Friday, May 15, 2015

A cynical view

...or "its all about the money"

During the offseason, we saw a couple of things happen.  The first involved the Dolphins.  The owner made a decision to renovate the stadium with "his money" (in quotes because its his - until he gets it back from the local government). The genius in his plan was to change the seating in the stadium, in quantity, configuration, and price point.  Gone are many of the cheaper seats, installed are more of the premium seats, and moved are many ticket holders so that the price point could go up in some areas.

Why is this genius?  Because premium seats aren't revenue-shared.  He sells some number more of those tickets, and gets to keep 100%; while reducing slightly the amount he contributed to revenue sharing (that is, not selling a ticket that is shared meant there was no income at all, so a 10% reduction in the revenue shared seats where some went unsold, means the income remains about the same from them).

Furthering the ingenuity of it all, he spread the construction out over two years.  I talked with a friend last night who was saying he was going to buy season tickets this season because he looked forward to sitting in the shade.  Except, of course, that's coming next offseason.  And that's when it hit me that he gets another possible boost in sales next year with the canopy.

Plus he had the added bonus of signing the biggest name free agent to get people talking about the team.  Make no mistake - he has had his staff doing the rounds on radio, TV, through ad sales, and even telemarekting to try and let people know how he's opening the wallet and spending to get better. Except that there's a salary cap and a salary floor.  So its a range he has to spend in; he was in the upper 3rd before - now he's closer to the top....he spent a little more, but there were a lot of cap casualties.  And Tannehill and Suh make up a large portion of the difference.  So take from that what you will.

Second, it involves the NFL.  There was a lot of talk about the NFL itself being a not-for-profit organization and not paying its share of taxes. The teams, of course, are for profit.  And with the exception of the packers, the revenue is a pretty closely guarded secret.  New rules in the not for profit arena would have made it so that they had to disclose what the owners were making - and rather than give up that obscene number, they decided to become for profit....simply to protect the secrecy of how much they make!  For reference, about a decade ago, Forbes got ahold of some of the information about Wayne Huziengas valuation, and estimated that his profit - after all expenses were paid - was around $200 million per season.  On a team that was mediocre.  Certainly the number has changed, but it gives you a sense of why they want to hold on to the secret.  They couldn't cry poor and say they're losing money with a straight face if you knew they were making that much.

Third, the NFL did away with the blackout rule after the FCC told them it was no longer relevant.  The NFL enacted the rule in response to possible assertions that they were violating unit-trust and because it made sense to try and sell more tickets. When the TV deal didn't compare with ticket sales, the rule made sense.  In recent TV deals, the money from TV far exceeded the ticket sales.  But there was still this pesky prospect of anti-trust, so teams would often agree to buy unused tickets (moving money from one pocket to another) to get around the rule.  The FCC changing the rule made it an easy decision - now the local team is always on, and the almighty advertising dollar can be had...people with HD screens were going to watch "a game" and if it meant that it wasn't your local team, that could mean they buy less product.  Another smart money play by the league.

And finally, its about this whole deflated football thing.  As a fan of the Dolphins in the years after the perfect season, I know the haters exist.  Saw it first hand.  You get good and everyone hates on you.  Happened to the cowboys, the steelers, and others,  There's something different about the patriots, though.  Sure, you can be a hater just because.  But with teams of the past, they reveled in their glory but were still somewhat humble.  Their coaches were likable.  The star players were approachable, and seemed nice enough off the field.  Its not the case with them: they're smug and arrogant and they maintain an aura of "we're better than you"....and its peculiar.  Its also peculiar that its gone on this long.

There were stories I've reported on in the past about how their methods went beyond the things they were accused of; about how the spygate thing wasn't at all what it seemed.  And here we sit looking at deflated footballs, and as I listen to people blather on about it, it becomes cleat that there's something more going on.  That deflated footballs are window dressing for something else.  I don't know what that "else" is, but in the sense of it being all about the money, the singular thing the NFL has to do is protect the shield.  The brand.  They have to do anything they can to make it seem like the integrity of the game is intact.  Imagine for a moment that its as simple as deflated footballs giving them an advantage of some small nature - like 1 fewer fumble per game.  That could have a statistically significant advantage over the course of a season - or several.  It might win you a game over the course of 10 (I didn't look up the stat, its just a guess) Now imagine if it was something more - something that gave 2 wins over 10 games.  And that something was not within the rules (or was just at them)....wouldn't that make bettors afraid that the game was fixed?  And might people stop watching or believing in the product?

Think about it.

And don't forget that the NFL hired the enormously expensive Ted Wells to investigate.  Same guy who did the bullying scandal.  They wouldn't hire him if they didn't want a version of the truth, but perhaps with a few key things glossed over; that's seems to be how it works.

Now one last thought on the deflate thing.  I heard about a group that was trying to collect money to cover the $1 million fine.  They started an online campaign to cover it, because they want to help.  A. What sort of people are apologists of that sort?  Its a sports team that you may like, and they were winning, but....really? B. $1 million, that's like 20 years worth of salary for the average person, and something the team - and Brady - can afford to lose and then C.  who in the heck would they give it to if they collected it?  Certainly the recipient would see red flags everywhere and would direct them to donate it to charity, so its all for naught anyway.

And that's my cynical view of the offseason.
Like This Article ? :

8 comments

avatar

That's what I'm saying about deflategatebdav Dave! It has a domino effect. Shit rolls downhill. Politics are ruining the NFL. Brady's and the Pats punishment are a joke to begin with, and the suspension will probably even get reduced. It's ridiculous

avatar

The NFL should have told Brady and Co. that the 4 game penalty was non appealable. If they decided to appeal (they did) and lost the penalty would be a YEAR suspension, a 100 million dollar fine and their first round draft picks for the next 10 years.

Pretty sure they would have come up with something better than claiming the "deflator" was only a "fat guy" bragging about his Jenny Craig diet….

avatar

Excellent, well written, informative article.
Thanks!!

avatar

The NFL is not about sportsmanship and fair play; they're in the entertainment business. Even though any team can win on any given Sunday, I've seen too many bad calls that change the outcome of a game to believe that the League is interested in fair play. The games may not be as blatantly fixed as a Pro Wrestling match, but there are too many instances where certain teams are given preferential treatment during the course of a game.

avatar

Strat....some teams do get breaks based on their reputations with officials. Sort of a fulfilling prophecy were people (officials) expect or anticipate an outcome and kind of help it happen.

Drumrboy...you asking the Pats to Double Down. I doubt they would've done that.

Another good post Dave!

avatar

Great post.

You are talking about "something more":
1. Tuck rule.
2. Illegal substitutions
3. Allegations by multiple teams that the Patriots have been tampering with headsets.
4. The guy with the camera.

There has always been something fishy about the Patriots - not just something they get caught for here and there. It is a team with a culture of the "rules don't apply". They are constantly getting busted for so many things, it really does seem like they just don't care about integrity.

So much doubt has been cast on this team that I'm starting to believe any cheating they may have been accused of. For instance, I've heard a couple of rumors that the Patriots have cracked the encryption, which - at 24 bits - really isn't that secure. I believe this rumor. I've go no proof, and I'm generally not a conspiracy theorists. But it all makes sense to me.

They really should just change their name to the New England Asterisks.

As for the NFL, the integrity really is gone. So many players are getting involved in criminal activity, rape, drugs, assault, that it really seems to be becoming a game of thugs. The problem starts at the top. The NFL office is fine fining someone for making an "illegal" hit that most of us would call good football, but fail to deal with the obvious character issues in the game.

It didn't used to be this way. Character problems would be suspended and never resigned. They would just disappear. Now teams are fine hiring murderers until they get caught. The change in this seems to have happened with the latest commissioner.

avatar

"Cracked the encryption" I mean headset encryption. That rumor is that the patriots have hacked the headset encryption and are listening to other teams communications.

avatar

Linearz - I have talked to people who were knowledgeable about the situation, and it appears as though it was that *and more* when it came to the electronic communications. Basically, in the early days they merely intercepted an unencrypted signal, and created a new signal of their own to communicate with players on the field. Later, they cracked the code, and were able to continue to steal signals.

The NFL hired "communications consultants" whose job is to 'sweep' the stadium and verify that everything is working as it should - that would be about the time that the green stickers started appearing on communications helmets...

The story further goes that the NFL found out about all of this and was afraid that they ran afoul of federal wiretapping rules and the evidence that was destroyed was not of simply taping the signals; it included audio from the headsets, which should not have been there....

On the current situation, I have little doubt that the Patriots found some other advantage. It may have been listening in, or it may be some kind of high-tech chemistry stuff...maybe like a two-part adhesive; part on the ball, and part on the players gloves. So it only would provide an advantage to the offense.

Not to be a conspiracy theorist, but this just seems odd....