As I’m writing this, it’s 79 degrees and sunny in Phoenix and I’m working from a patio.
There’s a fountain splashing in the middle of a green courtyard and palm trees surround me, providing the foreground for the mountain skyline behind them. The smell of flowers is everywhere.
I see a national reporter in what looks to be a bathing suit chatting with Cowboys Head Coach Jason Garrett. Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder just walked by. As I walked over, I saw Steelers Owner Art Rooney III talking on his dated flip phone while hiding in the shade.
Oh, there’s John Elway.
This is the annual NFL owners meetings.
The owners meetings are a place where a lot of big business decisions get made. That’s what happens when you get all the league’s owners, Commissioner Roger Goodell and just about every other NFL big-whig all in the same place.
Their chief purpose is to enact new rule changes. There are also high-level meetings on other large-scale NFL issues like the Pro Bowl, the site of Super Bowls, and new stadium approvals. This year, the Ravens’ scheduling conflict with the Orioles was a hot topic.
But most of the conversations and decisions about these matters get made early enough to head to the golf course or pool after lunch. After all, there has to be time for the Harbaugh brothers to race down the water slide (which I found to be hilarious).
Really, the interesting part of the owners meetings for me is to get a sneak peek at this exclusive society.
Working for an NFL team, you see some nice hotels, etc., but the Arizona Biltmore, where the meetings were held this year (which is not where I stayed, by the way) is crazy opulent. I’m planning to camp out on this patio for as long as I can until security realizes I’m not a guest, which probably won’t take long.
Owners, general managers, coaches and other executives swarm the place. Most of them bring their families as well for a mini vacation.
It’s a time when they let their hair down a bit and get a chance to catch up with their peers in the field. You realize that the NFL is really a small world, that everybody has connections with everybody.
For the Super Bowl champs, it’s a nice time to get a whole lot of handshakes. Everybody wants to be that person. Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti, as always, looks like a relaxed baller and John Harbaugh, as always, has mucho charm.
Then there’s what I would call the “other people” at the meetings – myself included. I’ll lump agents and reporters in this category, and their presence at the proceedings is a bit awkward.
Agents are mingling, working their cell phones as free agency is still burning hot. They’re sometimes having secret meetings with coaches or executives.
Reporters are all trying to get the scoop on free agency. Reporters know the times when league meetings end and they line up along the hallways just hoping to score any comment. Most of the time, it’s unsuccessful and reporters are left looking like a kid at the zoo watching the animals march around.
In fact, I just saw a reporter feverishly following Ozzie Newsome and wife with notepad in hand until Newsome shook him with a polite but clear no comment.
Anyways, this is the ultimate mixture of business and pleasure. Can’t wait for next year.