Sports

Ravens and Steelers Face Off in Rare Wednesday NFL Game

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If the N.F.L. schedules a game for a Wednesday, it is a safe bet that something went wrong. From a presidential speech to Pennsylvania’s restrictive blue laws to a velodrome flooded with mud, the league tends to move its contests to that day of the week only as a last resort.

That is certainly the case for Wednesday’s game between the Baltimore Ravens and the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers, which was originally scheduled for a prime time spot on Thanksgiving. The game was later moved to Sunday afternoon because of a coronavirus outbreak among the Ravens, then pushed to Tuesday night when the outbreak spread to affect over 20 people and finally ended up on Wednesday.

A look back at Wednesday games throughout N.F.L. history reveals the league may not play on the day very often, but Wednesdays have provided more than their fair share of indelible memories.

With President Barack Obama scheduled to speak on the Thursday of the Democratic National Convention in 2012, the N.F.L.’s traditional season opener was moved one day earlier. The defending-champion Giants hosted Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys and promptly had much of the enthusiasm for the previous season’s triumph fade away with a 24-17 loss to their division rivals.

As part of a spread out start to the 1948 season, the Los Angeles Rams played the Detroit Lions on Sept. 22. It was the league’s first Wednesday game since 1940, when it was a more common occurrence, and its last one until 2012.

Far more significant than the day of the week was a uniform innovation that came courtesy of Los Angeles halfback Fred Gehrke. Thanks to Gehrke, who had been an art major in college, the Rams became the first N.F.L. team to play a regular season game with logos on their helmets.

Gehrke hated the plain brown leather helmets of the era, so he painted one blue and added the team’s now-familiar yellow horns. The Rams’ owner, Dan Reeves, liked the design and Gehrke spent the summer decorating 75 helmets for use in the 1948 season, collecting a $1 fee for each helmet he painted.

Gehrke would eventually become general manager of the Denver Broncos, but he was well aware of where he made his mark.

“I spent the better part of my life in football, and I’ll be best remembered for some work I did with a paintbrush, but that’s OK,” Gehrke told Sports Illustrated in 1994. “I’ve been called the da Vinci of football helmets, and that’s not all bad.”

Helmet design is not the only football innovation to make its debut on a Wednesday, as the N.F.L. also played its first night game on a Wednesday, way back in 1929.

In the early days of the league, the Providence Steam Roller played their home games at the Cycledrome, a bicycle racing stadium in Rhode Island. A game against the Chicago Cardinals was unplayable because of heavy rains, but in a chaotic financial environment brought about by the recent stock market crash, the team’s players were unwilling to skip a week of pay. So the Steam Roller brass arranged a makeup game for Wednesday, Nov. 6, at Kinsley Park, a minor-league baseball stadium that had recently installed lights.

The Providence Journal recorded a crowd of 6,000 for the game in which the ball was painted white, giving it “the appearance of a large egg” in hopes that players would see it better. The matchup, part of a stretch of four games in six days for Providence, resulted in a 16-0 loss for the Steam Roller, but it was a financial success.

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