The NFL and YouTube will be renewing and expanding their content-distribution relationship, the league announced on Thursday.
The biggest changes will be the addition of highlights of games still in progress, bringing the NFL more in-line with other major sports leagues that officially offer such clips, as well as full classic games from each franchise.
Specifically, the league says that "Three of the most memorable games for each of the 32 clubs in the NFL will be posted" before the start of the season. While the prospect of master-quality classic game broadcasts is appealing, the announcement is a little curious.
There are already a lot of NFL game broadcasts online, albeit in violation of NFL copyright. If I were to make a list of the biggest Redskins games ever to be broadcast on television, they would include the 1982 NFC Championship game vs. Dallas, Super Bowl XVII, Super Bowl XXII, and Super Bowl XXVI.
All of those games can already be found on YouTube.
That's why I'm a little concerned that this expanded deal between the NFL and YouTube may also (quietly) include more vigorous enforcement of the league's intellectual property rights. In other words, "We'll give you three classic games! But we're also going to take down all of these other games and clips."
If you think the NFL isn't above getting tough when it comes to its own IP, just ask Troy Haupt.
I'm hoping there will be no such crackdown. If the NFL leaves the existing footage alone, then, here are some candidates for those three classic games—games that aren't currently on YouTube.
1972 NFC Championship Game: The Redskins whipped the Cowboys 26-3 to go to their first Super Bowl. The age of the game makes this one difficult to track down, and it would be a nice addition.
1973 Monday Night Football vs. Dallas: This was the game that ended with Ken Houston's fourth-down, goal-line tackle of Walt Garrison. I heard Rich Eisen say in an interview once that old MNF broadcasts are tricky to show because Howard Cosell's family somehow has at least partial control over the rights of the Cosell-era games. This makes no sense to me, but whatever.
1992 Cowboys at Redskins: This was a wild game that denied the Cowboys the NFC East title (for a week). Clips and highlights exist on YouTube, but not the complete game.
1966 Giants at Redskins: The highest-scoring game in NFL history saw a revenge-minded Sam Huff insist that the Redskins kick a last-second field goal to push the final margin to an incredible 72-41. Given that this game was played in 1966, before television stations routinely archived sporting events (or "wiped" tapes after the fact when they did), a copy of this game very well may not exist at all.
1987 Redskins at Cowboys: This league named this the seventh-biggest upset in the history of the NFL. The replacement Redskins beat the Cowboys, who boasted several returning stars, including Tony Dorsett, Randy White, and Danny White. It wasn't a particularly great game, but it was an incredible story. So much so, in fact, that they made a movie about it. As a bonus, the Dallas crowd spends most of the game booing their own team!
2012 Ravens at Redskins: The Redskins topped the Ravens 31-28 in a wild overtime game down the stretch of the 2012 season. Robert Griffin III got knocked out of the game late, but Kirk Cousins came on and led Washington to the game-tying points before helping the Redskins win it in OT. This is a game we may actually get.
No matter which games the NFL winds up selecting for the Redskins—and the other 31 teams—the fact that the ties binding the league and YouTube are getting tighter should lead to some fun and useful new video features for NFL fans.