NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has been saying for months that the fans of the game want an 18-game regular-season schedule, and for months, actual fan reaction to the idea has run almost exactly counter to Goodell's claims. What fans really seem to want is for preseason games to cost less than regular-season games, and Goodell appears to have taken that to mean something altogether else. He says that fans are practically running up to him on the street and begging for more regular-season games. Sounds unlikely at this point; I'd imagine that if fans are talking to him on the street, they're begging for an end to the lockout and perhaps using words one wouldn't use in polite company.
But in a recent conference call with Tennessee Titans season-ticket holders (part of Goodell's continued mission to win hearts and minds), Goodell kept the message up:
"We do think it is attractive to season-ticket holders," he said. "I hear that all of the time from our season-ticket holders. We have not abandoned our position on that. We do think it is the right thing for the game. It improves the quality of what we do, and it improves the value for you as season-ticket holders. … We do think it is a benefit for everybody, but we want to do it the right way, and we want to do it responsibly. That includes the players' perspective.''
What I found interesting about this particular statement is that I have never heard or read any fan saying or writing that an 18-game regular season would be preferable in the abstract. Having listened in on one of Goodell's season-ticket calls and having read summaries of others, I cannot, for the life of me, remember even one of these season-ticket holders saying anything to the effect of, "Mr. Commissioner, we have got to have more regular-season games!" What I do hear, over and over, is Goodell's contention that the 18-game season is somehow a balm for the fans … when in truth, the fans aren't particularly interested in the idea.
Where I sense that Goodell is getting a positive read on the 18-game idea is if he frames the question to get the answer he and the owners want — something to the effect of, "If you had to choose between four preseason games and a 16-game season, or two preseason games and an 18-game season, which way would you go?" In that case, I can't imagine anyone preferring the current system, especially for the same price. And that's where I think the NFL is being disingenuous — the fans are saying that it's a ripoff to pay full price for preseason games, and the league is morphing that concept into something different to meet its own agenda.
I decided to use Twitter as a referendum on the point Friday morning; asking season-ticket holders in the Twitterverse this question: Are you in favor of an 18-game season as Roger Goodell claims you are? Of the 100-plus replies I received in about half an hour, not one was in favor of the idea without qualification, and most responses were profoundly against it. Read a few after the jump: