Jerry Jones

History 101 with Jerry Jones' fight against Roger Goodell and the NFL

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AP

History 101 with Jerry Jones' fight against Roger Goodell and the NFL

Hey kids, guess what time it is!
 
Yes, it’s time once again for History You Don’t Care About, so quick, grab your parents and flee until this potential menace of learning blows over.
 
Dallas Cowboys oligarch Jerry Jones is threatening his fellow National Football League owners with the high-priced lawyer to the stars and scars David Boies, all over his ongoing jihad with commissioner Roger Goodell. The reason du jour, by all accounts, is Ezekiel Elliott, and whether Goodell told Jones he would not suspend the running back.
 
The real reason, of course, is so that Jones can run the league to his own specifications without bureaucratic interference. Billionaire’s prerogative, I think it’s called, and its coat of arms is a gigantic gray-haired man holding a scepter of Bitcoins and stock certificates while wearing a crown and an ermine cape while sitting on a throne of skulls and tattered wallets.
 
This reminds us that Jones’ entry into the league was highlighted by the way he cozied up to and tried to emulate the last NFL owner to fight a commissioner and league single-handed, Al Davis. Davis won the right to relocate his team (Raiders II) in court, but his war against Pete Rozelle ended short of this level on enmity only because Rozelle resigned before Davis could finish the job.
 
That was in the fun-filled ‘80s, when the richest teams were worth about one-fifth what the Cowboys are worth today, so you see Goodell’s main line of defense – as well as Jones’ leading avenue of attack.
 
The closest any other sport has come to mutiny was when five baseball owners (known collectively as The Great Lakes Gang, in that they came from Milwaukee, Chicago, Minnesota and Los Angeles) gathered a majority of their brethren to force Fay Vincent’s resignation in 1992. That wasn’t singlehanded treachery, though, but the will of the majority in the face of overwhelming logic – another valuable lesson in the limits of democracy.

But Jones’ action is also against the other owners trying to flaunt his petulant will, which brings to mind one other great battle in owner-on-owner crime, when in 1917 four of the National Hockey Association’s five team owners met to expel the fifth team, the Toronto Blueshirts, if it didn’t separate itself from its owner, Eddie Livingstone. When the team refused, the league disbanded and a week later reformed as a four-team league without Livingstone or his employees.
 
We mention that not because this is the 100th anniversary of that brilliant parliamentary maneuver – burn the village down around the guy you don’t like and build a new village up the street – but because the idea of Jerry Jones as the owner of a National Football League with one team is, well, hilarious in any era.
 
Then again, that would mean rooting for the other 31, and there are simply some frontiers we cannot in good conscience travel.
 
History lesson over. You can come out now.

The number of people who hate the NFL has grown, but worse...

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AP

The number of people who hate the NFL has grown, but worse...

The latest leak-assault on NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s position came and went, and we are back in that familiar holding pattern – the NFL takes a blow, Goodell’s job security takes a media pounding, and then we move on to the next crisis.

Which may be just as the owners really want it – only at a lower cost.

And that remains the core problem here. Money.

I know. Who would have guessed?

Goodell has turned a once-popular hire into a lightning rod for disaffection with the NFL. He is blamed for things that are his fault, things that aren’t his fault, and things that would be his fault if you could forget that he works for 32 other people.

But the story that Jerry Jones and like-minded billionaires are still loaded for bear about his contract as well as his conduct comes out on Sundays (normally), when the largest audience is stuck into their football regimen.

And why all this? It isn’t just to save a few million on the commissioner’s office. It’s because the NFL is shrinking culturally, and there’s no spreadsheet for that. Youth football participation is down. Ratings are down (Sunday’s Steelers-Lions game was routed by the World Series). Medical and ethical concerns are rampant. Technology is conspiring with younger viewing tastes to lower interest. The game makes political firestorms every week. Los Angeles is a sinkhole. Even the Las Vegas bookmakers are seeing much more action on college games than pro games.

And someone has to be made to pay for this, so Jones, his ox being gored with the Ezekiel Elliott issue, has turned on Goodell.

But the real problem is the promise made 10 years ago that the NFL would have $25 billion in annual revenues by 2027. It prioritized a furious growing of the business with a neglect of the sport and its practitioners, and made an already arrogant corporation downright soul-free.

In short, the number of people who hate the NFL has grown, but worse, the number of people who could take it or leave it has grown even more. It’s a bit like church – once you stop seeing the value in attending, you decide to sleep in more often, and soon you’re sleeping in all the time.

But in agitating for Goodell’s firing, Jones and his compatriots lose the one thing that separates them from the angry mobs outside the gate. Goodell, misery farm that he is, gives good shield for The Shield, and if he has failed, it is in keeping the owners free from public harm. They wanted the spotlight, they got it, and now they can’t see clearly for all the flop sweat.

So whether Goodell leaves or not really isn’t important any more. The curtain has been moved, Oz is revealed, and a growing number of people don’t like the show. That $25 billion seems like it’s going to be a million miles away, if it happens at all.

The NFL has clearly lost control of its world

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AP

The NFL has clearly lost control of its world

The Oakland Raiders are 2-3. The San Francisco 49ers are 0-5. J.J. Watt and Odell Beckham are hurt. Los Angeles hates football – still.

Fortunately, you don’t have to care about that. The NFL never stops entertaining you with more and more stares into the abyss.

The Vice President of the United States, such as he is, spent government money to make a disdainful and fraudulent show about players at the San Francisco-Indianapolis game, and then put out a three-year-old tweet to back his appearance.

Reports from several cities indicate that owners have essentially threatened their players to no longer kneel for the anthem, though in true ownership fashion didn’t say what would happen to those who disobeyed. Except of course Jerry Jones, who can’t keep his mouth shut for a living.

And now a Nevada model has released video of Miami Dolphins offensive line coach Chris Foerster doing lines of cocaine, resulting in his resignation. The model, Kijuana Nige, a.k.a. Starr Sherrod, has said she will do more as a reaction to players being punished by the league. “This s--- easy for me,” she said.

Now that’s the sport we know and love.

How the NFL lost control of its world is worth a book or two, but it has clearly happened. Every fresh story is a new tire fire, and the league doesn’t have enough fingers and toes to plug all the holes. Not even actual football is distracting enough.

But there we go with real life again. These are bizarre times in America, and the most popular sport is now a magnet for the weird. It is an unintended consequence of the famous Mark Cuban quote about pigs getting fed and hogs getting slaughtered.

But the hog is a thousand feet high and miles wide, so it can take on lots more weird. Knowing as we do our new fascination with shameless opportunism (right, Mikey?), the league is going to have to do just that.