Welcome back to this week’s Tuesday’s Countdown, which this week asks the question: If an NFL commissioner has to wear many hats, can any of them fit over Roger Goodell’s cranium?
About a week ago, I wrote a column suggesting Goodell was letting his own ego get in the way of his decision-making process concerning Michael Vick. Several others have followed with similar viewpoints. Hey, I’m a trendsetter. But you already knew that. By the way, those shoes just don’t work with that outfit.
But with an entire seven days of perspective, I wanted to amend my position slightly. Goodell hasn’t balked at lifting Vick’s suspension immediately solely because he is still upset that the quarterback lied to him and he enjoys flexing his corporate biceps. It’s more like 85 percent ego and 15 percent his desire to protect the NFL shield.
Because if you haven’t noticed, that NFL shield isn’t what it used to be.
The Countdown continues . . .
The Falcons put out an interesting news release Monday. It quoted Rich McKay as saying, “We’re pleased that our season ticket base has increased over 2008.” What the team won’t tell you is what the season ticket base was last year, or how much it has gone up, or what the base is now, which would indicate how many seats remain empty. I’m just waiting for the next big announcement: “The Falcons have announced that every game in 2009 is a partial sellout.”
Now, I’m not trying to pick on the Falcons. (OK. Maybe a little.) They go into camp Saturday amid the most optimism around here since the summer following the NFC title game five years ago. Tony Gonzalez is here. And PETA isn’t. But the ripple effect of the economy, the previous dramatic unraveling of the team, the Bobby Petrino/Michael Vick bombings and the loss of the Vick-fanbase has had a pronounced effect on ticket sales. Full recovery is at least months away. But guess what? They’re not alone in the NFL. Look around.
Goodell has reason to be concerned. The NFL remains the richest and most powerful sports league around. But it has taken a hit like every other sports entity. They’ve actually laid people off. Goodell has to protect the shield. He needs to appease corporate sponsors. He can’t afford to lose another significant revenue source. Vick used to stimulate growth. Now he’s dangerous. Goodell doesn’t feel comfortable. The last thing he needs is any more rebellious potential season-ticket holders. And have you heard what’s going on in New York and Kansas City?
The Kansas City Chiefs are so desperate to move tickets that they’re making any fans who want single-game tickets to the Pittsburgh or Dallas games but an equal number of tickets to an exhibition game. It was one thing for the Braves to make advance-purchasers of Yankees and Red Sox tickets also buy other games. But at least those games counted. Then there are the New York Giants, who have sold out for 33 straight years. I said years, not games. They claim to have 140,000 people on a season-ticket waiting list. But about 4,000 seats remain unsold in the new Meadowlands Stadium, which opens in 2010. The reason is cost: $400 per game, plus a personal licensing fee. They went through that entire waiting list of 140,000. So they’re going to drop the ticket price to $250, hoping to sell out. Wow. A markdown sale in the NFL.
The New Orleans Saints have sold over 70,000 season-ticket packages, a remarkable feat for an area that has had to overcome Katrina, economic ruin and — most tragic of all — the breakup of Reggie Bush and Kim Kardashian. Yes, if you haven’t heard, the “cute couple” (quoting spokesperson) just couldn’t withstand the pressures associated with their careers. What with Reggie dodging questions about arranging for illegal housing for his parents while at USC and Kim making sex videos with second-rate rappers, when is a cute couple to have some quality time together?
This is not an NFL/Vick note. Just going off on a tangent from the Bush-Kardashian split: After a 20-17 start, the New York Yankees are 41-21 since the Alex Rodriguez-Kate Hudson relationship went public in May. I’m guessing at least one of the two is on performance-enhancing drugs. It remains to be seen if the Phillies and Dodgers will drop their pursuit of Roy Halladay and instead make a pitch for Hudson. But given her past, I’m sure she would approve any trade.
This just in: The Cincinnati Bengals have announced they’re not interested in Michael Vick. This sounds like a punchline. The Bengals won’t take him? Is owner Mike Brown concerned that Vick’s felonious past is going to ruin the Bengals’ reputation? I guess this means plans for the Chris Henry/Odell Thurman Mentoring Program also are on hold. I love Brown’s explanation: The team already has three quarterbacks under contract. Dude, EVERYBODY has three quarterbacks under contract! It’s training camp! (By the way, Washington executive vice president Vinny Cerrato said the Redskins also will pass on Vick. And as soon as Cerrato buys the team from Dan Snyder, we might actually care what he says.)
Vick’s best chance to get his life and career back in order is with one of the same franchises that would give anybody the best opportunity to succeed: New England, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis. Rumors have linked Vick to all three. For the record, I’m not buying it. The Steelers are owned by Dan Rooney and his family has a long tradition of not bringing in potential problem players. I’m also not sure how Vick would go over with the tradition-minded fan base there. It’s easy to imagine Patriots coach Bill Belichick desiring to plug Vick into his offense somewhere. New England even turned Corey Dillon and Randy Moss into hard-working, happy campers. But I’m not sure the signing would get past noted animal lover Myra Kraft, the wife of owner Robert Kraft. It would be easy to see the Colts signing Vick if Tony Dungy, a calming fatherly figure and Vick’s quasi-mentor in prison, still coached there. But Dungy is retired and I’m not sure the Colts want to give that responsibility to Jim Caldwell.
Jeff George. He is 41. Considering he was a waste of space at 21, this can’t be good: George is still hoping for another shot in the NFL. He was last seen in Atlanta having such a spectacular sideline meltdown that people actually took June Jones’ side for once, which remains a highlight in June Jones’ career. George threw to Illinois receivers the other day, and Illini coach Ron Zook said he “was out there just throwing the ball around and I was like, ‘Holy smokes.’ He looked like he did when I coached against him.” Florida fans: insert Ron Zook joke here.
There’s bound to be some Brett Favre news any day now. It must be killing him that Vick is stealing all the headlines. He’ll straighten this out at the next ESPN production meeting. (UPDATE: WOW! Did I call that or what? Favre just told the Vikings that he plans to stay retired, and I’m assuming this is not to be confused with the other two times he retired but, of course, didn’t. I’m so glad Brett made this decision four days before training camp, and I’d love to be there at the Vikings’ first quarterback meeting when coach Brad Childress professess his unwavering support of Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels).