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Goodell should heed the folks on the field


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POSTED: Friday, February 06, 2009

Whose game is this anyway?

Does the Pro Bowl belong to the players, the fans (the ones who go to it, watch it on TV, or go to practice with their Sharpies), the state of Hawaii, the NFL brass?

Of course, the answer is all of the above, to one degree or another.

But the commissioner, with input from the owners, gets to decide what to do with it.

Some folks out there think he should just scrap the whole thing. Before he even considers that, he's going to try a few other ideas: Hence, Welcome to Miami next year.

Yesterday, we semi-circled Roger Goodell, peppering him with questions about the game's future. It was like the old high school bull-ring practice drill, one guy taking the best shots from a dozen others—in other words, your typical Pro Bowl interview, with hounds starving for anything resembling news nearly as much as directions to the nearest shrimp truck.

A mainland reporter got it going.

“;So you want to leave THIS place??”;

It was rhetorical, stated in an incredulous tone questioning Goodell's sanity.

The commish answered with the stock reply about continuing negotiations and wanting to keep the game here on a rotating basis.

Then we got to why play it before the Super Bowl.

Goodell's answer was, basically, because the ratings suck playing it after the Super Bowl. It's anticlimactic.

He said, “;We think we can bring greater attention to it,”; before the roman numeral game.

Regular readers know where I stand on that. I see it getting lost amid the hype of the Super Bowl, not enhanced by it. It's a shrewd consolidating cost-saving move.

Is the Pro Bowl better as an appetizer than a dessert? I don't know. If someone doesn't particularly care for apple pie, you don't serve it to them before the steak. You put some ice cream on it.

I asked the commissioner if he expects stars who just lost a conference championship game to play in the Pro Bowl a few days later. He answered that the Super Bowl losers do it every year.

He must know there's a huge emotional difference. Like Larry Fitzgerald said yesterday, he's here to heal his wounds. You can do that in Hawaii the week after the Super Bowl. You can't do that the week before it in the city hosting it. Some consolation prizes aren't prizes at all.

As for Aloha Stadium, who doesn't agree with Goodell? Unless we all just stop caring about high school, college and pro football in Hawaii—not likely—something needs to be done to build a new stadium soon, like yesterday. It took June Jones and the NFL to get us into the current millennium on playing surfaces, now how about the rest of the joint?

Finally (for now), this new commissioner has shown he's willing to take strong stands against the league's bad boys.

So he should let the achievers continue to reap the reward of their postseason gig in Hawaii.

For every Brett Favre who would rather hunt deer in the cold in February, there are dozens of Peyton Mannings and Ray Lewises who want to be here.