Roger Goodell held his annual Super Bowl press conference earlier this week and mostly dealt with softball questions because it was invite-only this year, a decision likely made because he got harpooned by Jim Trotter over the lack of diversity in the NFL newsroom last year. Classic Goodell. Anyway, during the interview the NFL commissoner was asked about the backlash the league received for putting the Kansas City Chiefs-Miami Dolphins Wild Card game exclusively behind the Peacock paywall. He responded by saying they had to "fish where the fish are" and that the league has to reach the portion of the audience that lives exclusively on streaming services. He then pointed to the 23 million people who watched as proof that audience existed.
This infuriated Chris "Mad Dog" Russo, who reappeared on ESPN on Wednesday after calling Dan Orlovsky a scrub on-camera apparently without any consequences. Russo went on a screaming rant that Goodell's logic is flawed, that the streaming service-only audience is entirely capable of watching a game on normal cable, and the only reason this happened was because NBC cut the NFL a disgustingly large check.
Invoking the name of all three of his children was quite the power move. Shoutout to Timmy, Colin, and Kiera Russo.
Mad Dog is right but also what else was Goodell going to say? He has to at least pretend that the Peacock decision was about more than the money. Otherwise the audience will believe NFL games can be simply sold to the highest bidder, which is sort of what the situation is now but not a narrative the league would like to push. It has to be justified in some way other than "the check was big."
Goodell's points about reaching the streaming audience isn't without its merit but he was clearly floundering when he felt obligated to point out that those who paid for Peacock also got access to their streaming inventory on top of the game so it wasn't a bad deal. That doesn't make it better for most people. Not everyone wants to pay money for full access to The Office and every season of Law & Order: SVU.
It is the future that NFL playoff games will be behind streaming service paywalls in some capacity. But until it's accepted we'll continue to get sham answers from Goodell and other suits about why it's necessary.