Digital DNA - Chapter 2: The Owners Meeting

(This is Chapter 2 of a seven-part short story by David Grant)

It seemed that as quickly as it had started, the season was over. The press conference, where the commissioner had abruptly announced the new data center, was a distant memory, nearly forgotten by the news media, as their attention had turned toward the teams playing in that Sunday’s championship game.

As the owners gathered around their luxurious surroundings at the Regent Hotel in Hawaii for the first meeting during the off-season, small talk was already occurring. “Darned if I didn’t miss out on one of the best free agent signings of the century,” spouted Ranchers owner Chip Coleter, in his familiar Texas drawl. “I should’a signed that kid from Los Angeles, and maybe we’da won the big game last year.”

“How was it that you let one of your best players go to another team in your own division?" asked Russ Samuels from the Detroit Crankshafts to Chicago Towers owner Doss Robinson. “Well, you know me,” said Doss. “Cheap and whatever is good for the league.” Laughter around ensued, as the other owners, knowing how cheap Doss apparently was, understood. It was legend that he used to, in the old days, call two players by the same name so he could split the payroll between them. That’s when the players would play for free, so any money they received was appreciated.

Doss was also well known for having nearly saved the league as it was getting started, by mortgaging his home and the team and giving up his savings to help fund the struggling IFL. And during the war years, he had split up his team so fans in Detroit would have a team to watch. Well respected and liked, Doss was the conscience of the league everyone thought. He had mentioned that he would like to one day recover his investment, retire and sell the franchise. He was the last of the original owners, and everyone knew he would not be around very much longer.

“I would like to bring this meeting to order,” Roger stated, as he motioned for everyone to be seated. Most everyone took a seat, except of course Chip, who always stood in the back wearing his cowboy boots and hat, smoking a cigar. “Is there any old business?” Roger asked. “None that we know of,” the secretary of the league stated. “OK then, let’s get down to new business. I would like to give you all an update on the new technology center that is nearly completed at the Hall of Fame. Today, the last of the hardware will be installed. Next week the software will be loaded, and I fully expect that by the start of the regular season, after we have done some testing, that we will be fully operational. Are there any questions?” “I have two,” said Russ. “Did I hear you correctly that all game footage will be simultaneously streamed from each stadium to the Hall in real-time and can be viewed immediately?” “Yes, that is correct,” Roger responded. “Well I declare, what will we come up with next?” Doss said coyly. He wanted the other owners to believe that he had no idea what the purpose or need was to have such a setup. He just wanted to go along with all the other owners, and as long as the money came in, he was happy. “My second question is why were we not consulted on this new data center before it went in?” Russ finished. “It was something that I thought we needed in order to remain competitive and a step ahead of other professional sports leagues, and I financed it out of discretionary income,” Roger responded.

“I think the technology center will give us an edge in several areas,” said Beverly Lawson. Beverly was not only the league’s attorney and accountant but also owner of the Los Angeles franchise. Chip didn’t really like Beverly for several reasons. Chip was sure she had somehow prearranged to sign the top free agent wide receiver, Matt Sorono, last season that he had wanted. With quarterback Rich Hamilton now having a main threat on the outside to challenge defenses deep, Sorono was the final piece of the offensive puzzle that got the Surfers to the championship game against Denver. “How so?” asked Chip, sarcastically, but also as if to maybe find a competitive tidbit that he had overlooked. “Well, for one thing, we’ll have complete and immediate access to all plays, even before late games are over,” Bev said. “Think about how that will help coaches who travel to play any given team the following week. They will be able to begin the breakdown of game footage and discuss match-ups almost instantly, even on the airplane ride home,” Bev said.

This was another reason for Chip’s disdain for Beverly. Not only was she female, but she was football smart, and sometimes her competitive savvy left Chip feeling disgusted. “Wow, and the digitized editing equipment, is that at the Hall too?” asked Russ. “Yes it is,” stated Roger. “And you will have software on your computer or mobile device that will allow you to connect to our systems at the Hall of Fame, download your game footage, edit it any way you want and then save it to a smart phone, tablet or any mobile device you want,” Roger stated proudly, as if he had designed the system himself. “That will be great, but how will game footage get to the Hall?” Russ asked. “It will be a direct feed from our new league owned network, DTN, to the Hall’s data processing center,” Roger quipped. The owners unanimously approved the new data center project, even if their vote was a mere formality.

“Any other new business or new rule discussions?” Roger asked. “How about not having any game officials?” Chip growled, the room now alive with laughter. “Now you know Bobby wouldn’t stand for that!” Roger smiled. Bobby, most everyone knew, was Roger’s brother. The meeting concluded with announcements and a 13-layer birthday cake in the shape of a large tower for Doss. He would be 81 by the time the season started, and the owners thought they should honor their patriarch before time got away.

The next day, a phone call came in to the commissioner’s office at league headquarters. “It’s been awhile since we’ve talked, Roger,” said the voice on the other end of the line. “How are you doing?” Roger asked. “We’ll, I gotta tell ‘ya, RB, that I need an update on the project,” the caller said. “All of last year’s game footage has been loaded, and uh, I can tell you that we are on schedule for the delivery of this year’s television feeds, and that all we need on our end is the data link to the league office from the Hall of Fame.” “OK, that sounds good, how did you get the expense for that past the other owners?” the caller asked. “Same as I have done with all of our other projects; I bury them in my salary package, which the owners vote on without looking at, then I cut a check for the amount and expense it as a discretionary item,” Roger finished. The laugh on the other end of the line was so loud Roger had to move the phone away from his ear. “We’ll done, my man! Well done. Let’s talk again soon, so we have everything in place before the first game of the regular season, sound good?” “Sure,” Roger said in return, and the call was over.

David Grant is a former NCAA official and currently resides in southern California. He is the site's NFL Briefs writer.

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