Professional baseball and football are rivals in sports fighting for dominance because of the big money associated with television contracts, ticket sales, corporate partnerships, and merchandising.
The competition can become intense around Labor Day as the baseball divisional races heat up and then the MLB postseason plays out concurrent with the NFL rolling out of the gate. However, that isn’t stopping MLB from giving the Kansas City Chiefs a hand by moving a Kansas City Royals game so that the NFL can continue a fan-favorite tradition.
Why can’t the Kansas City Chiefs and Royals play at the same time?
The Kansas City Chiefs’ Arrowhead Stadium and the Royals’ Kauffman Stadium are neighboring complexes that share parking lots, which may be an efficient use of land but creates the potential for gridlock if the two teams were to play games on the same day.
In building a schedule, MLB and NFL are always aware of potential conflicts that can arise when baseball and football teams share the same facilities. They also know that fans support both local teams and can’t attend two games at once.
MLB officials had already finalized their 2020 schedule by late last summer, at which time they couldn’t have known that the Chiefs would win Super Bowl LIV last month. That schedule called for the Royals to host four games against the Oakland Athletics on Sept. 7-10.
We still don’t know who Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs will play in the opener since the NFL doesn’t release its schedule until mid-April. However, one of their home opponents in 2020 will be the New England Patriots, which would make for an interesting opener with or without Tom Brady.
When did the NFL tradition begin?
The NFL started a tradition in 2004 of having the Super Bowl champion kick off the following season with a home game on the Thursday after Labor Day. The festivities typically include a pregame concert and other events to celebrate the previous season’s championship one last time.
One exception occurred in 2013 when the Baltimore Orioles refused to move a game to accommodate a home game for the Baltimore Ravens. The previous year, the NFL moved the opener up by a day to Wednesday so that it wouldn’t conflict with President Barack Obama’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention to run for a second term.
The second exception was last season when the NFL moved the New England Patriots to the opening “Sunday Night Football” slot so that the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers, longtime league members, could kick off the league’s 100th season.
The only way it was going to be possible for the NFL to have its champion host the 2020 opener
In addition, the Wednesday baseball game that week was switched to an afternoon contest, which alleviates traffic concerns as the NFL team prepares its stadium for the next day’s game.
Does MLB have a similar tradition for its openers?
MLB did away with an opening-day tradition of its own earlier this century when it stopped scheduling the Cincinnati Reds to launch the season with a home game a day ahead of other openers.
The Reds had frequently played baseball’s opener over the years and the tradition was formalized in 1970 as a nod toward the city’s history with the sport. The Cincinnati Red Stockings were formed in 1867 as the first pro team and barnstormed the country beginning two years later, at one point stringing together 65 consecutive victories.
Cincinnati incorporated the baseball opener into the festivities surrounding its traditional Findlay Market Parade conducted on an official city holiday in part as a kickoff to spring.
MLB ended the tradition of having the Reds kick off the season in 2007 to accommodate ESPN in a new broadcast contract.