Super Bowl Week is here, and there are certain staples to the festivities. Monday brings the teams arriving, then there's Opening Night -- which used to be called Media Day but has a different name now that they charge people a ton of money to watch people sit in chairs -- and then come all the Super Bowl parties and the silly NFL Experience fan "festivals" and concerts and golf tournaments and all the other things that happen when hundreds of thousands of rich people gather in a city where it is warm. (And it will be warm in Houston this week.) It's a ritual, a deeply American one, in which fighter jets and Salutes To Service jockey for space with ads for boner pills and people paid to dress up as Bud Light bottles. It's our national holiday of excess. All hail and revel.
But this week, there is one small difference. Every year, all this NFL bacchanalia, this celebration of everything that is great and terrible about our glorious national bloodsport, has one hour where it, however briefly, is called to carpet. Every Friday of Super Bowl week, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, the most press-shy Commissioner in sports (contrary to what he might claim), takes questions at an open press conference for assembled media, which is to say, pretty much everybody in media. (The Super Bowl is the closest thing sports has to a national journalists conference.) Goodell is often evasive at this press conference, and there's always a planted question from an "NFL Kid" that's usually something like "how do you stay so fit, Mr. Commissioner?" But he still always stands up there, a State of the Game press conference, flanked by the Lombardi Trophy, for a solid hour. Two years ago, the press spent a full week being mocked by Marshawn Lynch and questioning its own utility, but it tried to take out its frustrations on Goodell at the Friday press conference. This wasn't successful -- Goodell has become a skilled parrier -- but it at least made everybody feel better. It's a way, at the end of a week of NFL Pravda, to make Goodell face the music a little.
(Side note: Goodell obviously wasn't always great at these press conferences. Let us never forget the Ray Rice press conference. That his job survived this remains flabbergasting and even sort of impressive.)
This year, though, there has been a change. The press conference isn't Friday this week; it's Wednesday. The NFL says the reason is that "our overall thinking is by Friday people are really focused on the game," an explanation I don't entirely understand, but many suspect the real reason is that there are a lot fewer media people there on Wednesday than there are on Friday, thus making Goodell's annual sweat-it-out session slightly less sweaty.
Either way, I'll be at the press conference on Wednesday, and hopefully I'll get a chance to ask a question. (I've tried in the past, but there are a lot of journalists there, and most of them are both more experienced than I am at press conferences and have longer arms to wave. Also I'm usually playing "Lego Star Wars" on my phone.) We assembled media hordes have plenty of questions that might be tossed in Goodell's direction. The man has plenty to answer for. Here are a few I hope he hears.
- Do you consider the first year of the NFL in Los Angeles in 20 years a success?
- What would you say to the people of San Diego about losing their team?
- How about the people of Oakland?
- Is the current Oakland situation -- a team announcing it is moving but not doing so for three more seasons, at least -- a tenable one?
- What would you tell a Raiders fan in Oakland about what it means to cheer for that team, to give money to that team, over the next three seasons?
- Are there any other cities that should start worrying about losing their teams? There have now been three teams putting together plans in two years.
- Hundreds of people protested in front of NRG Stadium on Saturday. You should probably expect more as the game gets closer. The NFL has not released a statement about President Trump's Muslim ban. What is the NFL's stance?
- Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred met with President Trump. Trump has said several derogatory things about the NFL, and you, specifically. Would you meet with him if you were invited?
- You've actually been sort of critical of Trump, at least for you. What would you want to tell the president?
- Do you still want the NFL to have a Super Bowl in London?
- Would Brexit have any affect on that?
- You have been a steadfast supporter of games in Mexico City. What do you think about Trump's wall?
- Will the NFL have any policy adjustments involving player conduct during the National Anthem?
- Do you believe that Colin Kaepernick's protests led to lower television ratings at the beginning of this NFL season?
- If not, why do you think ratings were down?
- The NFL has become increasingly financial dependent on the traditional cable model of viewership, but more and more people are cord-cutting, particularly young people. Does the league have a strategy for this moving forward?
- The DirectTV deal lasts through 2022, but there have been increasing pushes for an on-demand deal for individual games. Is that a possibility before 2022?
- Do you think the Thursday night games have been a factor? Are there any other days of the week you'd consider expanding to?
- Do you still think the NFL can reach $25 billion in revenue by 2027?
- Hey, why didn't you go to any football games in Foxborough this year?
- Wouldn't it have just been easier to show up to a random game in October so this wouldn't still be a thing?
- Are you pleased with how the Deflategate investigation turned out? Would you do it over again? What would you change? Was it worth it?
- Do you think Tom Brady likes you?
- Can we have your phone to look through, the way you wanted to look through Brady's?
- Do you think the NFL's domestic violence problem has improved?
- If so, do you think the NFL had a direct hand in that?
- If not, what more does the NFL need to do?
- We didn't get a chance to ask you about this CTE report at last year's big press conference.
- Can we ask you about 100 questions about it right now?
- How about 1,000?
- OK, OK, we're running out of time. Last question: How do you stay so fit, Mr. Commissioner?
I know I missed a bunch. Send me yours, firstname.lastname@example.org. Maybe I'll get someone to call on me.