The Breakdown: Dear John, er, Roger Goodell
summit daily news
First and foremost, I’d like to thank you for the wonderfully crafted letter you sent me and all other NFL fans – or at least fans who’ve purchased random stuff from NFL.com – via e-mail on Friday, the day collective bargaining negotiations for your league were brought to an abrupt halt.
As the commissioner of America’s premier sports league, it was noble of you to take the time out of your immensely busy schedule – I mean, between fining players, giving speeches about concussions and rubbing elbows with billionaire owners – to reach out to all of us fans, you know, the people who buy tickets, buy merchandise and essentially pay your $10 million a year salary.
I’m glad you remembered we were all still here; I was starting to get worried.
From what you explained in your correspondence, it does appear the NFL Union is being unreasonable. I mean, who wouldn’t take less money, less benefits and still accept the indentured-servitude of the franchise tag, while the people footing the bill are making more and more money each and every year? DeMaurice Smith- the union head – must not know a good deal when he sees one.
Now, it looks as though we’re heading for months of legal battles since the union decertified and filed an antitrust lawsuit against the league and the owners. Maybe it’ll be worth while, maybe there’s a chance we’ll get to see Tom Brady – pony tail, UGGs and all – in a court room alongside Peyton Manning and that red bump he always has on his forehead. I mean, it might be entertaining. And, who knows, maybe both sides will get what they want.
Then again, all of us fans – those people you say you are fighting for – actually prefer seeing Brady and Manning on the field. I’m obviously not as well-versed in the goings on of a professional sports league as you, but isn’t that the point: Aren’t we all here just to watch a game?
So, the real reason I’m writing to you, sir, is to say I’m sorry, because I just don’t think this relationship is working out.
It’s not you; it’s me.
Don’t get me wrong, I love football, I really do. And I’m sure if it ever gets played again at a major professional level, I’ll be right there on my couch yelling, “Oh no! Cutler, what are you doing?!?!”
So, you don’t have to worry about that. I – and likely all fans around the world – am still going to come groveling back to the $100 seats and eight-buck beers.
You and your friends (the owners) have nothing to fear.
(Quick tangent: I always thought the place of a commissioner was to be the mediator between players and owners, the objective on-looker who only has the best interest of the league and its fans in mind. But, I guess, between you and Milwaukee Brewers owner, whoops, I mean MLB commissioner Bud Selig, that idea is long gone. It’s kind of like the idea of Mike Shanahan being a good coach.)
What you do need to know, Mr. Commissioner, is that we won’t be watching because of your ability to strike a deal, or because the owners are dishing out a 4 percent increase in the revenue pie to the players, or even because the players receive better retirement benefits.
You see, all of that helps only three of the four parties involved in this whole process. The fourth party, the fans, just want football; it’s the only reason any of us are interested in this negotiating process in the first place.
When I think of my favorite memories of the sport, none of it has to do with watching millionaire athletes play. Rather, it’s the feeling I had watching my first pass in a game go sailing down field, completed for more than 20 yards – to the other team’s safety. It’s the times I spent playing catch with my dad or brothers in my front yard; the smell of the freshly cut grass at 6 a.m. before an August two-a-days practice; the emotions of winning a big game in high school; the tears of losing one.
I have a lifelong list of memories in the sport your league claims to own, and not one of them has an NFL logo on it.
Maybe, instead of worrying so much about the bottom lines, the revenue cuts, TV ratings or even pensions, all of you – players,owners, league officials – should try to remember why you love the game, too. Maybe, then we can can find something we all agree on.
Bryce Evans is the sports editor of the Summit Daily News and is hoping that,
somehow, the league can heal its troubles as quickly as Jay Cutler’s knee.
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