The NFL is the most popular and powerful professional sports league in America. It dominates the national conversation both in-season and out, it commands exorbitant TV and advertising rates, and single-handedly swings year-long Nielsen ratings for networks willing to shell out for its primetime games. Some would argue that the league, both by reaching the pinnacle of the sports landscape and by facing numerous challenges related to the inherent brutality of the game on the field, has nowhere to go but down. That it has already achieved everything a league could ever hope for and more. That it should be happy with what it has built, and it should begin to focus on minor, incremental changes to maintain its dominance while minimizing risk. These people certainly make a fair point. At the very least, it’s something worth considering.
And just hear me out here…
The NFL could acquire an island and build itself a sovereign tropical utopia dedicated to football.
Allow me to walk you through the plan step-by-step.
Choose an island. This is the easy part. There are islands for sale all over the world. Here’s a website that’s full of them. If we’re doing this right — and if you’re going to build an island utopia dedicated to violent competition between giant men, you might as well do it right — we’d probably want an undeveloped island that can be molded to resemble our every fantasy. Here’s one in the Bahamas for $33 million. It’s only 765 acres, which is a little small for what I’m picturing, but it’s a starting point. No need to sign the papers today. It’s like the old saying goes, “Never buy the first island you find on some weird website after Googling ‘buy a big private island.’”
Become a sovereign nation. Here’s where it gets tricky. Contrary to what you probably envision when you think about buying an island (“I’LL NAME IT PIZZA LAGOON AND DECLARE MYSELF KING”), the truth is that almost all of the exposed Earth is already claimed by other, actual nations, and “buying an island” is no different than buying any other piece of real estate. This will not do. This will not do at all. I mean, what the hell is even the point of owning an island if you can’t rule it like some mad despot, you know?
Luckily, there are three ways around this. Four, if you count storming one with a private navy full of NFL players who are armed to the teeth and wearing camouflage uniforms, and seeing if the rightful owners really want to come at a machine gun-wielding Kam Chancellor. Forced military servitude probably raises some troublesome issues with the labor deal, though. Let’s stick to the other three.
#1 – Corruption/Exertion of Power. Also known as the The Other Guy in Blow Option. This is involves throwing money and promises around to the local politicians and military leaders until they let you go ahead and do whatever you please. The key is to find a corrupt enough nation and have no shame in glad-handing and offering bribes. We can put Jerry Jones in charge of the committee. I’m sure he knows someone. It’ll be done in a week. Two, tops.
#2 – Purchase the Whole Thing, Sovereignty and All. Tricky. Very expensive, probably. Sets somewhat troubling precedent. We’ll call this our last resort.
#3 – Build One Our Dang Selves – Or we could just say screw it all and build a giant man-made island in international waters, kind of like the massive palm tree-shaped one they were trying to build in Dubai before the economy went to hell in 2008, or the string of libertarian paradises Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel was yammering about building a few years ago.
We have options. This is what I’m trying to say.
Hold the Super Bowl there every year. Now we get to the good part. Concerned about cold-weather Super Bowls? Tired of stinkers in places like Jacksonville? Sick of hearing second-tier cities whine “But what about usssssss?” three seconds after bilking their citizens out of millions to build stunning Superfluous Stadium Sponsored By Soon To Be Bought Out Financial Institution? NO MORE. From this day forward, each and every Super Bowl will be held on NFL Island.
Accommodations? No problem! We’ll build hotels and resorts all over the island, ranging from budget options like a Ramada to glorious shrines to decadence, like if Steve Wynn owned the Atlantis Resort. Entertainment? Gotcha covered. We’ll have a championship-level golf course, night clubs with prominent hip-hop and/or Hollywood investors (“The Suede Cashmere Lounge and Disco, co-owned by Rick Ross and Turtle from Entourage!”), a football-themed amusement park (complete with one of those Back to the Future-style rides where you sit in a car hooked up to hydraulics that are timed to match the events on the screen so it feels like you’re moving, but the video is a 10-minute, first-person loop of Barry Sanders slicing through defenses), and MORE. It’ll becoming a thing. People can schedule their whole vacations around it. I mean, sure, Vegas is nice, but why go to some glowing STD-riddled Mafia den in the desert when you can go to a tropical paradise with an all-inclusive vacation package that includes Super Bowl tickets?
“But wait,” you say. “Vegas has gambling. I like gambling.” Well, hoo boy, do I have good news for you. NFL ISLAND HAS GAMBLING, TOO. Table games, slots, and even a sportsbook. The NFL’s concern about gambling has always been corruption and seedy outside influences affecting the on-field product, but now that the league is able to control it all from a sovereign nation where it has complete autonomy, the problem has been solved! (Kind of!)
Move the Pro Bowl and Hall of Fame there, too. Hell, move EVERYTHING there. The Pro Bowl, the Hall of Fame, the NFL offices, all of it. Put anything and everything even tangentially-related to the NFL on NFL Island. Make it an experience. Run one of the roller coasters from the amusement park right through the Hall of Fame so people can kill two birds with one stone. There’s no time to waste. They’ve got dinner reservations at Broadway Joe’s Steakhouse (co-owned by Nelly!) in an hour. Joe’s tending bar and telling stories. (Joe is always tending bar and telling stories.)
Build some big-ass waterslides. Self-explanatory.
Schedule two regular season games there for each team, every year. There are a few obvious hurdles here. We’ll either need to add two games to the schedule, which will raise lots of justifiable concerns from the NFLPA, or take away a home game from every team in the league so they end up with seven home games, seven away games played on the contiguous United States, and two games on NFL Island. And it could also be difficult to convince enough fans to fly down there twice a year for a regular season game to make it worth it, especially in an age when you can watch game in sparkling high-definition from the comfort of your own home, for the cost of the cable bill you’re already paying anyway so you can watch True Detective.
But these are issues for the lawyers and bean-counters to hammer out. We’re the dreamers. We’ve done our part.
Make the facilities available for events during the off-season. Once we have the infrastructure in place, NFL Island will be perfect for all sorts of events. Corporate getaways, bachelor parties, the college football national championship game, overnight stops on cruises, etc. I’m sure it’ll take some doing, as the NBA and NCAA might not be tickled at the idea of holding big basketball-themed events on an island dedicated to football, but it would be a great destination for NBA All-Star Weekend and the Final Four, too. (In fact, my original idea for this was to make one multi-sport paradise called Championship Island where every major sport would go to decide their title, but I figured it would be tricky to do a seven-game series on a secluded island. It’s funny that this is where I chose to draw the line, reality-wise. Like, I was all “Oh, yeah, the NFL could definitely build a giant man-made island in international waters and dot it with roller coasters and casinos, but holding the World Series there would be a bit of a stretch from a practical standpoint.” So that’s what’s going on behind the curtain here.)
And concerts! So many concerts! You know how there are all these theme cruises now, with everyone from Kid Rock to New Kids on the Block inviting their fans on week-long excursions on the high seas? Well, cruises are dumb and the ocean is awful, so we can hold them on NFL Island instead. A Bon Jovi Week full of meet-and-greets and dinners, culminating in a huge blowout performance in NFL Island Stadium? It would sell out in an hour.
Let Roger Goodell go full supervillain. Roger Goodell is basically a Bond villain anyway. Why not just go ahead and make it official? Let’s put a big fake volcano on the island and build his office right into the side of it, 200-feet up, overlooking everything. Then DeMaurice Smith can show up on a jet ski, strip off his wet suit to reveal a full tuxedo underneath, and play baccarat at the casino until Goodell summons him negotiate the next collective bargaining agreement. Goodell will throw him in the Tiger Pit (he has a tiger pit, btw) and reveal the NFL’s master plan to strip players of the right to sue and appeal suspensions, then Smith will escape and use his trusty hypnotic watch laser to trick Goodell into guaranteeing all multi-year player contracts. Florio will lose his mind. Mort might literally explode. It would be awesome.
Let’s make this happen.