Dear Commissioner Goodell,
Congratulations. You are in charge of the most popular professional sports league in the United States, and one of the most popular leagues on the entire planet. You inherited a moneymaking machine, and so far have done nothing to mess that up. But that doesn’t mean you should rest on your laurels, because there are problems with the NFL that are bubbling just under the surface.
Some are more serious than others, but addressing these as soon as possible will make your league so much better. The NBA and MLB are catching up to you, so if you want to remain the top dog, here are some pieces of advice on how to make the NFL better:
– Cut the preseason games in half, immediately. I can’t take 4 weeks of training camp/preseason talk anymore. Nobody cares about the preseason. The players certainly don’t. So why continue to shove 4 games down our throats? I’m ready for the season to start right now, but since it hasn’t, I’m subjected to constant NFL talk about nothing. Just make the switch to 18 regular season games and we’ll all be much happier in August.
– Address steroids in the NFL as soon as possible. We all know they are in the locker and training rooms. And most of us are content to turn a blind eye, for now. But it’s only a matter of time before an investigative journalist blows the cover off steroids in football. When that happens, you are going to have a problem that would take 15 Bud Seligs to address. If you institute extremely rigid testing now, that has the ability to detect all of these crazy drugs that players are probably taking, you have the chance to do something that baseball will forever regret not doing: preemptively stopping a huge scandal in your sport.
– This might be wishful thinking, but I would love if you told all 24-hour sporting networks (ahem, ESPN) to chill on the NFL coverage during the week. The league is being stuffed down our collective throats. This might be appealing to some fans, but many I have talked to are getting sick of it. Hour after hour of meaningless talk before the games have even started. Then, during the season, we are forced to suffer through storylines such as “Does T.O. think Tony Romo puts too much ranch dressing on his salad?” or “Should Chad Johnson trademark the phrase ‘Child please’?” (the answer is yes, he should). My point is, give the sport and its fans some room to breathe. Maybe you can’t do anything about this, Roger, but talk with ESPN and let them know that we can’t take constant Monday-Friday NFL talk.
– Stop extending your Sunday Ticket package with DirecTV. I don’t know the numbers, but I can’t imagine you are making more money by giving them exclusivity than by giving the package to a couple of different companies. Put the package on cable, please. Not everyone can get DirecTV. But many of us would, I promise. So stop making us wake up early on a Sunday just so we can go to a bar to watch our out-of-town game. Let us roll out of bed and watch the game on cable. You’ll make a lot of people happy.
– Change the salary cap structure. It’s only a matter of time before the players’ union strengthens, and when it does, we are going to have one nasty labor battle. If there is anything to learn from MLB, the NBA and the NHL, it’s that you better not lose a season via a strike. That’s the best way to dethrone yourself. I don’t think the system should resemble baseball’s by any means, but the fact that a team can cut a player for absolutely no reason, and not have to pay him the remainder of his contract, is pretty ridiculous. There has to be a happy medium we can find between the baseball and the NFL, where small market teams can still compete without having forcing players to suffer under a hard salary cap.
– Too often, a player who has spent his whole career in one city is forced to leave because of cap issues at the very end of his career (think Jerry Rice, Emmit Smith, etc.). The NFL needs to institute a rule similar to the NBA’s Larry Bird exception, which allows a team to exceed the cap to resign one of its own players for an amount up to the maximum salary. In fact, a soft cap like the NBA has seems pretty fair to me, though I am admittedly unaware of its shortfalls.
I love the NFL, and football Sundays are some of the best days of the year. But my loyalty to your league, Mr. Goodell, is not unwavering. Please consider some of these changes (I’m sure you have already) before it’s too late.
The clock is ticking.
Your devout fan (for now),
P.S. The comment section below has some of the gripes of the readers of this blog. I invite you to check them out as well (that’s your cue to comment, readers).