A tribute to Harlan: Revenue sharing

The Packers must pay into the NFL's revenue-sharing plan, and that's a tribute to Bob Harlan and the renovated Lambeau Field he pushed for, PackerReport.com's Steve Lawrence says.

Bob Harlan's legacy was on display in Phoenix this week.

During his final NFL owners meetings before he retires in May, the Green Bay Packers' chairman and CEO learned the team finished seventh in the league in revenue and, therefore, will have to pay into the league's revenue-sharing plan.

Can you imagine? The Packers, located in easily the smallest market among the major U.S. professional sports, are earning more revenue than three-fourths of the teams in the league? Can you imagine? The Packers helping other teams remain fiscally relevant?

For that, you can thank Harlan and his beloved Lambeau Field renovation.

When Harlan officially leaves May 31 after 36 years with the team, his legacy will include two major accomplishments.

First, he changed the way the football side of the organization operated by hiring Ron Wolf as general manager. That led to a Super Bowl championship and a long run of success.

Second, he worked countless hours — visiting countless diners and taking countless more phone calls — and put his reputation on the line by pushing Brown County taxpayers to foot the bill for the $295 million stadium renovation in September 2000.

Short term, you can't beat the feeling of watching your team win a Super Bowl. Long term, Harlan's victory in the Lambeau Field debate was clearly more important than any victory the Packers could ever win on the football field.

Harlan promised the new Lambeau Field would save the franchise. It's not often in the political process when a promise does more than is advertised. But that's exactly what happened.

The goal was for the Packers to rank in the top 12 in the league in revenue. Even with more teams playing in bigger and better facilities, the Packers continue to be one of the top revenue-producing teams in the NFL. They ranked seventh in 2006, too, and 10th the previous three years.

And for that, you can thank Harlan.

"I told people during the referendum, this will save the franchise, and it did," Harlan told the Green Bay Press-Gazette during the owners meetings. "That makes me very proud."

He should be proud. The humble Harlan wouldn't want one, but he probably deserves a statue outside the stadium. Then again, Harlan already has a permanent monument to his good deeds. It is the stadium itself, the beautiful and historical life preserver for the NFL's most storied franchise.

Steve Lawrence is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com. E-mail comments to steve_lawrence_packers@yahoo.com.

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