Gridiron Godfather chats with WSJ

Cold, Hard Football Facts for May 10, 2009



This transcript comes from the NFL. It's a conference the Wall Street Journal held with the commissioners of the various major sports. These are the responses of Gridiron Godfather Roger Goodell.
 
On effect of Boston Globe and other media disappearing:
 
We just met with the AP Sports Editors at our office just prior to the NFL Draft. We had a lot of conversation about this. About how their world is changing, how their business is changing, and what we as leagues can do to help that. And I think there's a lot to be said about the Independence of journalism and new perspective. That doesn't mean we couldn't distribute some of the content that they create on Boston Globe.com, as an example. We would be happy to do that on NFL.com. It's not in any way filtered by the NFL. It would be put directly onto the site. And there are some interesting ideas that we should do together. Because I think our industries have been good for one another. I think we've helped the news paper business, but clearly the news paper business has helped us. When I think of the Boston Globe, I think of the great Will McDonough, and the great visibility he brought to our sport and what he did for football fans. That's something that would be missing in our society if we lost it.
 
On the role of media in the steroid era:
 
I think shifting the responsibility to the media is not the correct thing to do here. What I am most proud of is that our players recognized this was an issue and the players worked with us to develop a drug program that started testing players to diminish even the suspicion of steroids in the game. We are invested in making sure our players are not using them so we can present a credible sport to our fans. We look out for the safety of our players. Players wanted it out of the game because they didn't want to be pressured into taking them.
 
If a state lottery could put $75 M in the pocket of a state, should stadiums still accept state subsidies?
 
I don't agree with every premise in your question obviously. I think what David and Bud said about public-private partnerships is that most of these buildings have been very positive in their communities and provided benefits back to their communities. As it relates to gambling, all four of us share a tremendous interest in this and we have worked together to make sure that gambling does not become an influence on our games or on our athletes. We all present a product and we want it to be credible. We want our fans to understand the outcome of the game is not influenced by any other factors other than the great athletes on the field, court, or ice at that time. From our standpoint, we are opposed to sports gambling where it depends on the outcome of a game. We have debated internally about relationships with lotteries. Is that different because it's not related to the outcome of a game and can it be considered differently? I think sports have taken a much more open position about that because it does create revenues at a time when everyone is struggling with budget shortfalls. So, we recognize that. But I think there is a big distinction between lotteries and legalized sports gambling and the impact it can have not only on our sports but I would also argue on our society in general.
 
By taking the violence out of the game, will you diminish the entertainment value?
 
At the NFL, we look at our rules every year and on a constant basis and we innovate on those rules. Player safety is the most important thing. There are certain techniques in our game that can be deemed dangerous that can cause injuries that can be severe. We make sure the rule changes don't change the core of the game and what people love about the game. That is not something that is being removed. There are techniques that can make the game unsafe. We want to produce something that is high quality and entertaining for the fans. At the end of the day, those are the people watching, paying for tickets, buying our merchandise. We want to create that connection with our fans and we want them to spend more time with the NFL. It's important that your game is as entertaining and exciting as possible. We look at our rules to try to create that.
 
On growing international presence:
 
Each of the commissioners has mentioned this. This is a great growth opportunity for us. We believe our sports can be popular well beyond our boundaries. I don't think that there is any question about that for all of us. I also think it goes back to the economic foundation and competitive balance that we create. We focus an awful lot on that economic foundation and that competitive balance, so that we can make sure that every team has an opportunity to compete. That will allow us to continue to grow our game if we can keep our eyes on that and allow us to take our game well beyond our boundaries and grow our sport on a global basis.
 
On the expansion of the regular season and the potential increase in injuries:
 
As I mentioned earlier, injuries are always a concern. And that's why you do all the things that you do to make it safer. Changing rules. Changing equipment. Looking at playing surfaces. You do all these things to make the game as safe as possible. We are playing a 20-game season now. We have four preseason and 16 regular season. What we are talking about is trying to improve the quality of what we do by taking out those preseason games, which the fans do not find any interest in. They continually tell me, directly and through our research, that preseason games are not of value to them. And on the football side, we don't believe that it adds to the quality of the product of the regular season. As it relates to injury rate, actually the injury rate goes down later in the season based on our statistics. And it may be for a variety of factors which we're studying. Is it the competitiveness of the games? There are a variety of factors that go into it. So you always want to create an environment where the game is as safe as possible for our athletes. And we are going to have injuries. I clearly don't agree with your injury statistics. But there is a game here that is going to result in injuries. But we do what we can to make it safe. But we think by improving the quality of what we do and staying within that 20-game framework, that's good for our fans. We think it would ultimately be good for the players also.
 
If you add an extra game, would that push the Super Bowl into other sporting events such as the Daytona 500 and NHL All-Star Game?
 
We're not adding a game. Our season is 27 weeks from start to finish. That's shorter by almost two months of anybody else up here. We have a very short and concise season. We're not talking about adding two more weeks. We're talking about taking two preseason weeks and making those into regular-season weeks. So, the length of our season wouldn't really change. We have talked about the idea of whether we should move the season later, out of August, when it's "not football season" and move into a September - January period. In that case, if you did that you would go into early February.
 
On the relationship between the four commissioners:
 
As the guy with the least experience on this podium here, I would tell you I have a lot to learn from these guys. These guys have been doing this a lot longer than I have. I watch very closely what they do because it is a unique position. And it does "have its privileges," but it also has its challenges as I think any one of us would tell you. We share some of those. And I think we can learn from one another. But I know as the young guy up here, I probably spend more time learning than they do.
 
What other sport would you want tickets to?
 
I grew up as a football, baseball and basketball guy. I played all three. And I loved all three of them and I still do to this day. I enjoy every one of the sports. I would consider myself a sports enthusiast.
 
Bettman: You left one out.
 
I didn't have the opportunity to play hockey. We didn't have a rink in Bronxville, New York. But they are playing the game now. Some of my best friends, their kids are playing seven to eight hockey games a year. It's a great sport for a kid. I encourage kids to play team sports. I think the difference between team sports and individual sports... well, it's better than sitting on your couch all day long. But the idea of going out and working with your teammates and achieving a collective goal, I think there's no greater value that you can learn in sports as a kid because that's going to stay with you no matter what you do -- outside of sports and in your business life and your personal life at the end of the day. We all have to rely on people to have success.

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