buddy from college: “See you in December. Hope you can bring the family.” He lived four doors down from me our freshman year at UMass in 1993, we were roommates the next two years, then our lives took us on different paths — him through the minor-league baseball circuit, mine back home to start a career in the sports media.
Nate ultimately settled in Southern California, I stayed home in Massachusetts, but we’ve always kept in touch, attending each other’s weddings and getting together whenever possible. Yet as we became older older and our families grew, it became tougher to do so. The last time was when the Patriots visited the San Diego Chargers in 2010.
This year, we’ll do it again — Patriots at Chargers, Dec. 7. Schedules have been cleared.
The same night the schedule was released this year, texts were delivered rapid fire with my dad, who is one of the primary reasons I am a sports reporter today. He travels with me to one game every year (this goes back eight years now) and great memories result from it (still can’t get over the kindness of the Seahawks organization with him in 2012). He was waiting for the schedule to come out to determine his pick this year and it wasn’t long before two letters were texted: “KC.” It’s a nice early-season date and the venue hasn’t come up often on the road schedule (last time: 2005).
The itinerary was finalized and booked and we watched within 36-48 hours as the Boston-to-Kansas City flight went from affordable to sold out. Something tells me the NFL had something to do with that. Amazing.
Then there’s the annual trip to South Florida, where my mother calls home, and how every Patriots-Dolphins game represents a chance for a visit that otherwise wouldn’t be possible. We text too, and she wrote, “I always feel so much better after the NFL schedule is out knowing you’re coming down.”
So there it is.
That’s what I appreciate most about learning about when the games will be played.
It creates a road map for what’s ahead — not just to see compelling football, but also to spend time, create memories and connect again with the people closest in our lives.