by Brian Frederick
CBS – one of the primary broadcasters of NFL games – served up a 60 Minutes profile of Dallas Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones last Sunday. The piece was largely flattering with most of the criticism aimed at Jones’ failings as a general manager in recent years. (Jones is the only owner to serve as GM, as well.)
The piece addressed Jones’ rise from being the son of a grocery store owner to being owner of the most valuable sports franchise in America. Forbes recently estimated the club to be worth $1.8 billion. Jones bought the club in 1989 for $150 million.
Clearly, Jones knows how to turn a profit. Which is why his comments during the 60 Minutes interview on the looming NFL lockout should have garnered more attention.
Problem is, CBS didn’t air them. Rather, CBS included them in its online “Overtime” feature, which was likely seen by only a tiny fraction of fans.
Consider this question from reporter Scott Pelley: “I think the first thing fans want to know from Jerry Jones is – Is there going to be football next year?”
Before we get to Jones’ answer, this question needs to be asked – if the first things fans want to know is whether or not there is going to be football, why didn’t CBS air this question and Jones’ response? CBS made absolutely no mention of the looming work stoppage.
I’d like to think that 60 Minutes wouldn’t pull any punches – though they have before – but undoubtedly, executives at CBS had to consider how to handle the looming work stoppage considering how vital the NFL broadcasts are to their network (and indeed to 60 Minutes, which has to depend on NFL viewers sticking around for it).
The other alternative would be that Jones’ comments about whether there would be football– again, what every fan wants to know – were cut for content reasons. Perhaps they didn’t fit the narrative the producers were trying to tell about the pull yourself up by your bootstraps entrepreneur. Of course, that would make the comments he did make about the economics of the game all the more relevant.
Or maybe the producers didn’t think Jones’ comments about the possible loss of the 2011 NFL season were easy enough to follow or sexy enough or controversial enough. But that’s the story – that Jones and the other owners can’t effectively explain why a lockout is truly necessary.
Perhaps they didn’t think Jones’ comments fit into the story of the owner who is going through the “year from hell.” But their profile was largely sympathetic, with Pelly pointing out that “there’s always next season.”
BUT THERE MAY NOT BE NEXT SEASON. AND JONES MAY BE, IN PART, TO BLAME.
Whatever its reasons, CBS did its viewers and NFL fans everywhere a disservice by not airing Jones’ response to the question of whether there would be football. (Okay, they get some credit for putting them in an “Overtime” segment, but even that report was flawed, claiming Jones “spent $1.2 billion on his new football stadium.” In fact, the city of Arlington owns the stadium and contributed $325 million to build it. (Both facts should have been mentioned in the piece that aired.))
So here’s what Jones said: “What you need to do is address a car wreck years before it gets there. That’s when you can do something about it.” When asked by Pelley to explain what the “car wreck” was, Jones said: “Basically, the model that we have does not work. The economic model of the NFL that we have, relative to the players does…not…work.”
Jones emphasized those last words as if he was hoping to singlehandedly change the (true) perception that the league is the most profitable in the world and has never been more popular.
Pelley also asked: “Do you think [a lockout] would be disastrous for the game?”
Jones: “No. I do not. But I know that the sentiment is not to have a lockout.”
Jerry Jones said a lockout would not be disastrous. How is that not news?
At the very least, it would be totally disastrous for the fans.
During the interview, Pelley said to Jones: “You know most fans think that this idea of the possibility of a lockout is an argument between billionaires and millionaires that leaves them out. And no one’s looking out for them.”
Well, Mr. Pelley, someone is looking out for them — Sports Fans Coalition. Is CBS?
Brian Frederick is Executive Director of Sports Fans Coalition. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/brifred.