Justice Files: Jim Steeg Interview

After the Chargers clinched the AFC West title on December 19, in Cleveland, I was forced to wait to a delay on my flight back to New York. During my wait, I noticed a guy near the gate who was already sporting the Division Champs hat. Assuming he was someone important within The Organization, my buddies Mike and Jeff urged me to go talk to him. That man turned out to be Jim Steeg, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the San Diego Chargers.

I admit that I didn't know too much about him originally, but a little research revealed an extremely impressive resume. Steeg is what my friend Craig calls "The Father of the Modern Super Bowl." For the last 26 years, he spearheaded the evolution of the NFL Championshp Game into the consummate American spectacle we know and love. When I first met him in December, Steeg was in the midst of his transition from NFL employee to working for a single team. This is a scenario he hasn't found himself in since he broke into the league in the late '70s as an accountant with the Dolphins. Last Friday, he was kind enough to spend close to an hour talking with me by phone about the NFL, the Super Bowl and, of course, the Bolts.

RW: Your bio says that you grew up in the Boston area. Are you still a Red Sox fan?

JS: Absolutely. I've got to enjoy it while I can.

RW: Obviously, a lot of the talk here in New York is about building a new stadium. The Chargers are in a pretty similar situation. Are you paying close attention and do you have a position on a new stadium in Manhattan?

JS: These things come in spurts. How many years before Joe Robbie Stadium was finally built? Since then, about 20 of the 32 teams have gotten new stadiums, but the three oldest are here in California. I absolutely favor a new stadium in New York. It's for the greater good. We all prosper. We're [the Chargers] not one of the high revenue clubs. We're not as small a market as Green Bay, but we're probably below them in revenue. We don't get a lot of national exposure and that's one of the things I was hired to do-increase our profile. We're going to make some noise nationally.

RW: I can tell you from the games I've attended on the East Coast and the e-mails I've received that there are definitely legions of loyal Charger fans out there. When I started writing about the team, I had to call the automated system every week just to get the press releases faxed back to me.

JS: Our website is an important communication tool. We want to make it so that Charger fans can visit it and get the most up-to-date information and not have to go to the Union-Tribune's site to find out what's going on.

RW: I think the only reason that people would continue to read the Union-Tribune would be to get an "unsanctioned" view of things.

JS: Right.

RW: As a fan who has had to find places to watch the Chargers' games all my life, is there any chance that the NFL might go to a pay-per-view package or will they always be on DirecTv?

JS: I don't think it's going to change. Our game is the only sport you can get 100% over the air. Even the ESPN game is broadcast on regular TV in the local markets. Of course, in New York fans are screwed. In New York, you go through those periods where both the Jets and Giants end up sucking and you have watch those two games. At least they're opening it up for a third game. Hopefully, if we're good enough we'll be the 4PM game on the East Coast a lot more often.

RW: Having worked so for so many years on the Super Bowl, do you have any opinion on the Mike Tice ticket scandal?

JS: When I was with the Dolphins and we held a lottery for the fans, I was amazed how many tickets went straight to scalpers. With 40,000 entries, you think you've taken care of these fans and 30 to 40% of the tickets are scalped. When I was with the NFL and we were third party to lawsuits with ticket agencies, which was the only way we could get a hold of ticket lists, we found that 90% of the tickets game from the host teams.

RW: Does that mean I can blame Dolphin fans for having to pay "I-don't-even -want-to-tell-you-how-much" for a ticket in 1994?

JS: Sadly it was probably Charger fans or, more likely, 49er fans tired of going all the time.

RW: Now that you are Chief Operating Officer for the Chargers, how is that different from being the "Super Bowl guru?"

JS: (Laughs) This job originally meant taking over all the business operations (public relations, community relations, marketing and anything going on in the complex--anything you've got to do in the facility) The player salaries are set with the cap, which is overseen by Eddie McGuire. What can we do as an organization can do, if we want to stay here, is to raise more revenue. Four weeks into being here permanently and I haven't come up for air yet.

RW: One suggestion, if you don't mind me saying, would be to bring back more of the team's alumni.

JS: Marty has done a great job with that. Every Thursday, Rolf Benirschke gets together with a bunch of guys. We're playing golf next Tuesday (Brees On The Tees Celebrity Golf Classic). We held a dinner Wednesday night with a bunch of alumni. They can sell them team better than we can. Hank Bauer, one of our own, is basically an ambassador for the league. The other big issue is on the stadium. Mark Fabiani is making four appearances a week on that.

RW: I would assume that a big obstacle was that the last time out, the city got a raw deal with the ticket guarantee.

JS: Number one on the list is perception. I was out here because of the Super Bowl (in 2002) and I tell you, Ross, I don't know how that all happened. There was so much negativity surrounding that, but you have to remember that it was a proposal that the city made to the Chargers. How that got twisted around, I don't know. If someone makes you that offer, how do you turn it down? Then there's how much the Spanoses do in the community and the obvious comparison is to what John Moores (Padres owner) does in the community. I don't know, but I would hazard a guess that the Spanoses do more than he does. But they do it quietly. I mean, they saved seventh-grade football for San Diego County. But how many people know that?

RW: When it comes to marketing, winning solves a lot of problems.

JS: True, but it also camouflages a lot of problems. Everybody talks about how bad the stadium is, but now we're asking people to come into it. We have to do things to make it more attractive. Ironically, we're in the top five in the league in per capita sales on novelties and concessions.

RW: What about the throwback uniforms? I would think that they would be a huge source of revenue.

JS: Not as much as you think. We can make money off the retail and our website. But the NFL makes 12 to 13% off everything else. But we are trying to respond to the fans. That's why we brought training camp back to La Jolla.

But getting back to the stadium, you have a stadium with 50 to 60 million dollars in deferred maintenance that the city's going to have to do something with at some point. You've got a stadium that's losing them between 9 and 10 million dollars a year and because of all the construction on Friars Road, there's about 175 million dollars in road improvements that have to be done. Our proposal is: you give us 66 acres. We will build a stadium, a half a billion-dollar asset, to give back to the city. You won't have to worry about the deferred maintenance or losing 9 to 10 million dollars a year because we'll run the stadium. And now you'll get the property taxes off the housing, which is 9 to 10 million dollars.

RW: What about the old stadium?

JS: The old stadium would be adjacent to new one and on the land that the old one is on you would build a housing development.

RW: I take it that that Qualcomm's naming rights are another revenue stream?

JS: They're about 7 or 8 years into what is a 15-year deal. You have to take in enough revenue to take the team out of the bottom quartile and into the top half of the league.

I'll post the rest of the interview in a couple of weeks for the JUSTICE IS COMING DRAFT SPECTACULAR. Actually, it won't be that spectacular since if you've read any of my "Justice Files" entries on the SDBoltReport.com, you'll know that I'm not much of a draft nerd. However, I did discuss my issues with Quentin Jammer this week and it seemed to trigger all sorts of reaction. Some fans maintain that QJ is one of the better corners in the league, while others claim that his coverage skills are sorely lacking. I just wish he'd turn around for the goddamn ball. Here's one of the e-mails I received:


Nice site (www.justiceiscoming.com) and pretty accurate write up about #23 on the Bolt Report. But if you look at the game film of the Rams game from '02 that you mentioned, you'll notice that Bruce got away with offensive pass interference. I know it's not cheating if you don't get caught. But watch the film and you'll see Bruce grab a handful of Jammer's jersey with his left hand and then pull him right out of the play. It was pretty slick, but it shoud have been called.

I agree with you, though, Jammer needs to deliver the goods. Hopefully an improved pass rush will help this year. I do think he is one of the better run stopping CB's in the league, but I'd rather see him defend the pass.


Kenny's right that Bruce probably interfered on that touchdown. Jammer had pretty good coverage. But I keep referencing that play because it was merely the first inkling that he wasn't going to be the blue-chip draft pick we had hoped for. QJ was also interfered with on that long touchdown to Lelie in the first Denver game. But I just wish that he'd take the intensity that he seems to have when he loses his cool and put it into staying with his man. Anyway, I'll be back in a couple of weeks. Until then, vaya con dios.

Yours In Justice,

This story was reprinted from www.justiceiscoming.com and with the permission of RLW

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