Roger Goodell Speaks With Steelers Fans

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.

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  • t1mmy10

    i’m in favor of making a 17 regular game schedule with 3 preseason games & 2 byes.

    i think the 4th preseason game is pretty much a joke and realistically it i doubt it adds much to the acuracy of the coaching staff being able to pick the best players for the team. i’m sure players have made the team that wouldn’t have because of that game and vice versa, but how accurate are those changes based upon a 1 game performance compared to also watching those 2 players battle it out in OTA’s, training camp, practice, and parts of 3 other preseason games? plus, with how much nfl rosters are influx and the borderline skill those players have, most could be cut in the next following weeks if the wrong decision was made with little impact on the team.

    for the 17th game, it would be played against the opposite conference in division they’re 2 years away from playing again. that way there is a chance besides the super bowl & preseason for teams from different conferences to play each other more than once every 4 years. the location would be at a “neutral” site that both team owners/presidents agree to as long as there is an nfl quality stadium there. this way the teams can go play in other countries without taking home games away from fans. it’ll enable the nfl to reach out to fans more by potentially picking up more fans or creating epic matchups. for example, games could be played in cities that are far removed from nfl teams like las vegas. or how awesome would it be to see the steelers and the eagles play at penn state? and it will add another element of strategy to the game.

    • Anonymous

      NFL Week 19, January 15 2012. Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New Orleans Saints
      4:00 PM AKDT. Fairbanks, Alaska.

      • t1mmy10

         lol. that’d certainly hurt brees’s passing attack wouldn’t it?

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    I have seen no evidence presented that the past CBA prevented the teams from being profitable or caused any teams’ valuations to go down. All I’ve heard are assertions that it was “too” favorable to the players, whatever that means. We do, however, have evidence that the owners negotiated contracts with the networks that sacrificed revenue in exchange for being paid even in a lockout. To me, the owners wanted and continue to want a lockout to have leverage over the players, forcing the players to turn to the courts, and the owners then disingenuously called this a litigation strategy. If the owners agreed to use the old CBA rules and not lockout the players while a new one was negotiated, I’m sure the players would take it. So, I blame the owners if there is no football.

    • t1mmy10

      they’re claiming they aren’t a profitable as they should be. they’re not saying they their team valuations are decreasing or they aren’t profitable
      here’s your proof: http://www.forbes.com/lists/2005/30/Income_2.html
      http://www.forbes.com/lists/2010/30/football-valuations-10_NFL-Team-Valuations_Income.html
      in 2005 (the year before the most recent CBA) 1 team had an operating income of <10 mil,  8 teams had an operating income of <20 mil & 0 teams were in the red
      in 2010 six teams had an operating income of <10 mil, 9 teams had an operating income of <20 mil & 2 teams were in the red
      so while player salaries have increased & total revenue has increased, for a lot of teams in the league their profit has decreased or stayed the same. that's not how it's supposed to work.
      also check out the packers statements.

      • EasyLikeSundayMorning

        The players’ salary costs are a fixed percentage of revenue, and revenues have continued to rise.  So, if profits are down, what are the costs that have gone up at a greater rate than revenues?  And what is the rationale for why the players should pay for these non-player costs?

        In term of the Packers data: I’d be interested in looking at it to see if it gave us some clues.  But I’m guessing we’d have a hard time making generalizations about league-wide team profits based on one team’s data, especially when that team is so unusual compared to the rest of the league.

        Also, Forbes does not have access to data on actual league-wide team profitability.  They are guessing, to put it bluntly.  As situations like the Mets and Dodgers show, the financials of sports teams can vary wildly based on information that is neither publicly available nor easy to guess. 

  • SteelerBill

    Adam thank you….I heard from another Season ticket holder the same thing – that Goodell, the consummate politician, said little or nothing.  The 18 game season is curious because it goes to the heart of the matter here.  Not a single poll that I’ve seen shows that fans are in favor of it.  Yet Goodell continues to insist that we are.  The reality?  It would mean more money to the owners – thus the reason people are continuing to side with the players….. 

    • EasyLikeSundayMorning

      Whether or not something is true doesn’t appear to be the primary factor for Goodell in choosing whether to say it.

  • SteelerBill

    Adam thank you….I heard from another Season ticket holder the same thing – that Goodell, the consummate politician, said little or nothing.  The 18 game season is curious because it goes to the heart of the matter here.  Not a single poll that I’ve seen shows that fans are in favor of it.  Yet Goodell continues to insist that we are.  The reality?  It would mean more money to the owners – thus the reason people are continuing to side with the players….. 

  • Anonymous

     Thanks for the write up Adam.  I wasn’t even on the phone and I wanted to scream at Roger.  Bad enough that it’s billionaires arguing with millionaires, but the reps for each side are too really annoying people.

  • GlennW

    > 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.

    Of course this will never happen, because the Steelers have a 50,000+ person season-ticket waiting list under the current terms and conditions.  I’ve had this discussion with my brother (who controls 8 season tickets), and my contention is that you need to evaluate the price of the entire season ticket as a package, which at the Steelers’ modest ticket prices by NFL standards (and given their general success on the field) is actually quite a good deal.  His response is that he’d “feel better” if they priced the preseason games at $20/each and increased the price of the regular-season games to make up the difference.  Hey, whatever.  Even if NFL teams change their ticket pricing policies, they simply are not going to leave money on the table in the process.

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