Thursday, August 24, 2006

Andy Rooney Weighs in on New NFL Commissioner

[Editor's note: We at SMA have long been fans of the witty erudition of Andy Rooney, renowned pundit on CBS' "60 Minutes." When plannning a story on the new incoming NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, it occurred to us that Rooney would be the only journalist who could find the right angle, and put the proper spin on, Goodell's ascension to this lofty position. So, herewith, we proudly present Mr. Rooney's incisive and, of course, rib-tickling commentary.]

The NFL has a new commissioner, Roger Goodell (pictured, right). There were stories about him online and elsewhere. I read one. He's the son of a former New York congressman named Charles Goodell. I wasn't the least bit moved to learn anything more about him. He looks like a generic suit type who's worked his way up through the NFL hierarchy, which appears to be the way to get that job. What do you suppose the NFL commissioner does on a typical day? I mean, if there's no event that requires him to stand in front of a microphone and deliver an official position—which only happens rarely—what does he do? Watch ESPN? Call up Al Davis and ask him how his health is? Take the little quizzes on the home page? Check the waiver wire? See how Carson Palmer's knee is coming along?

I assume he clocks in to an office. He's probably got a big office. A REAL big office. But the commissioner doesn't coach or own a football team. I don't guess he looks at game film. So what does he do?? Does he send a memo to IT to tell them they're spending too much money on outside vendors? Does he take a meeting with the HR director to make sure office hirings are diverse? Does he dictate a memo directing the on-site cafeteria manager to start ordering low-fat mayonnaise? No, I bet the NFL has other people to do these things.

The commissioner probably gets financial reports from all the teams. Looks 'em up and down. "Yep, we made a fortune last year." Every few years he probably oversees the deals the league makes with TV networks. But what if the TV contracts are all done for three to five years? What does he do on those days? I don't think he makes appearances at grammar schools or anything. That's what President Bush was doing on 9/11. But I don't think the NFL commissioner does things like that. I guess he makes speeches at places. But where? The ladies club? I don't think so. Conventions? Hmmm...I guess he could be a featured speaker at those, but I can't offhand think of one that would require any special message he might convey. ("Always treat your team owners with respect. Make them feel that THEY are making the decision...") I never heard of an NFL commissioner giving a commencement address. On the other hand, he'd be the perfect choice for the University of Miami's commencement address, seeing as a major percentage of their students are playing ball in the NFL.

Of course, the commissioner stays busy in April, when he's the point man for the NFL Draft and stays in front of a podium most of the day. He sprays his mouth with Chloraseptic, checks his tie ("Is it on straight?"), looks down at his piece of paper of probable draft names in guesstimated order, all phonetically spelled for him by his secretary ("Da-'Kwell Jack-son"), then makes sure he puts one foot in front of the other as he makes his way in front of the cameras. Later, he has a press conference where he announces what a tremendous draft the league had. Heady stuff.

But wait. Commissioners make "rulings": NO MORE CELEBRATING IN THE END ZONE. Then, when Chad Johnson does something funny after catching a TD pass, the commissioner sends a memo based on another ruling: FINE THAT MAN $20,000 FOR CELEBRATING EXCESSIVELY IN THE END ZONE.

The commissioner also defends the league's drug policy. WE HAVE THE FINEST DRUG POLICY IN ALL OF SPORTS. What a feather in the cap.

Let's face it, this is kind of a bullshit job most of the time. It's a high-paying bullshit job that requires someone with a reasonable intelligence to wend his way through the definite PR crunches, to show up at a few key games, to go on television if he chooses, and occasionally to make a decision or two (once in a long while). It seems like the commissioner would have a ton of time on his hands. (Does he surf porn??) No, the commissioner probably eats out a lot, that's what I'm thinking. You get a pot belly in that job. The banquet circuit, they call it. Otherwise, you are simply a name. If you're lucky, a personality. Paul Tagliabue, the outgoing commish (pictured, left), was a name. His personality seemed dry as dust. I suppose he was reasonably intelligent. Then when you retire they talk about your "vision for the league." Huh?

Here's the vision: Make sure all the teams split up their TV money equitably, hope the players play their asses off, and please God, don't let anyone die on the field on Monday Night Football.

I would just like to say that, if this Goodell guy doesn't work out, I'm throwing my hat into the ring. Could I e-mail someone to set up the interview? I'm intelligent, love football, KNOW football, and I can eat pretty well. I know how to talk from a podium. I'm pretty sure I can learn how to read a financial report. I endorse the league's drug policy. And I'm betting that I have a more colorful personality than at least Paul Tagliabue. He was commissioner, so why couldn't I be commissioner? I truly think it's a match.

Now, I might push for loosening the ban on end-zone celebrations. T.O. and Joe Horn are my heroes. Sharpies and cell phones. Now that's entertainment. Clinton Portis talks to his ball, then slaps it around a little. The one where they perform CPR on the ball is VERY funny. Who knows? That could come in handy some night on MNF when a geezer coach has a heart attack.

That's my official position, too.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Football's Back—And So Is SMA

Sports Media America has been on hiatus. June Swoon can hit the blogger as surely as it will the Chicago Cubs. Maybe it was Steve McNair leaving Nashville and heading to Baltimore that did us in. (He's looking great, by the way.)

At any rate, we weren't compelled to post much of late, and sometimes you simply have to attend to other business. Since SMA began in October of 2004, we've enjoyed our primary mission tremendously: to keep a watchful eye on sports, but mainly as the national and local media expresses it back to us. On the local level, we've received interesting feedback from Nashville television sports anchors, some of whom have actually taken our critiques to heart and have improved on their game. ESPN Radio's Dan Patrick gave us an on-air mention earlier this year. We've gotten enthusiastic feedback to our stories, and also encouragement to keep following the path of the little niche we've carved out for ourselves in cyberspace. We branched out bravely into covering horse-racing by welcoming the colorful and smartly written contributions of Steve Brady of Los Angeles, "America's Favorite Handicapper." (Yes, he's my brother, and a damn fine writer and keen thinker and the 21st Century's answer to Damon Runyon.) Thanks for adding style to the site, Steve. One of these days, that Pick 6 is gonna come in!

Meanwhile, besides pursuing our "real-life" duties as a local entertainment critic, we've been visiting family and dear old friends in the Delmarva area—Shout out for The Marge!!—and trying to figure out which next mountain to climb. Who knew that this blog would play a key role in securing some new employment as a writer and researcher for an online sports site. I never knew how much I'd enjoy scouring the waiver wires and looking over injury reports for pro football. But that's what's happening. We can only get smarter about the game this way, and once we can make our way clear, SMA's annual preseason NFL predictions will be posted. (That has to happen soon, 'cause the first game is not far off.)

It remains to be seen how often we can stay on this beat all by ourselves. It was a godsend to have brother Steve enhance our coverage. And we're always looking for a cool story about sports and how the media-meisters conduct themselves. Nashville's local TV scene has had a major overhaul in the sports departments around town. That's a story that needs to be written. Maybe me? Maybe you?

As always, ideas and feedback are paramount to keeping the spirit of SMA alive.

Goals for the short term: 1) Buy myself a cell phone; 2) Get a fast Internet connection (Do you believe this site has been done the whole time on dial-up?); and 3) Get cable TV. I know, I know: I'm living in the Stone Age. But journalism isn't often well-paid, and my 1988 Acura Integra (the Cadillac of the Honda line) just required a new clutch. $775—and $75 of it went to the government in taxes. Why, I wonder, does the government get $75 of my hard-earned money, just because my old car is in need of repair? And don't get me started on Nashville property taxes. (Let's see....take out a new mortgage to pay my property taxes... What's wrong with this picture?)

Anyway, to old friends and fans, this is our way of letting you know we're still here. Watch this space for the NFL preview soon. Go Titans!