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Friday is for football, so move the soccer to Saturdays

September 07, 2008|By MARK KELLER

Remember when NBC had "Must-See TV" on Thursdays in the 1990s?

Shows like "Friends," "Seinfeld" and "ER" so dominated the Nielsen ratings that the other networks essentially scheduled test patterns and infomercials against them.

High school football is to Fridays what those shows were to Thursdays for NBC.

It's tradition. It's how it's meant to be.

Some college football coaches so honor that tradition that they've turned down the opportunity (and network money) to play on Friday nights.

So, why would the MPSSAA, in its infinite wisdom, make the first-play date for soccer, volleyball and nearly every other fall sport a Friday? The same day as high school football begins?

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Because of the ridiculous decision to start all sports (except golf) on Friday instead of Tuesday -- the day after Labor Day, when the majority of school systems begin the school year -- Washington County was more or less forced to schedule its county soccer tournament in competition with the opening of football season.

In 2006 and 2007, the county was able to schedule the first day of the tournament on Thursday and avoid the conflict with football. It wasn't possible this year.

The soccer tournament must be played early in the year because it's difficult for teams to schedule nonconference games later in the season. So, county officials had their hands tied by the first-play date this year.

As it turns out, the first-play date is determined by the first-practice date. Teams cannot play their first regular-season game until 20 calendar days have passed.

Had the MPSSAA not changed the traditional start date of fall practice -- Aug. 15 -- this year, the soccer tournament would have been able to be played on Thursday.

I've been accused in the past of being anti-soccer ... actually anti-anything-but-football is what some have said.

That's actually not true at all, although some of what I say here might be construed as soccer bashing. I promise, that's not what I'm going for.

In fact, I'm looking out for the game of soccer here -- at least in Washington County -- and trying to build an audience.

Soccer shouldn't be scheduled against football at the high school level because it can't compete for the casual fans.

Football games draw casual fans, from former players to band parents to students who just want to hang out.

Soccer matches don't do that, particularly when they're played the same night four high school football games are being played in the county.

If the county soccer tournament were scheduled so it is given a chance to succeed and thrive (perhaps on consecutive Saturdays?), it might give the casual fan a reason to go.

But by scheduling it to start on a Friday night, the casual fan is being given more reasons not to go.

Mark Keller is sports editor of The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2332, or by e-mail at keller@herald-mail.com. Read his blog at herald-mail.com/sports/blogs/keller

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