I don’t have the expertise of the Lounge Legal Department when it comes to this lockout nonsense, and I’m not going to pretend that I do. But, since my family has held Steelers season tickets since the opening of Heinz Field I did have an opportunity to jump on commissioner Roger Goodell’s conference call with Steelers fans Thursday. Here are some highlights.
– To say the call went off without a hitch wouldn’t be accurate, at least from my end, as there were some audio problems early on. After getting on the line at approximately 2:30 PM we were treated to roughly five minutes of NFL Films-style music playing in the background that kept cutting in and out. Once the call finally started the commissioner was introduced, he made his opening statements and talked about how, having spent some time in Western Pennsylvania, he knows how passionate and knowledgable Steelers fans are. He then opened up the floor for questions.
I never had an opportunity to ask a question, mainly because I never actually heard what the process was for asking questions (it’s not like it was a free-for-all with an open mic). The sound quality was poor from the start and gradually got worse, particularly while a 40-year season ticket holder was asking a question. I never did hear what he asked, or the answer he was given. For about six minutes the sound was reduced to a whisper, and turning up the volume on my phone did no good, which was disappointing. Then, magically, it was restored.
– The call lasted almost exactly 30 minutes and didn’t really shed light on anything new. It was basically the same thing we’ve heard over the past few months: Our goal is to play a full season, seeking to put balance back into the CBA, NFLPA is attacking the draft, best way to solve this is through negotiations, rookie wage scale needs adjusting, and money should be going to established players. Same things, just different ways of saying it. Which is about what I expected, and that’s not any different from the players’ side. I went through their PR game back in November and that’s basically what this was, only without the free food. At this point I’m not on either side, mainly because it’s easier for me to just say “You’re both responsible for this, so stop trying to win our support, stop talking about getting a deal done, and actually get a deal done.” No amount of conference calls or free dinners will change that.
– There was more than one question regarding Super Bowl tickets and why season ticket holders of the participating teams get the shaft when it comes to seat quality. His answer essentially came down to, there’s an overwhelming demand for Super Bowl tickets, a limited supply, and the league does the best it can to distribute the seats as fairly as possible.
There was also a lot of talk about fines directed at the Steelers, with more than one person accusing the commissioner and Ray Anderson of unfairly targeting the Steelers, and James Harrison in particular. Surely you’re not surprised that came up, are you?
– One of the first questions was in support of an 18-game season (one of the first people I’ve actually heard in support of it) and removing two preseason games. Goodell talked about how this is what fans want — more regular season football — and it’s a topic I wanted to address if given the opportunity. For one, I wanted to know where’s the evidence that fans actually want an 18-game schedule. Of the fans I’ve talked to, both in person and online, the majority seem to be against an expanded regular season for a number of reasons, including, but not limited to: Increased injuries, decreased quality late in the season because of injuries, decreased quality early in the season because of a shorter preseason, and the potential for three or four weeks of meaningless games for some teams at the end of the season instead of one or two weeks of meaningless games. (SL exceptions: countertorque and GlennW. Your votes have been recorded.)
I understand the value of the preseason, both from a coaching standpoint and for players on the bubble trying to earn a roster spot, so my problem isn’t necessarily that the preseason is four games long, but because I’m forced to pay regular season prices for two games that are far below regular season quality. Reduce the price of the tickets to something that is more in line with seeing starters play for a quarter before the Arena Football League fodder comes in and I’d be more receptive. Or, if that’s not an option, how about the possibility of simply not purchasing those games? The NFL gives season ticket holders the option of NOT buying playoff tickets, but forces preseason games on them. There is, of course, a reason none of those options are on the table: Because the preseason, whether it’s two games or four games, is a cash cow.
– On what other options the league has to play a full schedule if the season doesn’t start on time, Goodell said they have options that include eliminating the bye week, eliminating the bye week between the Conference Championship games and the Super Bowl, as well as pushing the Super Bowl back an additional week.
– Goodell was asked if progress was made during the most recent discussions why they’re waiting until after June 3 to speak again. He said he’s hopeful that there are more discussions before then and the best way to get this settled, and for everyone to get “what they need, and not what they want,” is through more talks.