Numbers are increasingly how we digest and analyze football play: fantasy stats, advanced analytics, workout metrics, pass charts, etc. Even writers describe game narratives differently than they used to, abandoning word salads like “The Catch”, ‘The Drive,” “The Butt Fumble” for numerical idioms: 28-3, 18-1, TB12. But there’s one big, vast, terrifyingly yuge number that defines what it means to be an NFL owner.
That number tells the story of why owners stand by the leadership of Commissioner Roger Goodell, despite his objectively horrible performance. It tells the story of the league’s response to President Trump’s anger at the protesting players. It tells the story of ignored CTE research. It tells the story of non-guaranteed contracts. Abandoned fanbases. Tax-payer funded stadiums. It tells the story of everything that NFL ownership is about in 2017. A singular narrative of Greed.
The owners are greedy. They don’t hide it. They want their product to be worth $25,000,000,000.00 and no amount of player protest, early-onset dementia or Thursday Night Football will get in the way. It is their explicit, transparent, shouted from the rooftop aspiration. In this pursuit, they have one problem: The NFL isn’t getting any more popular in the United States. In fact, it appears that the sport is losing eyeballs based on television ratings and attendance. The US market is saturated. Full to the brim. That’s why this Sunday is very important for them.
Expanding to $25,000,000,000 hinges on one potential development, global expansion. An NFL Team will be an international market in the next five years. Goodell has expressed this desire publically, despite the many complications it presents. Sunday is his attempt to whet the appetite of someone like Carlos Slim, the Mexican billionaire.
Ironically, to drum up interest, Roger Goodell needs to champion the team he seems to antagonize the most, Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. The Patriots are the best sales tools the NFL can offer. The fact that the Patriots have never given up a home game for an international game confirms their negotiating leverage. The league needs them more than they need to sell a few million more jerseys in.