The Super Bowl is broken—and not just because the insufferable New England Patriots keep winning it.
No, the Super Bowl has a timing problem. The game starts late (6:40 pm ET), runs late, keeps kids up late—or even worse, sends sports-loving kids to bed without resolution. (What is this, baseball?) And if you throw or attend The Ultimate Super Bowl Party, it involves the kinds of food and drink that could use a relaxing day to work through the system.
Instead, Monday morning looms over the Super Bowl like Tom Brady does every year over the poor suckers who make the game from the NFC. Put your hand in the air if you spend most Super Bowl second halves preoccupied by a Monday morning presentation for your boss, or by the simple fact that you'll need to get up and go to the office, even if you promptly spend the morning in the restroom, revisiting the halftime spread.
Various studies and surveys suggest that somewhere between 10 and 20 percent of workers either take Monday off or show up late. Global outplacement and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, based in Chicago, has done the math and estimates that as much as $3 billion is lost due to absenteeism and water-cooler analysis of the game and commercials.
“If all workers who watch the Super Bowl come in just one hour late or spend one hour discussing the game instead of doing work," Andrew Challenger, the firm's vice president, said in response to the survey, "the cost to employers could hit $1.78 billion." That's a lot of chicken wings.
There have been several calls, including one in the 2016 Republican presidential race by Ohio Gov. John Kasich, to make Monday a national holiday. And we could do that, but that seems more problem than solution — and would involve the government and your HR department. It might take decades.
The solution is so simple you’re going to wonder why it has taken LII years to do it: Move the Super Bowl to Saturday night.
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It would solve the work problem as well as the biggest health issue that the game presents: loss of sleep.
Renowned sleep neurologist W. Christopher Winter, president of Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine and author of The Sleep Solution says that short of abolishing Daylight Saving Time, moving the Super Bowl up a day is the best thing we can do for America’s sleep.
"Think about this,” he says. "We are essentially gathering up throngs of people, many of whom have made resolutions this year to get more sleep, and broadcasting the most popular event of the year on Sunday night. For many who stayed up late to watch the Grammys—like my kids did—they are getting a back-to-back whammy. And those are kids. I haven’t even mentioned adults and alcohol."
For kids alone, the consequences are dire: Multiple studies have shown that students are already sleep-deprived enough as it is. When students sleep more, as this very website has reported over and over again, it's better for their grades, better for their mental health, and even lowers the risk of car accidents.
As for the rest of us, those lost hours of shut-eye are a whammy that can reverberate long after the winning quarterback holds aloft the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Winter says getting to bed late Sunday, even if you sleep in on Monday, starts a cascade of ill consequences.
“When these individuals get into bed at their normal bedtime [Monday], their brains are saying, 'Why are we in bed so early … we just woke up!' prompting them to have trouble sleeping and stay up late once again,” Winter says. "This is how a chronic problem like insomnia gets its start.
"I'm certain that I'll be seeing many of these individuals in my clinic six months from now. 'I can't sleep, doc. It all started when my Eagles blew that lead in the Super Bowl.’" Winter also helpfully reminds us that the World Health Organization has identified poor sleep as a risk factor for cancer.
And what for, exactly? A Saturday Super Bowl doesn’t screw up anything but a bunch of VIP parties in the host city and force CBS to move “48 Hours” to Friday—or Hulu (CBS already moved "Super Bowl’s Greatest Commercials All-Star Countdown” from Saturday to last Tuesday). It makes the Super Bowl the opening act for a truly awesome party night, a night that makes New Year’s Eve pale in comparison. It makes it a truly Super Saturday.
It also would serve as a modest puncture to the high sanctimoniousness of this Big Game. The two-week interlude between championship games and the Super Bowl is a smug exercise in stretching … out … the … hype … to … out … rage … ous … extremes. It leads to embarrassing stuff like this.
As for the game itself—remember that, The Game, the reason for all this hype?—the move should have little to no effect on the level of play. Anything over seven days of rest provides ample recovery and preparation time, and takes the game out of its normal routines. If anything, the teams should be sharper with less time off.
Despite this avalanche of reasonableness, I’m sorry to say that you won’t be gathering at 4:30 Saturday to get your Super Bowl pregame going. And for a simple reason: The game remains a pure, swim-in-an-Olympic-sized-poolful-of-money spectacle and success. More than 111 million people watched New England edge Atlanta last year—down just a bit from the record 114 million three years ago. A 30-second spot on this year’s broadcast will run advertisers as much as $5 million. Despite all the talk about the NFL no longer being the dominant entertainment franchise in the United States, the facts say it is.
Being dominant means you can do whatever you want—even schedule your biggest event of the year at a colossally inconvenient time. But it is a dumb mistake with a simple, nearly-cost-free solution. And it would even respect the wishes of TB12 himself.
"Given that Tom Brady sleeps in really expensive pajamas and is very much a fan of quality sleep,” Winter says, "shouldn't we all be following his lead?”
Actually, we might want to think twice about that, too.
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