The Giants did not want to play the Cowboys, or anyone else, at home on Sunday night or Monday night in Week 3 this season.
They asked the NFL to accommodate this request. The NFL did not. And so, as a result, the Giants play their only “Monday Night Football” game of the 2022 season on Sept. 26 at MetLife Stadium and any Jewish fans wishing to observe the High Holiday of Rosh Hashanah will not be able to attend that heated NFC East rivalry matchup.
“I am well aware of that and not happy about it,” John Mara, the Giants co-owner, told The Post on Tuesday. “I made my feelings known to the league as soon as I saw the schedule. We have always requested the league take the Jewish High Holy Days into consideration when formulating our schedule. Not sure why it happened this year.”
Each year, NFL teams put in requests to the league asking for certain accommodations as the schedule is assembled. If an East Coast team has two games on the West Coast, it might ask the league to put those games in back-to-back weeks. Teams (the Giants this year) can ask to not have their bye week immediately after returning home from an international game. Stadiums have concert dates to consider and tractor pulls to fill up their seats, prompting teams to ask the league to put them on the road a certain week. Sometimes the league grants these requests. Sometimes the league does not.
“We are never able to accommodate every request,” Howard Katz, the NFL’s senior vice president of broadcasting and the leader of the group that puts together the schedule, told The Post. “It’s a pretty complex puzzle we put together.
“Mr. Mara absolutely this year and every year when the Jewish holidays fall on football days, he always asks to avoid the Jewish holidays. He certainly did. In this particular case we were not able to accommodate that request.
“He makes the same request every year. He’s always been extremely sensitive to his Jewish fans and goes out of his way every year to remind us and ask us to avoid Jewish holidays.”
This is an intricate process. The league inputs data for trillions of possible schedules for analysis. The Giants’ request to avoid playing at home on Rosh Hashanah was part of this formula and ultimately rejected. Clearly, religious observance is not prioritized in these permutations.
Katz pointed out that the NFL has a tripleheader of games on Christmas Day, which falls on a Sunday. Comparing Christmas and the Jewish High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Jewish Day of Atonement) is not entirely apropos, though, as strict observance of the High Holidays involves hours of prayer and does not allow for travel or attending a sporting event.
It was a Monday night home game on Rosh Hashanah against the Cowboys in 1998 that sparked the Giants to be more cognizant of their Jewish fans. Mara at the time revealed to The Post he did not consider the Jewish High Holy Days when making schedule requests to the league.
“It’s something we didn’t even think about,” Mara said at the time.
Ever since, the Giants ask the league to heed their Jewish High Holidays request.
The Jets put in similar requests, asking for accommodations based on the Jewish High Holidays and this year the league obliged. The Jets in Week 3 play Sunday, Sept. 25 at 1 p.m against the Bengals at MetLife Stadium, allowing fans to be home in time for the start of Rosh Hashanah at sundown that evening.
“Mr. Mara certainly would have preferred to have been on the road Week 3 or played a 1 o’clock home game if he had to play home,” Katz said. “He certainly would have preferred that to a 4:25 game on Sunday afternoon or a Sunday night game or a Monday night game.
“It’s really tricky. Unfortunately some fans are going to get conflicted and I wish we could avoid all of them but we couldn’t. Whether it was in New York or somewhere else, we’re playing those games so our best schedule that we had, in our view, unfortunately had the Giants home on Monday night.”
Putting the Giants on the road in Week 3 would have been a solution to Mara’s request. Instead, the Giants play at home, in the NFL’s largest Jewish market, on Rosh Hashanah.
“I acknowledge that,” Katz said. “But this is on me, this is not on John Mara. There are flaws in every schedule, we’ve never seen a perfect schedule. This was a flaw. We were gonna play a Monday night game so Jewish fans somewhere were going to be conflicted and have to make decisions on whether or not to attend the game or watch the game or not. It turned out that it was really unfortunate that it happened in New York. But it was going to happen somewhere.”