Think about this for a second: Newark Star-Ledger columnist Jerry Izenberg has been working in sports journalism since 1951. Born in 1930, Izenberg has been to every Super Bowl.
Literally. Every. One.
And now he has a new book out entitled, Rozelle: A Biography. That title, of course, refers to former NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle, who served the league in that capacity from 1960 to 1989. Rozelle, who passed away in 1996 at the age of 70, is credited with turning the NFL into one of the most successful sports leagues in the world.
“He was the gold standard for everything,” Izenberg said on Ferrall on the Bench. “Nobody did for the product that he was pushing what Pete Rozelle did – and that was because, honestly, Pete Rozelle loved his job.”
Given how Roger Goodell has come under fire in recent months for his mishandling of the Ray Rice fiasco – not to mention the ongoing battle with concussions and player safety – the timing to write this book was perfect.
“It is for me,” Izenberg said, chuckling. “It’s been wonderful because guys like you call me and say, ‘How do you think Pete would have handled this?’ or whatever else. Obviously, I didn’t plan for this because I had no way of knowing. But it’s worked out marvelously for me. It also gives me a chance to showcase the way Pete thought and acted.”
Interestingly enough, Izenberg once told Rozelle he wanted to write a book on him, and Rozelle said he didn’t want him to do it.
“No, he did not,” Izenberg said. “He said, ‘I’m a very private person, and as a friend, you know that, so I don’t want you to do that.’ I said, ‘Pete, I’ll tell you what. It’s like the old ad: Pay me now or pay me later. If you don’t want me to do it, trust me, somebody will – and it may be somebody you don’t want to do it.’”
Izenberg was with Rozelle from Day 1 – when the league was 12 teams playing in front of largely empty stadiums.
“Well, it was very simple (back in those days),” Izenberg said. “As a matter of fact, my father never had any money. During the Depression, he worked seven days a week. But one day he took me to a Giants football game, which amazed me – over in New York at the Polo Grounds. We lived in New Jersey. We got in there and we’re sitting on top of the Polo Grounds, which is pretty high, and I said, ‘Gee, dad, I don’t think I care for this seat.’ He said, ‘Give me 20 minutes. Everything will be fine.’ Twenty minutes later, he got up, spoke to an usher, and we were on the 50-yard line. He gave him two dollars or something. But that gives you an idea of what it was like.”
The NFL’s revenue is now just under $10 billion a year.
Izenberg’s book, which came out Oct. 1, is available for purchase at Amazon and other major outlets.