Ryan Black commentary: Bigger not always better for NFL

rblack@ledger-enquirer.comMarch 21, 2014 

Ryan Black

AUBURN, Ala. — The NFL’s greed apparently knows some bounds.

Well, at least its players do.

In an interview with USA Today on Wednesday, Eric Winston made a vow. As the newly elected president of the NFL Players Association, he promised he wouldn’t stand idly and let the regular season expand from 16 to 18 games.

“I can tell you (going from) 16 to 18's dead in the water. I won't let it happen,” said Winston, a free agent offensive tackle who played for Arizona last season. “I don't think any of these other guys are going to let it happen. It's a safety issue.”

How refreshing.

It’s nice that some people affiliated with the NFL know where to draw a line. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the league’s owners could learn something here: There’s nothing wrong with being satisfied with what you have. According to Forbes, the NFL’s was close to $10 billion in revenues in 2013, making it the most wealthy sports league in the world.

That's still not enough for Goodell, though.

In 2010, he set an ambitious goal even by the NFL’s otherworldly standards: By 2027, he wanted to see the league at $25 billion in annual revenue.

One way to start creeping closer to that goal, of course, is to simply add more regular season games. If Winston stays true to his word, that option may be off the table. But Goodell isn’t being paid $44 million a year to give up if one avenue is closed.

That’s why the possibility of expanding the playoffs started to circulate last month.

This reportedly would involve adding one playoff team in each conference, increasing the total number of postseason participants from 12 to 14. It would also take away one bye on each side of the bracket; right now, the top two seeds in each conference are off during the first weekend of the playoffs.

To his credit, Winston wasn’t on board with this idea yet — not before multiple issues are ironed out first, anyway.

"How is that structured? How is that worked out? What are we talking about here? How's that other team getting in?" Winston asked. "… That's something that will be looked at and looked at hard by the players because there are some guys that might want it. But if it's some broad stroke, then we're probably not going to go for it."

Listen to Winston, Roger.

Bigger isn’t necessarily always better.

***

Rick Pitino is one of the most successful and visible coaches in college basketball.

This doesn’t mean he always gets his way, however. And if you listen to him, the NCAA tournament selection committee couldn’t have done him a greater disservice if they tried. The two-time national championship winning coach blasted the committee for pitting his Louisville Cardinals against the Manhattan Jaspers on Thursday night.

Why the outcry? Was Louisville’s seeding too low? Were the Cardinals at some type of geographical disadvantage due to the location of the game?

No, it was far more sinister than that.

For some reason, Pitino didn’t think he should have to face Manhattan since it was led by Steve Masiello. Their relationship can be traced back to Pitino’s time as the coach of the New York Knicks in the 1980s, when Masiello was one of the team’s ball boys. Masiello later played for Pitino at Kentucky and then joined his mentor’s coaching staff, serving as an assistant at Louisville from 2005-11.

And the NCAA forced them to play each other?

Could there be any crueler fate?

“We press like him, we trap like him, his offensive sets are just like ours," Pitino said of Masiello on Wednesday. "That's why I don't like the game. I don't think it's fair. I don't like it. I don't know why they would do it. I just don't like the game at all, for either one of us."

Masiello shared the “woe-is-me” sentiment.

“To see them come up and then see us come up against them, it takes a little fun out of it," he said. "It's just, that's not fun for me going against someone that I have to now try to beat, and almost in my mind, think negatively about. It's hard for me to do that.”

The game turned out to be every bit as difficult as Pitino imagined, as Louisville barely escaped with a 71-64 victory.

But heaven forbid Pitino advances to the national championship game only to find Florida at the other side of the bracket.

The Gators are led by his former assistant Billy Donovan, after all.

How unfair.

***

Ironically enough, both Florida and Louisville are in my Final Four.

As seemingly every analyst in America predicted — including President Barack Obama — I also have Michigan State heading to San Antonio.

However, I don’t foresee any of those teams cutting down the nets on April 7. Instead, that honor will go to Arizona, besting Florida 65-60 in the championship contest.

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