NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the owners he represents must be amateur ventriloquists.
How else to explain the skill with which they talk out of both sides of their mouths?
On Thursday, the NFL and ESPN unveiled a new eight-year TV rights extension that will ensure the league is swimming in cash through 2021. Moreover, that deal augurs new agreements with other "broadcast partners" that will also have to rise to reflect the "mind lock," as the Wall Street Journal's Jason Gay put it, that the NFL has on fans, dwarfing any other sports property.
So what does that have to do with Mortimer Snerd and other talking dummies? Only that the NFL spent most of the summer pleading poverty to its players, who of course aren't exactly an impoverished class themselves, but whose careers are a lot shorter than the owners. For some reason, there was no way for the league to survive on $9 billion a year at current salaries.
The ESPN deal underscores what anybody paying attention knows: When it comes to TV money, there's football, and then there's everything else. It also further cements the fact that ESPN recognizes there's almost no way to measure the value of "Monday Night Football" and related programming for a channel that demands more than $4 per subscriber in monthly fees -- a bounty that totals nearly $5 billion before the first ad is sold.
The owners and players certainly know all that too. But you wouldn't know it from the former, unless you can read their lips.