“NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell tells fans ‘you deserve better’ than games worked by replacement officials.”
Which he might have followed with “I hereby tender my resignation as commissioner of the National Football League.”
I’d had a generally high opinion of Goodell until last year’s player lockout, born more of enjoyment of the game over which he presides than appreciation of his management style.
He’s done a fair job of preventing the NFL from descending into the thug squad that the NBA threatened to become a decade ago. The league has taken steps to reduce the likelihood of traumatic head injury in a game built around hard knocks, too. And every year like clockwork, the NFL has moved from training camp to pre-season to regular season to playoffs to championship, taken a couple months’ breather and re-started with OTAs.
Everyone can appreciate a well-oiled machine.
Mostly, though, I was happy with the league and its commissioner because I was happy watching the game, and the games were mostly good and as fair as human, professional officials could make them.
Between the players’ lockout and this season’s officials’ lockout, though, it’s become clear that Goodell and some of the owners he represents don’t deserve admiration. The aphorism “if you’re not paying for something, you are the product” has never been more clearly true than in the regard the league has displayed for its fans this season. That is, not much.
As in: here’s a product, it’s not as good a product this year because it’s making almost everyone unhappy, but we’re still getting season ticket and broadcast revenues in the billions, so bugger off while we thrash the officials’ union at the bargaining table.
Pro sports is a business. Business exists to make a profit. More profit is better, until it comes at the expense of the producer, product or customer. There is a balance to be maintained between profiteering and spreading the wealth in any business endeavor, a line that shouldn’t be crossed. Goodell and the NFL ownership crossed that line this season, in fact, they went so far past the line that there no longer is a line. There’s just what the league can get away with while keeping up revenues and the queasy feeling that comes from knowing it.
That was the league’s biggest mistake: letting fans know that their enjoyment isn’t their goal. Hence the commissioner’s “letter.” He needs to mend a few fences, if only symbolically. What a bunch of assholes.
Maybe I’ll start watching hockey. Oh, wait.