Dear Commissioner Goodell:
Last night, I took my children out to a local Chinese restaurant. At the end of the meal, I opened up my fortune cookie. This is what it said:
You are capable, competent, creative, careful.
It hit me like a ton of bricks. Fortune cookies contain meaningless, lexically confused quasi-proverbs that predict or affirm wildly positive things for you, the diner. They don’t call you out. They don’t challenge you to rise to meet your potential. They certainly don’t deploy devices like alliteration and line breaks to maximize beauty and impact.
My next thought, with the expiry of the NFL collective bargaining agreement about 28 hours away, was that this fortune wasn’t just for me. I thought of Peter King’s biopic of you, and all the superlatives he piled upon you: “fit,” “a tough cop,” a “problem-solver,” a “communicator,” a “listener,” and a “rising star.” King spoke of your boldness, and your human touch. He relayed multiple stories describing your wisdom and fairness in solving unsolvable problems. Yet, King’s piece ended with a chilling quote from NBC Sports impresario Dick Ebersol:
""At his heart Roger can be a cold son of a bitch. I think the people on the other side of the negotiating table are going to hear that in the coming months. He's going to show mettle, and he's going to do what he thinks is best for the National Football League. It's what he's always done."
Commissioner, it’s time to show your mettle.
Locking out the players, the administrators, the secretaries, the concession workers, the janitors, the scouts, the trainers, the equipment managers, the parking lot attendees, the beat writers, and all of the thousands upon thousands of other people across the nation who rely on the NFL for their income? It’s not the best thing for the National Football League—in fact, it’s the only thing that could truly derail the NFL’s incredible success.
Three months ago, you sent me, and millions of other fans, an email. Let me remind you of your words:
The NFL is great because fans care deeply about it. Economic conditions, however, have changed dramatically inside and outside the NFL since 2006 when we negotiated the last CBA. A 10 percent unemployment rate hurts us all. Fans have limited budgets and rightly want the most for their money. I get it.
Do you get it? Do you really? Do you really understand that the NFL has grown explosively in the midst of a long, deep, and extended recession? Do you understand how far people stretch to afford tickets and jerseys? Do you understand the time, energy, and money invested by millions of Americans in following the sport you control? Even in the midst of double-digit unemployment, sky-high personal debt, and exploding health care and energy costs, fans are investing more in the NFL than ever before. It's got to be a point of great pride for you and the rest of the league . . .
. . . but it’s still our time, our energy, and our money. We gave it to you, and we can take it away. We can, and will, stop caring so much. We can, and will, stop watching so much. We can, and will, stop buying merchandise. The endless haggling and bickering you’re doing over our money will seem silly if it goes away. In my prior email to you, I said this:
It wasn’t long ago that Major League Baseball was our national pastime and passion, and it wasn’t long ago that NHL hockey stood on equal footing with the NFL, MLB, and NBA. Work stoppages were the catalysts for a precipitous drop in interest, passion, ratings, merchandise sales, and revenue for both leagues—and neither has returned to its previous place in the American sports landscape. If you, the owners, and the players cannot find a timely way to divvy up the monstrous sum we fans donate to you every year, the rainbow will vanish—and that pot of gold with it.
Nothing’s changed. It’s time, Commissioner. As I post this, you have twenty-three hours left. If what I’ve read about you is true, you are capable, competent, creative, and careful.
Now prove it.