Posts Tagged Roger Goodell

Fans Are Only Losers in NFL Deal

I am, like most people, happy to see the NFL owners and players come around and figure things out and make a deal to end the lockout. I didn’t want to spend the next four months watching the World Domino Championships or synchronized swimming. It’s hard to build fantasy lineups for those events. It was good to see everyone hugging it out at the end and saying all the right things and acting like this was truly the work of all sides willing to work together for the better good. They said they did it because they all care about us, the fans.

Roger Goodell
NFL Commish Roger Goodell

(Cue the screeching car brakes) Wait, what? I had to go back and listen to the press conference between Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith and everyone else who spoke. “Football is back!” Goodell exclaimed. The sport is back, people are flocking to buy tickets and go watch training camp to see who signed where. It’s everything that the NFL could have asked for. That includes getting the fans back hook, line, and sinker. With everyone looking so happy, the NFL has made it appear as if everything is normal again. It hardly feels that way to me. I must be in the minority, but as a fan, I’m not feeling any better. I don’t feel the same excitement I did before. I’m not as enthusiastic as I was before. I don’t think any fan should be. The rich got richer and the fans got nothing. Eagles fans have special permission to party a little bit after hitting the free agency jackpot, but just a little bit.

The players got their money. The owners got their money. The networks that air the NFL got their games and money back. The golden goose is alive and well. What exactly did the fans get? A sack of deflated footballs.  Sure we get to watch the games, go to the games, and spend money at the games. When this deal was put together and the fans put through hell, we were beyond the last thing on their minds. A couple of teams lowered ticket prices and a total of half at least left prices alone. Those two teams, Tampa and San Diego, had a combined 11 TV blackouts last year for failing to sell out their home games. I doubt the drop was out of the goodness of their hearts. They’re still forcing us to pay high prices. Remember, 18 teams raised prices going into last season. Since 2005, the average ticket price is up 30% since 2005 to $76.47 a ticket. Wow, they’re really thinking about us. On the bright side, DirecTV is now including its NFL Sunday Ticket “free”, but that’s only if you pay them for any package not called “basic”. A great deal—for DirecTV.

Fans were interviewed throughout this mess and they all said they were disgusted; disgusted with the players, disgusted with the owners. Fans were angry that millionaires and billionaires couldn’t agree over money, something both sides already have way too much of. The fans weren’t in the debate when the sides were sitting at the table arguing or in the media hurling insults at one another. It was all greed. The players wanted half the money. The owners wanted more than half the money. The players wanted this. The owners wanted that. It’s too bad that disgust hasn’t manifested itself into any action now that the lockout is over. It would be nice to see these people going to watch training camps protesting. It would be nice if season ticket holders renewing their packages argued for discounts. The league has $9 billion to split. The fans should get something out of it.

Teams have been offering things like free parking and free admission to training camps. Are you kidding me?! “We’re talkin’ about practice!.”

Cowboys Stadium
Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, TX

That’s not what packs stadiums, sports bars, and gets people all excited about fantasy football and whatever else they do. Practices aren’t what people care about. They care about the games. Where are the deals for those, Mr. Goodell? Where are the lower ticket prices in all markets? Where are the concessions to the fans? You made them with the players to get this deal done. Remember, no matter how much the networks and the sponsors and everyone else pay you, if not for the fans, you would all have nothing. The fans made the league into the behemoth it is. It wasn’t the stars, or any owner or the commissioner. It was the fans. We were the ones that paid the prices you charged for tickets even when you raised them year after year after year. We were the ones buying the hats, the jerseys, and the t-shirts. We were the ones that voted to increase our taxes to help pay for your new stadiums; stadiums you said would make the game experience even better for us, bring additional revenue to the market you play in, and make the team more competitive because the great players would want to come play for you in your state-of-the-art facilities. We, the fans, have given you everything you wanted. In the end, all we have gotten is screwed.

We deserve better than just a “Football is back” cheer. We have bent over backwards to help the league succeed. Anymore and we’d be human Slinkys. I wish more fans would be angry. I wish they would show their anger and not buy tickets, not buy souvenirs, not play fantasy football, not watch games on TV. I know I am asking too much. People are just happy the games are back. Their falls and winters revolve around a game they love too much to quit. People are hurting for jobs just to make ends meet and these already richer than imaginable crybabies are worried about how to split $9 billion among themselves. Why aren’t more people screaming about this? I feel like people should be more upset, yet ticket sales were up something like 22% in the secondary buying markets such as stubhub.com as soon as the lockout ended. They’ve done nothing to help the fan.

If one executive or player came out and said it was always about the money, admits the truth, I can live with that. I wrote in another piece that fans aren’t stupid; they’re savvier than most people make them out to be. We roll our eyes and laugh when Roger Goodell, DeMaurice Smith, or Kevin Mawae stand before a microphone and state that they had to figure these things out to make the game bigger and stronger for the fans. We know better. We know it is all built on greed. I’d like for one of them to come forward and at least be honest about it. We’ve given them so much, we deserve at least that much back.

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James Harrison Misses the Mark

James Harrison delivered both barrels, reloaded, and delivered them again at NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and a slew of other people in the August issue of Men’s Journal.  Goodell, the main target of his ranting, hasn’t done himself any favors with his treatment of players on the field playing the game the way they’ve played it since they were in Kindergarten. Harrison’s words weren’t even all that inflammatory. I mean who hasn’t thought their boss is the devil and a crook at least once in their working life? Even saying he wouldn’t piss on Goodell if the Commish were on fire wasn’t that bad. Was it in bad taste? Maybe. Does it make Goodell any weaker or less respected in the eyes of the other players? Probably not. His handling of the lockout is doing a better job of that. What his delivery did do is totally crush any potential good that could have come from his argument regarding Goodell’s handling of player punishment.

If he had concentrated his thoughts on the fact that football is a violent sport with a history of injury as well as how the Commish seemed to hand out punishments arbitrarily with what he and other black players perceived to be a racist slant, it would have hit a lot harder than either of the two handguns he was pictured with. “I slammed Vince Young on his head and paid five grand, but just touched Drew Brees and that was twenty. You don’t think black players don’t see this shit and lose all respect for Goodell?” That statement on its own is a cannon blast across the bow of the league’s player conduct policy. On its own, it would have made everyone; player, coach, owner, and NFL exec stand up and take notice. There would have been no way Goodell could have or would have remained silent on the issue. Changes in the conduct policy and its application may have even gained traction within the NFLPA in the collective bargaining negotiations. Too bad the way the diatribe was delivered ruined the good that could have come from it.

Harrison was the best candidate to deliver something so scathing in regards to how Goodell treats and punishes players who are flagged for “illegal hits”. Remember, he was fined $100,000 last season for illegal hits. Some of these hits aren’t even flagrant. These plays happen in less than the blink of an eye. It’s football. There is an inherent danger in playing the game. People are going to get hurt. The players have chosen to play the game. No one put a gun to their heads, no pun intended. They’re there on the field voluntarily. The risks have been explained. These men make millions of dollars. The players are more than compensated enough to take care of themselves.

Had the Steerlers won the Super Bowl in February against the Packers, Harrison was ready to tell Goodell “Why don’t you quit and do something else, like start your own league in flag football?” Yet another great way to deliver the message that football is a league of hard hits and physical play performed by highly trained, highly skilled athletes who are in the absolute best shape of any athlete in any sport. Goodell’s crackdown on defensive players hitting receivers and especially the rules towards quarterbacks has made the game akin to flag football. Again, this was a place where Harrison would have been the best person in the league to make such a bold statement.

James Harrison, August 2011 Men’s Journal

Harrison had absolutely valid points to make but he screwed the presentation. His first mistake was the photo. The league, and sports in general, are still recovering from such issues as Pac-Man Jones, Tank Johnson, Plaxico Burress, and Gilbert Arenas just to name a few. The league’s trying to get rid of the gun culture and here is Harrison looking like a video game character. Stupid. Dumb. Asinine. Those are the first thoughts to cross my mind when I saw the photo. Whether Harrison wants to admit it or not, he is a guy on the field that others look up to and measure their game by. Whether he wants to admit it or not, he is a role model for younger players. He can say what he wants; that is his right. What he cannot do because of his celebrity and notoriety is pose in a photo that all but says it is ok to brandish multiple handguns. Does he really think kids won’t see that pic? Wake up!

The picture, however, was only his first mistake. He needed to leave his comments to Goodell. Had he done so, I think the picture could have eventually been overlooked and the larger issue of his words would have been the bigger story. The language is just too strong to ignore. The message is too important to ignore. Maybe something good could have come from this interview. Instead, Harrison made it a joke. Not just around the league and to fans everywhere, but in his locker room as well. You can’t put the cross-hairs on your own teammates and not expect repercussions. He took a shot at his running back, Rashard Mendenhall, who Harrison called “a fumble machine” since he had a fumble that lead to a Green Bay touchdown in the Super Bowl. Mendenhall also scored a touchdown and was the game’s leading rusher. He also had all of two fumbles in the entire regular season.

Worse yet, he pointed the larger barrel at his two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger. “Hey, at least throw a pick on their side of the field instead of asking the D to bail you out again. Or hand the ball off (writer’s note: To whom should he hand it off to? Remember you just called your running back a ‘fumble machine’) and stop trying to act like Peyton Manning. You ain’t that and you know it, man; you just get paid like he does.” Note to Harrison: Your QB has one more ring than Peyton does. He also has lead your team to one more Super Bowl appearance than Peyton has. Go ahead and try and defend that. I’d pay money to be in the room when you do.

Harrison’s line from the Super Bowl: One sack of QB Aaron Rodgers for a loss of 6 yards. Outside of that hit, Rodgers tore your defense, a defense Harrison supposedly leads, to shreds. Rogers was 24 of 39  for 304 yards and three touchdowns in the victory. He had all the time in the world to take a look around and admire Jerryworld before deciding where to throw the ball. It was up to Harrison to make life miserable for Rodgers and he couldn’t do it. Harrison’s teammates on offense did more to win that game than he did.

James Harrison is a very intelligent individual. He has a lot of good things to say about the game he loves and is so passionate about. He has commented on the Commissioner’s seemingly arbitrary decisions when it comes to levying punishments against players for various infractions. This interview could have been a fantastic chance to push that message again. There was no filter here, no editing, and no one from the league or the Steelers there to fine him or suspend him. If he had stuck to his guns and attacked Goodell for what he and others saw as a blatantly racist policy on punishing players and how these fines and suspensions in general have made it far more difficult for he and other defensive players to do their jobs, he’d have hit a home run. Instead, he shot himself in the foot.

 

Love it? Hate it? Got a question, statement, or just want to yell and scream at me. Feel free to leave me a message at sports-letters@comcast.net or on my Facebook page.

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