Lewis: It’s all about timing whenever we learn the Saints’ schedule

More than likely, it’s too late. But Marcia Daigle might consider calling Roger Goodell to request that the Saints’ open date for this season falls on the same week as last year’s.

Dodie Rackley would settle for a prime-time game a couple of weeks earlier.

As the directors of the Slidell Food & Fun Fest and the Gretna Heritage Festival, Daigle and Rackley know the success of the final day of their events largely rides on whether the Saints are playing that Sunday afternoon.

Last year, the Saints were off the weekend of the Food & Fun Fest, a major fundraiser for St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church. Even though heavy rain Saturday morning kept people away, Sunday’s turnout more than made up for it.

“We’re always going to be on the third weekend of October,” Daigle said. “So if they could arrange something to help us out, that would be nice.”

Similarly, in 2012 when the Saints played San Diego in a night game on Gretna Fest Sunday, Rackley arranged for ex-Saint Kyle Turley and his band to play as a warmup act for fans who wanted to stick around and watch the game on the big-screen TVs sprinkled around the grounds.

“It worked out pretty well,” said Rackley, whose event falls on the first weekend in October. “As long as they’ve got a TV to watch and plenty of beer to drink, everybody’s happy. We wouldn’t mind doing it that way again. But I’m sure the NFL isn’t worried about Gretna Fest.”

Probably not, although there’s seemingly enough quirks in the guidelines for formulating the schedule that nobody would notice if it were included.

While the home and road games for every team are determined far in advance, the league must figure out the particulars. That means dealing with 824 trillion possible game combinations.

And even then, it doesn’t always work out.

The defending Super Bowl champion is supposed to play the season’s first game at home on Thursday night. But last year, baseball’s Baltimore Orioles, who share a parking lot with the Ravens, refused to move their game scheduled for that night.

So the Ravens began their season at Denver, with disastrous results (a 49-27 loss).

Everyone has made sure that’s not happening to the Seattle Seahawks this year. But their opponent isn’t known yet.

In fact, the full particulars of only three games are known, and that’s only because those are the ones being played in London.

But later this week, Daigle, Rackley and the rest of the NFL-watching world will find out exactly when their favorites will be playing this season when the league releases its 2014 schedule.

The announcement should come Wednesday or Thursday, although there have been reports that it will be Tuesday. Last-minute adjustments or maybe just wanting to keep folks in suspense are the reasons for the vagueness.

Even the teams and TV partners won’t know the particulars until shortly before the 7 p.m. release, and they’re all sworn to Twitter-free secrecy.

At least there will be a 36-hour advance public notice. But adding to the angst is that, thanks to the draft being pushed back to May, this is the latest revelation of the schedule since the AFL-NFL merger.

And that’s what makes the schedule announcement just another one of our secular holidays created by the seemingly omnipotent NFL.

Fans and non-fans schedule weddings, reunions, birthday parties and even operations depending on when the locals are in action.

Gretna Fest isn’t the only event that shuffles its major acts to avoid conflicting with kickoff time.

At hotels in league cities, reservation desks are prepared for an onslaught of calls just seconds after the release.

“We’ve learned to be ready for it,” said Leslie Boyle, manager of St. Brendan’s Inn in Green Bay, Wis., a favorite spot for Packers fans. “It’s first-come, first-serve, so we don’t just let folks book every weekend and then cancel for the road games. But it’s fun.”

Others use the day as a launching point for divining how the league is treating their team unfairly, either with too few prime-time game or maybe too many.

The St. Louis Rams are even offering a $100,000 prize to anyone who can correctly guess the team’s exact schedule, including kickoff times. That’s akin to picking a perfect bracket in the NCAA tournament.

TV isn’t missing out on the fun, either.

The NFL Network will air a three-hour special dissecting the schedule, which it has done since 2007.

“We love any reason to celebrate football,” said Catherine Chan-Smith, producer of “Schedule Release ’14.” “The schedule release is the one day of the year that whoever your team is, you have every reason to believe you have a chance to make it to the Super Bowl.”

Well, maybe draft day and opening day are, too, but you get the point.

The NFL Network show will feature live feeds from 10 league cities, including Seattle, Denver, San Francisco and Phoenix — but not New Orleans. Still, the Saints haven’t been forgotten.

“As we prepare for the show, we like to guess about how things are going to affect the schedule,” Chan-Smith said. “(Boy band) One Direction is making a stadium tour this fall and has a concert in the Superdome on Sept. 25, which is a Thursday. So we know there won’t be a Thursday night home game that week. And the stadium turnaround could mean that, if the Saints are at home that week, it might not be until Monday.”

Indeed. Last year the Saints hosted Miami in a Monday night game in the last weekend in September.

So could this year bring a prime-time visit from another AFC team? Baltimore and Cincinnati are the options.

Another hint dropped by Chan-Smith, who professes to be just guessing: The Saints could be the Thanksgiving Day opponent for Dallas, as they were in 2010.

That would preclude the Saints from playing another Thursday game, which this season will be split between the NFL Network and CBS, including a Saturday doubleheader in Week 16.

Saints officials aren’t commenting on any possibility. So believe what you will.

But you have to allow for concerts, facility sharing (although there are only two baseball-football stadiums left, 10 others share parking lots, making that an early-season consideration) and things most folks aren’t aware of: such as the New York teams requesting not to be home during the Jewish high holy days; the 49ers not playing any prime-time home games in their new stadium because of traffic concerns; and Minnesota facing the same restriction because of an agreement with the University of Minnesota, whose stadium they are using for the next two years. They’re all part of putting the jigsaw puzzle together.

That’s the task of scheduling czar Howard Katz, whose computer creates about 14,000 potential schedules, of which about 150 are reviewed by hand.

Katz’s task is complicated by the networks fighting over the top games. And those don’t always work out.

In 2011, Indianapolis’ visit to New Orleans merited a Sunday night slot on NBC. But that was the year Peyton Manning was injured and the Saints pummeled the winless Colts 62-7.

Daigle and Rackley aren’t concerned about the quality of the game. They’re just worried about having to deal with the final day of their events going head-to-head with the Saints — especially if they’re at home.

“Sometimes I feel like we’re sort of caught between a rock and a hard place,” Daigle said. “If the Saints aren’t playing, that’s great. But if they are, we’ll make sure the adults have a good place to watch the game while the kids are playing. We’ll roll the dice and, whatever comes up, we’ll work around it.”