Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Decision 2006 -- Roger Goodell Dreamed the Big Dream

Sometimes in life the right person is the right person for that job. Roger Goodell was elected as the National Football League’s eighth commissioner Tuesday evening in the fifth and final ballot. Goodell had enough votes after the fourth ballot collecting 23 of the 30 votes (22 was the key), passing Gregg Levy on the decisive ballot. As reported in Tuesday’s Insider report, Goodell would be elected Tuesday. NFL owners made a quick and decisive decision, sending a strong message to the NFL's corporate and media partners -- the NFL's $6 billion business is in great hands with Roger Goodell in charge.

A lifelong football man himself, Goodell's election represented possibly the greatest single example of vision in the history of the sports industry.. Roger Goodell’s election sends a clear message to anyone interested in working in the sports industry – live you dream, never lose that dream and remain clear in the vision and destiny you believe your life holds for you. That is why Roger Goodell today will be entrusted with managing the $6 billion NFL.

In high school, Goodell, remembered sleeping with an NFL “Duke” football when he six years old, decided that his goal was to work for the NFL and perhaps someday become commissioner. Upon graduating from Washington and Jefferson, he began a letter-writing campaign to land a job in the NFL.

He wrote a total of 40 letters, starting with Commissioner Pete Rozelle and including one to every NFL team. In the summer of 1981, Rozelle instructed NFL Executive Director Don Weiss to interview Goodell. After one interview and several more letters from Goodell. He was offered a three-month internship in the NFL office that began in September of 1982 shortly before the start of a nine-week NFL players’ strike.

The following year, Goodell worked for the New York Jets as an intern in public relations and administration. Following that season, he was offered a position on the New York Jets coaching staff, but decided it would be better to return to the NFL office in 1984 as an assistant in the public relations department.

That is the definition of passion, dedication and a never-ending commitment to purpose.

"I spent my life following my passion," said Goodell, who worked his way from an intern in the public relations department to what is the most powerful post in American sports in an ESPN.com report. "The game of football is the most important thing. You can never forget that."

One of the few life lessons most people consider is to follow what they believe is their destiny. Granted most six-year olds don’t dream of growing up one day to become the NFL commissioner but it is an amazing story that one six-year old had that dream and never let that sway him from what he believed was his and his alone.

"We've had the two greatest sports commissioners in the history of professional sports, Paul Tagliabue and Pete Rozelle, and I was fortunate to work for both of them," Goodell said. "I look forward to the challenge and thank them again for their confidence."

“The league has always tried to find a better way of doing things and be responsive before we need to,” Goodell said. “That has been a hallmark of our leadership under both Commissioner Rozelle and Commissioner Tagliabue.”
He added: “My theme was it wasn’t time for status quo. We need to keep innovating. I don’t think it was a vote for the status quo.”

Oakland Raiders owner and Football Hall of Fame member Al Davis made it very clear; Goodell’s election had little to do about Goodell being the right choice and more about Goodell earning the opportunity.

Davis countered criticism that Goodell was a safe pick by saying, "It wasn't about the status quo at all. This is an excellent choice."

Other NFL owners echoed Davis’ sentiments – the right choice was indeed Roger Goodell.

"I said from the beginning that we were going to look for the man to lead us,"Steeler owner Dan Rooney a member of the search committe said he told the owners during the voting Wednesday afternoon. "I said that when we finished, I had no doubt that that was Roger Goodell."

"This is a great moment in the history of the NFL," said New England owner Robert Kraft. "We feel like we have someone who is a great leader and can continue the prosperity we have enjoyed."

"Roger got his MBA from Pete Rozelle and Paul Tagliabue," Patriots owner Robert Kraft said. "That's not a bad education."

"There was no reason to look for an outside candidate when we had such a great candidate on the inside," said Dallas owner Jerry Jones.

"Roger's experience is a broad representation of Paul's tenure," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. "It's a demonstration of the kind of people they have in the NFL. He's the perfect man to carry us on into the future."

"Replacing Paul was not easy, and I think we've done a great job in selecting Roger," said Redskins owner Daniel Snyder. "The NFL is a complex business. Finding the right person to keep it on course was critical, and we did it."

Reaction in the industry was immediate and strong. ESPN and NBC Sports released strong statements within an hour of Goodell’s appointment being announced.

"He has experience, vision and integrity that will help guide the NFL to even greater prominence, just like his predecessors," said Arena Football commissioner David Baker, who is close with Goodell. "He has been a valuable friend and generous counselor in helping build the AFL."

ESPN/ABC Sports president George Bodenheimer noted that Goodell has been a key leader and decision maker for many years.

"He has been an integral part of its success and shown great passion for the game," Bodenheimer said. "We look forward to working with him in the years ahead."

Added NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol, whose network has returned this year to televising NFL games:

"Everyone here at NBC and General Electric congratulate Roger Goodell on being selected commissioner of the National Football League. ... He is a role model for young men and women everywhere, as he is the living example of where hard work, talent and personal integrity can take you."

"It's a great day for the NFL," said a close observer of league affairs, Mark Ganis, president of Chicago-based Sportscorp. "Roger looks at the league not as a sports business, but as a great American business, like McDonald's. He's very good at looking at other vistas, other opportunities. You will see him be very focused on innovations and technology. Under Roger I think the league will continue to be the envy of every sports business on the planet."

Romano Pontifici Eligendo and Universi Dominici Gregis – the process for electing a new Pope was used as the analogy for what took place Wednesday afternoon and early evening in Chicago. Similar to what a newly Pope does after he’s elected (the new Pope traditionally shakes the hands of each Cardinal who was a part of the Conclave that made that man Pope), Goodell shook the hands of each and every NFL owner before he met with the media.

The challenges for Goodell are daunting. Many believe the status quo should remain the guiding principal for Goodell. Roger Goodell is inheriting a $6 billion business. He now isn’t just a captain of industry – he has the most coveted opportunity in sports. Likely today, Goodell’s first day as commissioner will be a humbling day as he gets ready to take a handoff from his mentor Paul Tagliabue.

Honestly can anyone say they knew what they were going to do when they where six years old and remain focused and determined in earning that opportunity. Determination is a quality so many believe they have in life but so few people earn in their careers. Greatness and becoming NFL commissioner was always Roger Goodell’s fate and destiny. As a man he stands as a testament to anyone wanting to achieve greatens in the sports industry – never let any obstacle get in the way of the vision you have for your life.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom. Sources cited in this Insider Report: NFL.com, ESPN.com and AP