Give the National Football League Players Association credit. At least DeMaurice Smith, George Atallah, Kevin Mawae and Co. keep things entertaining in their annual press conferences.
On Friday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell slammed the assembled media with about 55 minutes worth of rhetoric. Every time Goodell talks, you get the feeling he’s losing more and more public favour. Smith and his NFLPA cohorts are smooth and speak with impact, while Goodell does a better job invoking former BP CEO Tony Hayward.
I didn’t get the chance to ask Goodell about the future of the NFL in the city of Toronto this year — it was the first time in recent memory that he hasn’t had to address the situation — because the commish was forced to spend the vast majority of the session discussing the quickly expiring collective bargaining agreement.
And I use the word “discussing” loosely, because his primped responses to very valid questions were mind-numbing. Because we’re so close to a potential lockout, Goodell was walking on eggshells. He was far more conservative and less insightful than he was at last year’s press conference.
Easy for you to say…
On the weather debacle, Goodell thanked “all of the public officials that have been focused and prepared for all outcomes,” and he did it with a straight face. “And you can see it in the way they’re dealing with the issues.”
If this response is focused and prepared, I’d hate to see unfocused and unprepared. This is a mess. It’s an embarrassment. It has marred the entire week.
Listen, Goodell doesn’t have many conversations with the people taking these buses and cabs and paying their hard-earned cash to take in Super Bowl week. He’s being driven around town in what I presume is a limo. The majority of his conversations are with people who don’t have the balls to tell him how horrendous the city’s response has been. There’s a disconnect between Goodell, his office and the regular fans. He doesn’t understand how much the snow and the handling of the snow have affected the people here for the game.
Taxis are nowhere to be seen (there’s rumours they’re on strike, but no one can definitively confirm), buses are off schedule and oftentimes simply not showing up without notification, the roads are unbelievably dangerous (I still haven’t seen a grain of salt), restaurants and bars have been closing far earlier than usual. Several veteran reporters with years of Super Bowl experience have publicly and privately stated that this has been one of the worst Super Bowl weeks in decades.
But that doesn’t mean the Super Bowl won’t come back to North Texas. This storm was an anomaly, and ultimately the stadium is the key. “I think the stadium is a priority,” said Goodell. “Because quite frankly that’s our stage, and we’re going to be playing and you’re going to be seeing the Super Bowl from one of the greatest stadiums in the world.”
Speaking of disconnects…
It’s also becoming comical to see and hear Goodell continually defend his proposed 18-game regular season. The flawed argument that because the fans don’t like the preseason means they want more regular season is tired. There should be no connection.
“I feel an obligation to ensure that we’re doing the best we can to bring the best football,” he said. “And that includes how we make the preseason as effective as possible and the regular season as effective as possible.”
Rhetoric. Just because I don’t want one thing doesn’t mean I want another. If Goodell really felt an obligation to please the majority of his league’s fans, he’d scrap two preseason games and call it a day, period. I talk to thousands of fans and media members every year, and I’d say 80-90 percent have no interest in an extended regular season. The injuries aren’t worth it (they’ll cheapen fantasy football leagues, too).
Mike Florio of the insanely popular ProFootballTalk.com has said that, based on the comments they receive, the vast majority of his readers hate the preseason, but also don’t want the regular season lengthened. I’ve also yet to hear a single player come out and say that he’s in favour of the 18-game format.
This is just big business. The league can make far more money off of 32 extra regular-season games and 32 fewer preseason affairs. You’d have to be pretty gullible to buy Goodell’s claim that he’s pushing this out of obligation to the fans.
The good news is that the change isn’t locked in, and Goodell stated today that it’s not a deal-breaker. Then again, nothing is. “There are no deal-breakers,” he said. “In negotiations there’s give and take.”
The real deal-breaker is where they cut the pie
Goodell constantly alludes to “growing the pie,” which is good business (to a point). But it’s become obvious that the key negotiation point is how much of the pie the players will get. NFLPA head honcho DeMaurice Smith wants teams to open their books (Goodell calls this a publicity ploy) and claims the players’ share has actually decreased in recent years.
In response to that last point today, Goodell stated that “one is a fact and one isn’t.”
“The president of the union, just in the last week, said that the players got a great deal in 2006,” said Goodell, using Mawae’s slip-up on Sirius Radio as ammunition. “And the pendulum has shifted too far in one direction. In any agreement, you want to have a fair agreement.”
Oh, and this is the best part: “Since 2006, we have not built a new stadium” Goodell said, “and that is an issue for us.” That’s where Goodell is right and wrong at the same time. Yes, stadiums garner enormous increases in revenue, but they also cost the league fans. Did you see what happened in New Jersey with personal seat licenses at the New Meadowlands?
In a great example of hypocrisy, Goodell is pushing for more regular-season games to “oblige the fans,” while pushing for more and more massive, energy-consuming, space-eating mega-stadiums which will burn taxpayers, fans and every Joe Six-Pack looking to attend a National Football League game.
Woah, that got kind of serious. I should get back to creating unfunny and frivolous videos.