It was at the Super Bowl a few years back, during the commissioner’s annual news conference two days before kickoff, when I asked Roger Goodell about the possibility of an NFL team ever making Las Vegas home.
Goodell didn’t disappoint. He went on for a few minutes about the importance of keeping a strong dividing line between his league and sports gambling, about it not being in the best interest of the NFL to have any association with betting.
He was really quite convincing. You’d expect as much.
Remember: The NFL does hypocrisy with the best of them.
On one hand, not much has changed. The NFL still realizes Nevada takes in less than 2 percent of all Super Bowl bets, still understands professional sports leagues and the gaming industry are on the same side in wanting games to have integrity, and yet still looks down its nose at Las Vegas while continuing to give its implied endorsement to fantasy sports, which I’m fairly certain you can wager on.
If not, there’s a guy in California who has paid off his house and enjoyed some lavish vacations on my dime the past 20 years.
On the other hand, even the mighty NFL and those networks that show its games have felt the pinch of an unforgiving economic slide.
It is why the league modified advertisement policies for the TV commercials you will see Feb. 7, when the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints contest Super Bowl XLIV in Miami, why the NFL lifted its ban on Las Vegas and other cities with legalized gambling running spots during the playoffs.
It just didn’t lift very high. Think several inches instead of feet.
The new rules still don’t allow Las Vegas ads to feature specific hotels or casinos or any other gambling reference or image. They still reek of the league’s arrogant approach to the issue, despite the fact professional football’s massive popularity base leads directly to billions of dollars in betting.
You can purchase a 30-second ad for $2.5 million to $2.8 million but not show the MGM Grand or Caesars Palace. You can buy time during the biggest and most-watched sporting event of the year but not portray the most important component of the city that you are trying to draw viewers to.
The modifications, by the way, are offered only for 2010 at this point.
What a deal.
The timing wasn’t right for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority to advertise during this year’s game, it being the middle of the organization’s fiscal year and many strategic and budgetary decisions having been made for those who spend $85 million annually to sell Las Vegas.
Its approach to the game of Roman numerals remains simple — continue to annually promote Las Vegas as the best Super Bowl destination for those without a ticket to the game.
"The (modified advertisement policies) had no impact whatsoever on us," said Rossi Ralenkotter, president and chief executive of LVCVA. "If you look at our branding campaign now, there really isn’t gaming images. We’re going to spend $1.2 million (in advertising) the two-week period leading up to the Super Bowl that will help position us to reach our target audience and drive visitation in this major recession period.
"There wasn’t a lot of advanced notice about the (NFL’s change in policy), but we will analyze it more when beginning to put together budgets for 2011."
Super Bowl ads are changing. Pepsi will pass for the first time in 23 years. FedEx and GM went away last year. But as of late last week, all but four of 62 commercial spots for the game had been sold. It’s still an event that can bring companies huge exposure.
Yet not allowing an ad from LVCVA or perhaps VEGAS.com to include images of gaming if those companies chose such a marketing strategy continues to define the phoniness of an NFL that realizes it wouldn’t be a shred of itself without sports gambling.
It’s not even about whether Las Vegas companies want to show that part of the city. Maybe they don’t feel a need to sell the product. They know the business best.
What it is: Another example of a power trip by the country’s most powerful sports league. You can’t dictate how fair the monster is with these decisions, but you can certainly continue to point out its hypocritical side.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4618. He also can be heard weeknights from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. on "The Sports Scribes" on KDWN-AM (720) and www.kdwn.com.