DALLAS — The most important performer in the Super Bowl does not pass.
He does not block, he does not tackle, and he does not kick. He does not coach, he does not catch, he does not cover.
All Roger Goodell does is have his name on the ball.
Soon, he might just take it and go home.
This is insanity. This is nuts. Goodell stands in the front of a room talking about how wonderful his league is, about how many people watch it, about how special the Super Bowl is. The players have become rich, the owners have become richer, and the sport has never been more popular.
And still, the owners might shut it down.
Say it along with me: "Huh?"
For months now, this has been the dark storm on the other side of this season. All along, people knew the collective bargaining agreement between players and owners was about to expire, and owners might lock them out.
As long as football was being played, however, no one had to think about it. This was a matter of billionaires arguing with millionaires, so why take a side? With this much treasure, even greedy men would eventually figure out how to divide it up. Wouldn't they?
Now we are one game away from the offseason, and we have seen a lot more posturing than negotiating. It is like hearing about a successful factory shutting down. Things have never been better, and yet, they have never been more at risk.
Already, the sides are lining up in the name of upcoming free agency, of franchise tags, of potential 18-game seasons. DeMaurice Smith, the head of the players union, referred to this as "war" on Thursday.
This is idiotic. This is crazy. Owners and players should be running around exchanging high fives, because they have cloned the Golden Goose. And it isn't enough?
There are no good guys here. There is no one to trust. There is no one representing your best interest. There are merely two sides fighting over money. Each other's money. The networks' money. Your money.
Down deep, that's all that matters. This isn't about an 18-game season. Not really. It's about the revenues of an 18-game season.
Listen to Goodell, and you might get the idea that turning two preseason games into two regular-season games is an even swap made for the good of fans who are weary of overpaying for glorified practices.
But if Goodell considered that the fans are overpaying for the preseason, all he has to do is reduce the ticket prices and tell fans those games are no longer included in their season-ticket packages.
And, no, it's not the same deal for the players. Goodell says that the players now play 20 games (four preseason games and 16 regular-season games) and that wouldn't go up. But some players barely play during the preseason. Add two regular-season games, and their number of snaps would go up. The number of injuries, too.
Also, there is this. If the NFL did go to an 18-game season, wouldn't owners raise ticket prices quicker than a blocked punt?
I'll give Goodell this: He has a point when he talks about the importance of the next few weeks. There are plenty of incentives for both sides (cost assurance for the owners, free agency paydays for the players) to get this done quickly. But if there isn't an agreement by March 4, the negotiations could last well into summer. Remember, players don't start getting game checks until the regular season. If this lasts until April, it might last to August.
"If we are unsuccessful in getting an agreement by March 4th," Goodell said, "I expect the uncertainty will continue, which will be bad for the players and the clubs. That uncertainty will lead to a reduction, potentially, in revenue, and when that revenue decreases, there'll be less for us to share."
Say this, too, for Goodell. He keeps talking about intensifying the negotiations. That's a good thing, too. He and Smith are going to meet today and twice next week. Just asking, but what else do they have going on?
"When I hear from fans, they just want football," Goodell said. "I think they care about just getting an agreement. They don't care about the details. They just want to make sure that football is going to appear on Sundays and Mondays and Thursdays. They want to make sure that they have the great game that they love. I don't think that anyone is going to feel sorry for any one of us — including yours truly — if we're not successful at doing that."
Over his time in the big chair, Goodell has gotten tons of positive press. But this is going to be the issue he is remembered for. He will get this done, or he'll forever be known as the guy who stopped the game. For his part, Goodell says he isn't interested in his legacy, but someone should be.
In the meantime, he has promised to cut his pay to $1 if there is a work stoppage.
If there isn't football, though, why on earth should Goodell get a dollar?