By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
HOUSTON (CBS) — On Wednesday afternoon, inside a massive convention center, in the heart of this week’s citywide Super Bowl celebration, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will step to the stage and address the assembled media for his annual “state of the NFL” press conference.
Prepare to hear how great the league is doing in every single facet.
Though the message delivered under the guise of a press conference, it’s more like a long-form, live-action press release. Massive improvements in handling concussions, overwhelming success overseas, an uptick in games decided by one possession, and many more positives will be asked about and then answered by the commissioner on stage.
“What do you plan to do specifically to restore faith in the league and the shield?”
“You mentioned earlier about player safety. I’m wondering what the league is doing as far as the concussion issue is concerned?”
“Why do you think it’s important for kids to play sports? And I’m a girl playing tackle football, and do you think if I’m good enough, I could play in the NFL someday?”
“If you could tell us your reaction to how quickly the tickets sold out for the International Series games in 2016 and how that might impact additional games in the future or even possibly a franchise in the U.K.?”
“The NFL has enormous popularity among the Latino fans, but what can the league do to promote more of the hiring and development of more Hispanic coaches, players, and how has Ron Rivera’s particular journey to Super Bowl 50 made an example of what one can accomplish?”
“It’s been 10 years since the league has been back in Mexico City. The fan base, as you know, is huge in Mexico, largest attendance in history. Today, there are thousands of Mexican NFL fans waiting to see if Commissioner Goodell will have some good news of what is the plan of the NFL for Mexico in the upcoming season.”
“With innovations one of your strongest priorities, can you envision the league spearheading in-house innovation labs in major tech centers like New York, Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, even London and Dallas to further push the league’s technology efforts into untapped areas where innovation can truly occur?”
“Play 60 is an important part of my life, but how do you Play 60?”
The questions got so soft last year that some wiseacres couldn’t help but make a mockery of the whole facade.
To be completely fair, the commissioner did face some questions that could be considered “tough.” He was asked about high school players’ deaths, and whether he still feels comfortable encouraging parents to let their kids play football. He was asked about the dreadfully low cheerleader compensation, about a lack of transparency in the PSI investigation, about the league’s hard-line stance on marijuana, and about whether he deserves to keep his job. Impressively, he managed to step in it with just about every response. He claimed it’s dangerous to sit on a couch, so the risk of playing football shouldn’t be considered all that great. He even said he’s “available to the media almost every day of my job,” which is … not … true. No it is not.
But for the most part, the questions are asked as the alley to Goodell’s oop, thus creating a scene of pomp and circumstance for the league to celebrate.
And, hey, it’s their league, and that’s their right. When hundreds (or thousands?) of media outlets from around the world descend on one city for the Super Bowl, any wise organization would use it as an opportunity for promotion.
But if any Patriots fans back home are looking for any “gotcha” type of moments regarding the commissioner telling a black-and-white lie about Tom Brady in the course of the highly publicized DeflateGate saga, well, you might not want to hold your breath.
(But please, do follow our live blog here on CBS Boston.)