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The NFL's 32 team owners are meeting today in Chicago for three days of discussions to determine who will replace the retiring Paul Tagliabue as league commissioner. Five finalists have already been hand-picked by a selection committee for consideration, with current NFL executive Roger Goodell said to be the favorite for the job.
But I would like to throw another hat into the ring. Mine.
Sure, I suppose I would be considered a bit of a dark horse candidate. But Tagliabue was a surprise choice in 1989, as was Pete Rozelle before him -- and they're thought of as two of the greatest commissioners in sports history. Heck, I wouldn't even be the first writer turned NFL commissioner. Joe Carr, the NFL president from 1921 to 1939, was a former sportswriter.
I feel that my biggest qualification is that I'm a fan of the game. But I'm also a student of past football executives. For example, I know that Carr was instrumental in keeping the NFL financially stable during the Great Depression. However, I also know that he could have been of service to the nation as a whole, and not just the NFL, had he employed the many hoboes of the day as team mascots -- or even made Hobo an official football position.
It's that type of knowledge and insight that I can bring to the NFL. And don't think all of my ideas are hobo-centric. (True, many are. But not all.)
So please, NFL owners, take a look below at my stances on the biggest issues facing the NFL and then choose me as your next commissioner.
I'll be awaiting your call.
There is nothing more detrimental to the image of the NFL than players who wear the wrong color socks or dance after scoring a touchdown. I am in complete agreement with the league on this. And, sure, there is a school of thought out there that says the NFL's image is harmed far more by the large number of players who are linked to violent crimes and felonies each year. But I don't see it. That sort of thing would only be bad for the league's image if it was reported that, say a player fled from police with his shirt untucked; or, I don't know if it was found out that a player performed a mocking dance over the body of someone he shot. Outside of stuff like that, though, it's uniform infractions and expressions of joy that turn off fans.
Collective bargaining agreement
I imagine one of the most fun parts of being an NFL owner is looking into the na´ve, adorable little face of an excited player who thinks he's just signed a big-money, long-term contract -- say, six years, $40 million -- while knowing full well he's never going to see all that money because you're going to cut him after the third or fourth year of the deal. It's the magic of nonguaranteed contracts. Yippee! And it's what makes NFL owners wake up each day with a smile. That's why my primary goal as commissioner will be to keep the current structure of the CBA in place far past its scheduled expiration in 2012 -- the thrill of fleecing players should have no expiration date.
Tagliabue saw 17 new stadiums built during his tenure. I can do better. I promise that I will bring a new stadium to every team in the NFL. And just by picking a name out of a hat, I'll start with let's see what I grab here Seattle. The way I see it, 4-year-old Qwest Field is an outdated, dilapidated, inhospitable relic not worthy of NFL football. What -- you disagree? Well, you're wrong. And if the city of Seattle doesn't step up ASAP and build a taxpayer-funded stadium, they are going to see their beloved team playing elsewhere, in a town that was willing to go above and beyond for the pleasure of having an NFL team. And I don't want to hear that old line about wanting to use tax dollars to refurbish rundown schools, Seattle. You have dozens of schools. We're just asking for one football stadium.
The salary cap must stay in place to maintain competitive balance throughout the league and help teams control costs. But those aren't the biggest reasons to have a cap. The biggest reason is this: Without a cap, Redskins owner Daniel Snyder would bankrupt not just himself and his team, but all of his non-football-related companies -- thereby leaving thousands unemployed -- all for the sake of fielding a mediocre 8-8 football team stocked with marquee names. (Not that the presence of a salary cap has ever stopped Snyder from fielding a mediocre 8-8 football team stocked with marquee names. He does that pretty much every year. But at least he has yet to go broke doing so.)
Growing the sport internationally
I'm against it. Sure, selling American football to billions of people overseas might make the league tons of money, but it won't help the image of the NFL at home. Look what happened to the NBA and Major League Baseball when they decided to expand their brands internationally: the sports became so popular overseas that other countries surpassed us and now Team USA's basketball and baseball teams can't even win international competitions anymore. It's pathetic. And if there's one thing I know, it's that Americans don't like losers. That's why the popularity of the NBA and Major League Baseball has waned while the NFL has become the nation's pastime. And what is the only sport in the world the U.S. still dominates? That's right -- it's football, baby. As long as we don't teach it to anyone else they can't beat us at it. U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!
The NFL does not have a drug problem. The NFL does not have a drug problem. The NFL does not have a drug problem. It has a nice ring to it, don't you think? And if you repeat it enough, the public and Congress will believe it -- regardless of the fact that the league is full of freakishly large human beings and does not test for HGH. But, hey, as commissioner I promise to stress that the NFL is the rare sports league in the world that does not have a drug problem. And I'll be proud to be employed by such a truly blessed and unique institution.
Expansion and bringing the NFL back to Los Angeles
One of the NFL's primary goals in the coming years must be to return pro football to Los Angeles. In fact, it is imperative for the hopes of all other cities who hope to one day get a team, because when a new team in Los Angeles inevitably fails due to the public apathy toward NFL football that exists in Los Angeles, it can be uprooted and moved to another market. So do we want a new team in San Antonio? Then first put it in Los Angeles. Want a new team in Las Vegas, too? Then let's give L.A. a second franchise. This much is clear: the path to NFL expansion in cities not named "Los Angeles" runs through Los Angeles.
While the NFL continues to make a killing through the sale of its television rights fees, I would like to see the league expand its programming on the NFL Network so fans remain engaged by the league year-round. For example, the league should capitalize on the reality TV craze. One idea I have is for a program that would throw together a group of football players and force them to interact with each other day after day after day. Then, once a week, the group of players would be pitted against a similar group to compete in some kind of physical contest. There would be a total of 16 of these weekly contests for each group, and at the end of the 16 weeks the squads with the best records would enter some sort of tournament to determine a champion -- with the winners taking home a cash prize and a diamond-studded ring. And that would be that. I still have to work out all the details, but I think it could really work.
DJ Gallo is the founder and sole writer of the award-winning sports satire site SportsPickle.com. He is also a regular contributor to ESPN The Magazine and Fantasy Sports Monthly, and has written for The Onion and Cracked.