NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been doing his best to reach out to fans all over the country in an attempt to make the NFL seem more personable and approachable than a normal billion dollar industry would be. He came to Cincinnati when the Bengals hosted the Steelers on Monday Night Football to tailgate with long time Bengals season ticket holders to answer their questions. Goodell even called me a few days later to discuss the article that I wrote about the event. That's something that other professional sport commissioners (cough Bud Selig cough) would never do.
Goodell has also been participating in conference calls with fans from different teams across the country. Most recently, Goodell participated in a conference call with Kansas City Chiefs fans, which was covered by SB Nation's Chiefs blog, Arrowhead Pride.
During that conference call, somebody asked Goodell about his thoughts on NFL Network being denied to Time Warner Cable customers (with whom many of you probably have cable service).
"They're the largest of the distributors that have not signed up," Goodell said. "In fact, I believe they're the only one in the top five distributors that have not signed up for it.
"We think that's wrong for the fans but we also think it's wrong for Time Warner customers. The customers want this content. They want this channel. We think it should be there. We've already established a market. Other cable operators and satellite distributors are carrying it. We think it should be with Time Warner. We aren't going to give up."
I'm glad Roger Goodell believes that NFL Network should be accessible to Time Warner customers. If he decides to do something about it, I hope he doesn't forget about all those Cincinnati Bell guys too. While trying to get everybody access to NFL Network is a nice thing for the NFL Commissioner to do, I'd much rather watch the Bengals play football on Sundays than watch the NFL Network any day.
Before Goodell spends too much effort on NFL Network, he should address the NFL's blackout policy. In today's economy, the expectation that a stadium should be full in order to be seen by anybody living within a 75-mile radius is completely and utterly ridiculous. In the worst economy since the Great Depression, the NFL shouldn't expect the blue-collar fans that fund the entire league to pay $50-$100 for a ticket if they want to be able to see their home team play on Sunday.
That is especially true in Cincinnati. I'll go out on a limb and guess that all of you who are reading this article right now are Bengals fans and that all of you have been Bengals fans regardless of the team's record and you stick with the team through thick and thin... because that's what a fan does. However, what a fan doesn't have to do is buy an overpriced ticket to watch their team lose on Sundays. The NFL's blackout policy punishes Bengals fans for Mike Brown's ineptitude as an owner and general manager. His lack of ability to farm a consistently successful team combined with the blackout policy, can (and likely will) be the reason that most of us won't be able to watch the Bengals rookies play in their home opener.
So, while many of you want NFL Network (I do too), I think it would be much more important for Goodell to shift his focus to the blackout policy. I'm pretty sure that the NFL will make plenty of money without it.