It’s a job that should come with a warning: “Careful what you wish for, you just might get it.”
The hours are long, there’s nearly no off-season, travel-time is taxing, fan-mail is sparse and the endless speeches, interviews & negotiations vacillate between dreary routine and stress-city.
But there is an upside.
The pay is sweet, prestige is high, there’s job security (if you keep owners happy), great seats anytime you want ’em and someone’s always around to carry your bags (pre-10PM).
The post is NFL Commissioner.
And nobody in the history of professional American football has been more skilled, more effective at doing the Commissioner thing than its current title-holder, Roger Goodell.
Pete Rozelle was a giant (1960-89). In facilitating the NFL / AFL merger (‘67), conceiving the Super Bowl and brokering the first big network, merchandising & labor contracts, Pete will always remain the League’s most significant Commissioner in its long history.
While Goodell faces many of the same challenges of his predecessors, he’s also faced with a slew of issues Rozelle couldn’t have even fathomed 30 years ago.
Bounties have been around for years, so the players claim. Believable enough. But the organizational guidance New Orleans gave its elaborate and sinister program had never before been uncovered nor contemplated by League admonishers.
Whenever money’s riding on the outcome or score of a sporting contest the risk of game-fixing exists. Though wagering on competitions goes back centuries, the explosion of fantasy prognosticating on individual player performance has created a whole new beast.
Alcohol has always been an issue in the pros, but it was in Rozelle’s day that illicit drug use burst onto the scene. Marijuana, speed & cocaine were the preferred poisons, ruining more than a few careers. Today it’s PEDs that taint the field. It’s the one test RG’s failed by letting DeMaurice Smith and the NFLPA call the dance tune and avoid blood-testing.
There’s one vexing issue Roger’s been spared that gave his predecessors fits: competition. No more troublesome, rival football fraternities fighting to feed at the money trough (AAFC / AFL / WFL / USFL). The Courts & Congress have played ball in validating the NFL monopoly and the good times just keep rollin’ along!
Every issue that crosses Goodell’s desk seems to get the full treatment: public & press are kept informed, player input is sought and when a League decision is reached, it’s clear, appears decisive and is announced in a timely, prudent fashion.
Roger’s got a skill-set, a style you’d hope to find in every corporate Suit and elected official, from school board member to President of the United States. He’s an intrepid decision-maker reminiscent of Presidents past, Teddy, FDR and Harry Truman.
Our current leader gets high marks for decisiveness on matters of national security (bin Laden) and foreign policy (Libya). That should get Mr. Obama a 2nd term, knowing his challenger Mr. Romney’s an even bigger tweaker on the home-front than he, excepting high-end tax cuts, of course.
It’s no secret Presidents today work chiefly for America’s elite, regardless of party. Not much choice, given the Court’s broad interpretation of speech (donations) and the big war-chest required for a White House win ($1B+). Even so, the savvy leader knows when to throw voters (fans) a bone, something to chew on to make us feel we’re being heard.
Whether it was last year’s CBA, the on-going Saints saga or his recent Papal-like mission to Minnesota to bring the flock back into the fold with words of hope AND warning, Roger takes bold action and throws fans something to chew on. And in the end, after the griping is done and all the dust has settled, most parties are satisfied.
In contrast, his peers (Stern / Bettman / Selig) will often take half-measures, playing it safe by trying to please / appease all factions, accomplish little and please no one.
if Metta (Artest) had behaved as badly in the NFL as he did recently on the NBA court, League response would’ve been swifter & stronger (given the video) than Mr. Stern’s measured, 3-day think-a-thon before issuing the modest 7-game suspension.
Roger wouldn’t get my hypothetical vote for President just yet.
First rule of business: NFL’s gotta’ stop tinkering with the Rule book. Though it’s well-intentioned, too frequent changes (Nike college) weaken fan trust, creates confusion and threatens traditional, foundational aspects of the game that even younger fans appreciate.
Second, institute pricing relief. The NFL & affiliates have been on the gravy-train for decades. It’s time to give something back to fandom by rolling-back stadium prices and cutting-back excessive, momentum-killing TV commercials and late-hour games.
Thirdly, do some LBJ arm-twisting, get on your bully-pulpit and persuade players to finally submit to HGH blood tests. It’s about integrity, safety and sending a message to America’s youth. Besides, player refusal is weak and without merit.
Accomplish these, Roger, and voters just might draft you for the White House in 2016.
Ahead of the Curve
Photo, courtesy of Staff Sgt. Beth Del Vecchio, of Pfc. Jherrod Lewis and Roger Goodell, Camp Eggers, Afghanistan (7-8-08) (WC)
About the Author
Written by Steven Keys
A native of the old Northwest Territory, my wife and I have lived in four Midwestern states and Arizona. Today we live in Duluth, Georgia. I have a history / legal background.