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Monday, May 16, 2011
Goodell's Q&A tour reaches Bills fans

By Tim Graham

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's tour of season-ticket holders resumed Monday with Buffalo Bills fans.

Goodell
Goodell
The conference call started off poorly. Technical difficulties prevented the second question from being asked until about 15 minutes into the session. Monday's mammoth appellate court ruling that allowed the lockout to endure wasn't discussed. Goodell's answers were dominated by boilerplate spin.

Reporters were allowed to listen in but not participate in the call. Goodell deserves marks for remaining on the line to talk for 46 minutes, but I hung up from the call feeling like I hadn't learned a thing.

Many questions dealt with the Bills as a small-market franchise and wondered how the lockout and new collective bargaining agreement would impact revenue sharing. Predictably, Goodell replied by stating the league's plan would keep small-market teams competitive.

One fan asked if Goodell, a native of nearby Jamestown, N.Y., could ensure the Bills remain in the area. Goodell didn't make any guarantees and emphasized the need to continue playing games in Toronto, a sentiment Bills CEO Russ Brandon delivered March 28. Brandon said the Bills' Southern Ontario season-ticket base had grown 44 percent since the Bills began exporting their games to the Rogers Centre in 2008.

"We certainly hope the Buffalo Bills continue to be in Western New York," Goodell said. "As a Western New York guy, I know how important it is to that region and how passionate our fans are there.

"The effort we've been going through with the Buffalo Bills and I would call the business leaders in the surrounding areas is to regionalize the team and to draw from a broader area, including Southern Ontario and the Toronto area. I believe that'll be good for the Bills to be successful in Buffalo."

Another caller asked about the possibility of a new stadium. Goodell said he wasn't aware of any proposal to replace Ralph Wilson Stadium and used the opportunity to hammer home one of the league's main talking points about the importance of withholding a larger portion of revenues before sharing with the players.

"It's one of the things we're trying to address in the collective bargaining agreement to make sure the Buffalo Bills and small-market teams can be successful is 'How do we encourage those investments in the stadiums, which are more and more being made in part by the private sector, meaning primarily the teams and-or the business community and the fans?' We need to encourage that, but those costs continue to rise, and those need to be recognized in the system."

There wasn't much news to digest, but the Q&A sessions are meant for the fans, not the media.

The conference-call tour is a brilliant marketing move by the league. Even season-ticket holders who don't participate receive advance notice of the option to communicate directly with Goodell if they wanted to.