Under the guidance of Roger Goodell the NFL set a goal to be the most prominent sports league in the world; it has accomplished that by bringing in $13 billion in revenue each year. However something else happened along the way. The NFL has become the leader in “Sports Entertainment”, taking the title away from the WWE, an organization to which is eerily similar to the NFL.
Roger Goodell has assumed the role of Vince McMahon to a tee. Both took their organizations to new heights, both are hated by their employees (although many of Vince’s are just part of the story line and Roger’s are true enemies), both have unyielding power, and both seem to think that they are the most important thing in the organization. Whereas a commissioner is hired by league owners and should have the best interest of the game in mind, Goodell sees his job as to make money at all costs; not focusing on fans or the on field product.
If one were to search for the most read NFL stories of 2015, do you know what you would find? Among the top ten stories on ESPN.com were Deflategate, Tom Brady suspended four games, Johnny Manziel enters treatment, and Josh Gordon suspended for one year. Over on Deadspin the most clicked links included articles about the two aforementioned stories as well as Greg Hardy beating his girlfriend, Adrian Peterson beating his son, and Jason Pierre-Paul blowing his hand off. Even msn.com’s list of top ten stories of the NFL in 2015 included Dez Bryant’s catch that wasn’t a catch. What does it say when the most clicked, read, and shared stories of your league have NOTHING to do with game outcomes or on the field play but are with off the field situations?
I haven’t even mentioned big stories from this year such as the relocation of the Rams, the HGH inquisition, the continued concern over concussions, or the inconsistent suspensions on spousal abuse. The NFL news is dominated by story lines and not by game results. Sound familiar? WWE matches are all about setting up story lines. It matters little what actually happens in the ring.
Speaking off on the field or in the ring matches, I am not one of those conspiracy guys that says games are fixed; it would much too hard to control the outcome of live games. But we already saw a few years ago how big of an impact NFL referees had on games during the referee replacement period. Would you really put it past the NFL to pressure officials to call certain things? It is well-known that certain quarterbacks get beneficial calls on plays like roughing the passer, who is to say team’s wouldn’t get beneficial calls? And do you know the worst part of all this? It is that the NFL and Roger Goodell has created this reason of doubt among fans and even worse players.
Goodell has broken the trust of both players and fans; from the first Patriots cover up when he had tapes burned, to the Saints bounty scandal, from hunting down Tom Brady on Deflategate to threatening players with suspension about HGH when a story was already recanted, and then there is the whole inconsistency of suspensions from Ray Rice to Greg Hardy to the latest Josh Brown.
Just look at the suspensions…oh Tom Brady you played with flattened balls, you get four games; Josh Brown police were called to your house 20 times, you get once game. Isn’t that almost like saying Tom Brady you used a foreign object to beat Russell Wilson at Summer Slam, you now must face him in a ladder match. Josh Brown, you attacked another wrestler during their match; you must now face a hell in the cell match. Goodell is picking and choosing what scenarios to set up just like McMahon in the WWE.
The league’s own players do not trust Goodell. While it is only natural for players to take opposite stance of officials, they do work for the owners, Goodell is openly challenged and questioned by league players. Gary Bettman was not a player favorite of NHL players back in the 90’s but he never was called a crook or had a player say he wouldn’t p*** on him if he was on fire. For some very comical feelings from players on Goodell check out this page (Top 20 Players Who Absolutely Hate Goodell)
To a larger point the NFL certainly isn’t just a sports league anymore, it is a business, it is sports entertainment. And a large part of that sports entertainment is the fantasy football and gambling aspect. Those two factors have brought in additional millions of fans and interest. And while that has increased the exposure of the league to new demographics, I still contend that those are extraneous influences. The league had nothing to do with bringing in the new demographics. It was third parties that used the league to develop a new business model. Now certainly the NFL is benefiting because it increased viewership and they have now bought into Fan Duel and Fantasy Kings; but I think it is a slippery slope when you are building your fan base on something outside of the actual game. There is no true connection for people with the game. So what happens if something new, something better comes along?
What happens if your focus on bringing new people in and the money involved in fantasy takes away from the game itself. That hasn’t happened right? The NFL hasn’t allowed fantasy to impact the actual game has it? Oh you mean fantasy football thrives on points, and NFL scoring is on a drastic rise with the changes in pass coverage defense and penalties on hitting quarterbacks? Much in the same way I discussed league pressure on officiating, NFL analyst Boomer Esiason said a similar thing in regards to the impact of fantasy football on the NFL itself.
“I don’t think that you can sit in the competition committee meeting with Jeff Fisher, Bill Belichick or whoever and tell them to change the rules to enhance fantasy football,” says former quarterback and current CBS game-day analyst Boomer Esiason. “But I think it’s an unintended consequence that the rule changes have impacted the advent of fantasy football — no question.”
So when your league is dominated in the news by wild off the field antics, influenced by outside forces from what actual occurs on the field of play, and the man who runs the league is hated by fans and players alike; congrats you are the new WWE. And let’s not forget that it just so happens the NFL’s biggest games are played on Monday night, same as WWE, and that their biggest event of the year falls on a Sunday; same as the WWE. Hmm….??? Goodell has fully embraced his inner Vince McMahon. Heck Vince is probably sitting at home watching all of this unfold and thinking of ways to include some of these story lines into the WWE.