Full disclosure is merited here, for as thousands of Dallas Cowboys and NFL fans lament the league's NFL's 11th-hour decision to muscle Tony Romo's "National Fantasy Football Convention'' off the calendar, my angle is quite different than yours ... and then ultimately, exactly the same.
The disclosure: I have an acquaintanceship with Andy Alberth, the founder of the NFFC. When news first broke of the convention, that news was written by me, back on March 24. Andy, along with Romo, soon after made appearances with us on 105.3 The Fan to promote the event. The "Ben & Skin Show'' was to broadcast live from the event site in Las Vegas on that July 10-11-12 weekend. And I would be there, too, on a "working vacation'' (the only kind, in my occupation, because while I am always "working,'' doing so is pretty much always fun. I mean, I ain't exactly tarring roofs over here.)
So there are many levels of disappointment and many levels of anger as fans and athletes -- and Alberth and Romo -- try to make sense of it. Andy tweeted, "It's so hard to swallow when you sweat and bleed for 80 hours a week for six months and never got one paycheck. This (project) is my baby.'' And then he added the hashtag, "No Fun League.''
Romo is obliged to be more politically correct. And was so, in politely releasing the initial news on Friday evening:
NFL has canceled our fantasy football convention this year in Vegas and that is disappointing. I'm sad for the fans and players.— Tony Romo (@tonyromo) June 6, 2015
Dez Bryant, among the 100 or so NFL stars invited to participate in this first-of-its-kind event, during which fans would mix and mingle and party -- oh yeah, and talk Fantasy Football -- with pro athletes -- was less politically correct:
@tonyromo don't understand whenever they make shit load of money off of us smh.....— Dez Bryant (@DezBryant) June 6, 2015
What is the reasoning? What about the timing -- given that my understanding is the NFL has known about this event idea for more than a year? Easy to figure out, really. The league shut this thing down (complete with reports from Scout.com sources that the NFL threatened to fine or event suspended players who chose to participate) because somebody else was baking a football-related pie ... and the NFL wants to own every single slice of every single pie.
Oh, the official reason given by the league is related to the fact that the NFFC was to be staged on the property of a Las Vegas casino -- thus, the "horrors of gambling'' argument was used ... hypocritical as it is for a league that already benefits from the $3 billion industry that is Fantasy Football ... and with this move, I promise you, plans on benefiting even more.
A deviously logical reason to shut this down at this late date? It makes it virtually impossible to simply move the event to another "less offensive'' city. (Imagine all the plane tickets purchased to Las Vegas that cannot be refunded to fans.) And while the NFFC is planning to re-start the project for the summer of 2016 in LA, they will, I promise you, now be competing with the NFL itself, which is likely embarrassed it didn't think of baking this ingenious pie itself ...
And now will have 12 months to complete steal the recipe before launching an "official NFL'' convention ... launched on the groundwork already put down by Albreth's group.
The NFFC was to feature Romo and Dez and Jason Witten, and Jamaal Charles, Antonio Brown, DeMarco Murray, T.Y. Hilton, Emmanuel Sanders, Randall Cobb, Eddie Lacy, Julio Jones and DeMarcus Ware. It was to also feature around a dozen media personalities, including Michael Fabiano of the league-owned NFL Network and NFL.com (meaning, again, the NFL knew all about this long ago).
And, again, another "media personality'' named Mike Fisher. Which is where my story -- so different from yours because I was to be in Vegas as part of the NFFC for "work -- veers back to mirroring yours.
This is selfish of the NFL, and it's a bully move. But Romo and Dez and Andy will survive. What takes a hit is the plans you made, which might be similar to the plans I made.
July 8 is my wedding anniversary. July 11 is my wife's birthday. And when was Romo's event scheduled for again? July 10-11-12? How the hell does a husband pull that off? So the ever-tolerant Marcia and I made intricate plans involving flights and hotels and dinners and expenses and work. An anniversary dinner right before my plane takes off for Vegas. 105.3 The Fan and CowboysHQ.com stuff once I got there, including dozens and dozens of guests and interviews and insight and fun. Maybe do the Sunday "FishNato'' show live from Vegas, too. Oh, and the Dallas Mavs participation in NBA Summer League would be overlapping that weekend, so I'd cover that beat as well ... as all the while Marcia was taking a flight out of DFW to visit relatives ... with both of us returning just in time for a late-night celebration of her birthday, all sandwiched right before I head west again for 30 days away from my family while covering the Cowboys training camp in Oxnard.
A lot of planning. A lot of money. A lot of emotion. Wasted, in my house and in yours, because some NFL suit was offended due to somebody else fully engineering and executing a cool plan before the NFL could think of doing so. That's my personal and professional disappointment, really: The NFL isn't just crushing some people's plans. The NFL -- manipulatively, deviously and even cruelly -- is crushing some people's ideas so it can repackage those ideas for itself.