One of the more unusual branding moves the NFL has made is insisting that any game in the Thursday Night Football package is called Thursday Night Football, even if it doesn’t air on a Thursday. When the league started the Thursday night package in 2006, it contained both Thursday and Saturday games, but the Saturday games were called Saturday Night Football. The extra emphasis of Thursday in scheduling in subsequent years led to the whole series being called Thursday Night Football in 2009, despite games still being played on Saturdays, and that’s provoked plenty of derision over the years.
The most recent one this year is particularly funny, though, as the decision to move most of the slate of games to Saturday (Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day) meant that there were three games labelled Thursday Night Football this past week: Giants-Eagles on Thursday, Texans-Bengals on Saturday, and Ravens-Steelers Sunday. Sunday’s branding was especially incongruous, as they not only used the Thursday Night Football graphics, but referenced that name several times on the air during the Ravens-Steelers broadcast. Here’s one example:
Funnily enough, this is the reverse of what happened earlier this year to the Steelers, where they played a Sunday Night Football game on Thanksgiving Thursday:
— WPXI (@WPXI) November 23, 2016
Despite this being a long-running tradition at this point, there are still plenty of people annoyed with the NFL ignoring the days of the week in favor of their broadcast branding. Here are some real tweets from real people not thrilled about Sunday’s edition of Thursday Night Football:
This would be a great game for a Saturday or Sunday. Too bad it is being played on a Thursday, evidently.
— Sam Farmer (@LATimesfarmer) December 26, 2016
most irritating part about the steeler game: the marketing as thursday night football.
— alex (@USAbe_7) December 26, 2016
WHY DO THEY KEEP CALLING THIS GAME THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL??
— C. Marquèse (@GoodBoyGoneBadd) December 26, 2016
For my money, I'll take Saturday version of Thursday Night Football. The Sunday version just feels weird. #amiright ….
— Smalbrecht (@cubbery1908) December 26, 2016
.@nflnetwork I mean seriously? For real you guys were too lazy to change the graphic from Thursday night football??? For the whole game???
— Jaime (@jaimeltaylor) December 26, 2016
So have we figured out why the NFL still calls it Thursday Night Football when it's Saturday or Sunday?
— Adam Mertz (@AJMertz) December 26, 2016
It is dumb with these Thursday night specials on Sat and Sun etc. Dumb https://t.co/FIVrGVLzBY
— Eric Lopez (@EricLopezELO) December 26, 2016
There were some great takes on what might be next, too:
I await a special Saturday edition of Thursday Night Football airing on Tuesday. https://t.co/ipEa2DHXCL
— Ken Fang (@fangsbites) December 26, 2016
— Andy Sorensen (@sorensen_andy) December 26, 2016
— Jeff Pollard (@jffpollard) December 26, 2016
This illustrates how dumb this move is. Granted, they couldn’t exactly use the Sunday Night Football label (as that game, Denver-Kansas City, was still happening on NBC later), and they can’t just call it a Sunday Night Football doubleheader (while Ravens-Steelers was an NBC production, it was only aired on NFL Network), but still, Thursday Night Football on Sunday feels remarkably silly. It’s an attempt to emphasize the broadcast’s branding, but the day of the week is probably a little more important than your branding. People will figure out which network it is by the announcers and on-screen graphics; you don’t need to keep telling them it’s the wrong day of the week. Just call it “The NFL on NFL Network,” or something else less stupid than this, and get the scheduling geniuses a calendar.