Roger Goodell + the NFL Owners = Hubris

Great news!  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell just signed a five year contract extension.  5 years for 200+ million.  Not too shabby!

His precise salary is unavailable to the public.  When the NFL dropped its federal tax exemption, the league was no longer required to disclose his yearly compensation.  However, consensus opinion is that it will now hover around 40 million per year.  Goodell took the job in 2006.  Between 2008 and 2015, he was paid more than 200 million as well.  Perhaps someday, Goodell will achieve the heralded status of billionaire.

According to Forbes, the 10 richest NFL team owners are worth a combined 66 billion.  Throw in the next 22 owners, all of them worth over a billion, and you’re basically talking about NFL ownership having a combined net worth of roughly 100 billion, with a margin of error of a few measly billion I suppose.  Once again, not too shabby!

I’m betting all these owners have one thing in common.  Other than being old, male and white (with a few exceptions), they don’t have a lot of people telling them what to do.  They’re likely set in their ways.  Seriously, as long as the money keeps rolling in, why would anyone want to shake things up?

So what does all that money get you?  Mansions, tax-payer funded stadiums, private jets, Lamborghinis, lobster and caviar I suppose.

But it also brings with it something else… HUBRIS.  Few people would have the temerity to question their actions, judgment and behavior.  So it’s natural to develop quite an ego.  Hey, they don’t call it the billionaire boys club for nuthin’.  Along with that kind of exclusivity likely comes a healthy heaping of haughtiness.  Many speculate that of the seven deadly sins, “pride” is the most dangerous.  But could it the deadliest?  Perhaps.

In light of Goodell’s massive new contract, several NFL writers were asked the following question.  What’s the biggest challenge facing the league?  What’s Roger Goodell’s #1 priority?

Dan Graziano — Prepare for the next collective bargaining agreement with the NFLPA (players association).

Mina Kimes — Examine the viability of Thursday night football.

Mike Sando — Focus on improving the game itself.  Stress football over finances.

Aaron Schatz  — Create a clear, uniform standard for player punishment.  Fines, discipline, suspensions, etc.

Kevin Seifert — Concussions and CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy).

Seth Wickersham —  Rejuvenate and replenish the league’s executive staff.

Field Yates — Emphasize player health and safety.

All of those sound like credible concerns.  And I’m sure there are many more.  Cable television contracts, new stadium construction, foreign marketing, expansion and relocation, etc.  Some are worried about the underlying “thug culture” which promotes gun ownership and domestic violence.  Others are concerned about painkillers, steroids and personal growth hormones.  And of course, recreational drugs such as marijuana.  Donald Trump frequently tweets about what he considers the biggest problem — kneeling for the national anthem and disrespecting the American flag.

But what if I told you that everybody is wrong?  What if everyone has it totally wrong?  What if there was a looming, hypothetical threat that could destroy the NFL as we know it?  What if there was a black swan scenario which could decimate the entire National Football League… and it was literally and physically staring EVERYONE in their collective faces?

Let me cut to the chase.  It’s the cell phones.  Plain and simple.

If someone decides to execute the modern, technological equivalent of shouting “FIRE” in a crowded theater, there might be a negative outcome.  And what if that person targeted more than a single stadium?  What if their bull’s eye was the entire slate of 1 o’clock games?

Of course, something that horrible could never happen.  Right?  No worries.  Because we all live in a country where bad things never happen!  Right?  Yeah, right!  The planet earth is a peaceful place… or so it looks from space.

Nobody seems remotely concerned about fan safety.  Kind of odd, because fans are lifeblood of the NFL.  After all, without the fans, the game would pretty much cease to exist.

For a brief moment, reflect on the human condition of panic and the universality of stampedes.  Think about all those people addicted to their smart phones.  Think about all that wireless hyper-connectivity.  Consider the escalation of social media hoaxes, disinformation and fake news.  If you ask me, this entire dynamic seems ripe for the taking… er uhh, hacking.

Silly Americans!  The only thing you can hack is the banks.  And the hospitals.  And the pharmaceutical companies.  And the airlines.  And universities.  And retail chains.  And brokerage firms.  And political campaigns.  And just about every federal department and state agency.

Nobody would be permitted to hack the NFL.  Nobody’s allowed to hack a stadium.  That’s off limits!  Cyber-security simply doesn’t apply to the National Football League.

Do you recall my earlier references to the term “hubris?”

On second thought, don’t sweat it.  I’m probably the one who’s delusional.  Because the NFL is invincible and bad stuff never happens.  Yeah, like with Hillary Clinton defeating Donald Trump for the presidency or Iraq having weapons of mass destruction.  Yep… nobody ever gets it wrong.