By: Jamie Samuelsen
Here’s something that you don’t hear sports media types say very often.
I was wrong.
Sure, I’ve been wrong dozens of times (okay…hundreds), but never has the error of my ways been more obvious than it is at this point.
Roger Goodell has long been a pretty controversial commissioner. He’s steered the NFL through a lockout, through concussion issues, through Spygate and Bountygate and through numerous off-season scandals. He hasn’t done it perfectly. He hasn’t done it without criticism. And he certainly hasn’t done it without a healthy serving of ego. Yes, Roger Goodell believes strongly in his game, his league and his vision. And not much will ever deter that.
But I always had Goodell’s back. Because I always believed that Goodell acted with one thing in mind, every step of the way – the good of the sport. You may think that Goodell is too heavy-handed or too concerned with money or power, but prior to this fall, I thought he did everything with the best interests of the game in mind. Disagree all you want, but Goodell was going to work tirelessly to protect and to further the NFL.
Well, that’s all out the window.
Everyone has taken turns shrieking and hollering about the sorry state of the replacement officials in the NFL. Perhaps the debacle at the end of last night’s Packers-Seahawks game was the smoking gun. I still think the inability of the officials to properly mark off a 15-yard penalty in the Lions game is a more egregious act. But when something happens to the Packers and that something happens on national TV on Monday night when no other game is going in, it’s sure to cause a few more ripples in the water. Only these aren’t ripples now. These are tidal waves.
And it’s time for Goodell to act – in the best interest of the game, which is what I thought he was supposed to be doing all along.
He doesn’t have to act of course. The league still will get it’s billions from television contracts. And fans will continue to pour into stadiums and watch games on TV by the millions. ESPN’s Steve Young was correct last week when he said that the NFL product follows a certain pattern of “elasticity” in that there will always be a demand for it no matter how bad the officiating continues to be. I agree with that completely. We will rant and rave…and continue to watch.
But here’s what will change.
– Gambling money will go down – dramatically. The botched call last night shifted at least 150 million dollars in bets. Why would anyone bet on a sport where there is such an unknown variable? The NFL is the most popular sport in the world for many reasons, but gambling is one of the biggest. If people stop betting, they stop watching.
– The only NFL issue that anyone is talking about is the refs. Nobody is talking about the season Matt Ryan is having in Atlanta or that Joe Flacco is having in Baltimore nor are they talking about the start being enjoyed by the Cardinals or Texans. In other words, the artificial marketing machine that the NFL usually enjoys has ground to a halt. If there’s nobody talking up the storylines, there are fewer people buying the shirts, jerseys and hats. And there are fewer people buying the tickets.
– The NFL will head towards NBA territory. I love the NBA, but I hear from plenty of people who think that the league and the games are fixed. They think that it’s nothing more than a glorified WWE. The NFL was above that. It’s not any more. And any further movement in that direction will only make it worse for the sport.
Goodell and the league have drawn their line in the sand and don’t seem to be budging. Even their press release today upholding the Seahawk call (The Fail Mary?) seems tone deaf to the problem at hand. The money? The pension? The full-time vs. part-time status? All of it is irrelevant. ALL OF IT.
Goodell has a crisis on his hands here. Instead of acting in a fiscally prudent manner, he has to take a step back and realize what his job entails. Think of the creators of the game and the curators of the game. Think of all of the sacrifices players made to push the game to this point. Many did it for money and fame and glory. And many did it for love of the game. It’s the commissioner’s job to protect that. It’s to protect all that happened up until this point and to ensure that greater success will come in the future.
Roger Goodell is the commissioner of the NFL. It’s time for him to start acting like it.