I woke up this morning to find a "personal message" from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in my e-mail inbox. Perhaps you did as well. It was sent to nearly every NFL fan whose e-mail address the league has in its database.
Reading this e-mail proves one thing that should never have been in doubt: Roger Goodell is the owner's tool. He's a puppet—no matter how much "power" he seems to possess—and parrots what agenda the owners want to press when they want it pushed.
Goodell writes (if he indeed wrote this email and it's not the work of the NFL's public relations department), "My priority is and always will be the game and the fans who love our game."
What immediately follows that statement is a plea for NFL fans to understand that the looming lockout of the 2011 season cannot be avoided.
Now Goodell does write in the email, "I know we can and will reach an agreement." But that agreement will hinge on the players' willingness to kowtow to the owners' demands more than anything which is why Goodell spends the remainder of his message expressing the owners' collective stance on the current state of the league.
One of the main holdups on a labor agreement between the owners and players is an 18-game season. Why do we need an 18-game season? Because fans have apparently been complaining about the four "meaningless" preseason games played each year.
Goodell writes, "A significant change would be to resolve fan complaints about preseason by modifying our 20-game format. Fans tell us they don’t like the quality of the preseason games, and we’re listening. An enhanced season of 18-regular season and two preseason games would not add a single game for the players collectively, but would give fans more meaningful, high-quality football."
I'm not so sure about that. Couldn't Week 1 maybe feel more like a preseason game rather than a regular season game with a shortened preseason workload? Would players really be up to "game speed?" Don't know, and the owners don't care.
On the flip side of that coin let me ask you, NFL fan: having just concluded the 2010 regular season, would you really want another two games to be played prior to the playoffs starting? Because in an 18-game season, that is exactly where we would be at this moment.
Now perhaps Giants fans, Buccaneers fans or Rams fans wouldn't mind another game or two just to see if their boys could squeak into the playoff picture, but most of the rest of us have had enough of the regular season and eagerly await the Wild Card games.
What the 18-game season is really about is money.
As Goodell writes, "Fans have limited budgets and rightly want the most for their money. I get it." Eighteen regular season games would give you—the fan—more for you money, right? I'm not sure how that really works in the fans' favor, but I can tell you exactly who profits from this: the owners.
With the elimination of those two "meaningless" preseason games and the addition of two regular season games, the NFL owners stand to make a lot more money. Those two regular season games will be better attended by ticket buying fans, more watched by stay-at-home fans, and add to the already lucrative TV revenue deals the league makes with the major networks.
What Goodell fails to bring up in his email is that the owners are asking the players to take a pay cut. That's right. Players are expected to play more and earn less. Right now, players collectively split approximately 59 percent of the NFL's total revenue. The owners are demanding they take a smaller slice of the pie, somewhere in the neighborhood of 50-55 percent.
Oh, Goodell does make the claim, "We must ensure the health of the league. That includes a new system that properly compensates proven veterans and retired players by shifting some of the outrageous sums paid to many unproven rookies. Earlier this year, Sports Illustrated published a list of the 50 highest-paid American athletes that included five 2009 NFL rookies. Every other athlete on the list was a proven veteran. In 2009, NFL clubs contracted $1.2 billion to 256 drafted rookies with $585 million guaranteed before they had stepped on an NFL field."
That poor money management is the NFL's own fault, not the players. Remember, the players are what fans pay to watch. They are the attraction, and in my opinion, they deserve the bulk of the money.
Goodell pays the health of the players a bit of lip-service as well. "Our emphasis on player health and safety is absolutely essential to the future of our game. We are strictly enforcing rules that protect players from unnecessarily dangerous play, especially involving hits to the head. We are changing the 'play through it' culture to a 'player-first' culture to ensure that if a player has a head injury, he doesn’t play again until his health is certain. We are also addressing the potential wear-and-tear on players in the way they train in-season and off-season."
Big deal. Two more regular season games will no doubt cause more injuries. It will also shorten careers which, if the NFL is successful in paying veterans more than it does rookies, will mean money can be saved as older, injured (and better paid) players exit the league faster.
"These improvements and more will lead to better football, plain and simple," Goodell swears. "A forward looking CBA that is fair to players and clubs will lead to a great future for the NFL and our fans."
He concludes: "My job is to represent the game—the fans, teams, players, coaches and business partners. Protecting the integrity of the game and ensuring it thrives is a responsibility I take very seriously.
"This is about more than a labor agreement. It’s about the future of the NFL. We have to improve and will be relentless in our quest. The commitment to our fans is to make the NFL experience even better in the years ahead. With a responsible CBA, we will fulfill that vision."
What Goodell misses is that fans don't care about the league's CBA with its players. What they care about is the game they love, not the league they may begin to despise if a lockout truly occurs. This e-mail is just the beginning of the public relations campaign the NFL will wage as the players continue to stand their ground.
Watch out, NFL fans.
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