The U. S. Speaker of the House’s Husband Talks Football and the Economy
By Evan Weiner
June 9, 2009
3:15 PM EDT
(New York, N. Y.) -- As the husband of the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives whose wife, Nancy Pelosi, is second in the line of succession should the American President become incapacitated, resign, die or is removed from office by impeachment, Paul Pelosi should know something about the future of both the American and global economy. Pelosi is a major investor in the United Football League, which plans sort of a "beta" test run this fall to see if there is a want for a professional football league that will not be the equal of the National Football League but will be better, in the minds of the organizers, than American college football.
The United Football League will kick off on October 8 and will conclude with a championship game of the American Thanksgiving weekend. The league will have four franchises, New York, Orlando, Las Vegas and San Francisco. The New York team will play one "home" game in Hartford and San Francisco will "host" a game in Sacramento and will play a total of 13 games including the championship contest. Those are the plans at the moment.
The league will be controlling costs as the UFL Commissioner sets the annual salary cap and controls the league budget. The league signs players and assigns the players to the four teams. The teams will share revenues in 2009. League officials expect to lose money in the first year, 2009, of operations. So why would Paul Pelosi get involved and did his wife tell him something about the economy that he is putting up millions to support the venture?
"That wasn't the reason that she gave me," laughed Pelosi at a New York UFL gathering yesterday. "My wife's comments really have nothing to do, Congress....they are doing their best to get this country out of the worst recession we have seen in my lifetime. It is a phenomenal task and they are busy 24/7 down there (Washington, D. C.) trying to do it and we are all hopeful that we are going to come out of it.
"We are going to come out of it, it is a question of when. As a financial person, I think it is going to be starting next year."
Pelosi is operating the San Francisco franchise and might play a game in Sacramento. The Sacramento area has been one of the hardest hit in the United States in terms of job losses and foreclosures. The state has double-digit unemployment and the state government has become dysfunctional. The ever-present state deficit is forcing layoffs, closure of state parks and the cutback in state services, all of which is being felt on the local levels. That could impact the spending habits of people going to sports events.
"These are real challenges," said Pelosi. "California has tremendous financial burdens, there is no question about it. If you want to talk about football (former NFL Commissioner) Paul Tagliabue is a close friend of mine for the last 50 years. We went to college together and as he used to say when he was commissioner when we were looking to build a new stadium in San Francisco and Governor (Arnold) Schwarzenegger wanted to meet with him in LA, Tags said no, no, Governor, I will meet with you in Sacramento because the NFL has a California problem, not an LA problem, because you need new stadiums for Oakland, San Francisco and San Diego plus you don't have a team in LA.
"The NFL has significant problems out there and that was four years ago before the economic problems we have. So yeah, there are tremendous problems out in California. I think as far as the product we are delivering, we are looking at a $20 average ticket. I think that is very affordable, great entertainment for families.
"I am a season ticket holder of the 49ers, I am a season ticket holder for the Giants and I pay a hell of a lot more for those tickets than our fans are going to have to pay to come see our games. Sacramento is a tremendous market, it is one of the top 28 markets in the country and I think that the idea of playing a game up there and maybe doing an expansion team up there makes a hell of a lot of sense. But where are they going to get the money for that new (NBA/Sacramento) Kings stadium, I don't know."
California has become ungovernable.
"It's difficult," said Pelosi. "I see some of the people in the (2010) gubernatorial race are rethinking whether or not they want to be in it when they are looking at these financial problems. It is a job you are not sure you want."
Should the United Football League succeed, there is a chance Pelosi might end up owning the only team in San Francisco as the York family wants to move their team, the 49ers, down to Santa Clara. Pelosi doesn't seem to be too happy with that development.
"As a native San Franciscan and a long time 49ers fan, I think it is really too bad that the Niners don't take opportunity to have a new stadium in Hunter's Point (nor far from Candlestick Point) which I really think would be a great solution for them and for San Francisco. They are obviously bent on going down to Santa Clara and now they have gone to the city council and it is going before the voters and I don't know how it is going to turn out. But we would hate to lose them as San Franciscans."
Al Davis and the Oakland Raiders ownership are watching with a close eye what is happening in Santa Clara as there is a possibility that a deal could be brokered whereby the two Bay Area football teams could share the Santa Clara facility.
"Al listens to everything, don't you think?" said Pelosi, a long time Davis acquaintance.
Pelosi has invested in the United Football League and is testing out two Northern California markets and he believes the UFL can work filling a niche between the NFL and college football and he is in it for more than just 2009. The trick is to convince the sporting public that the UFL is a worthwhile product and that may be difficult as the roadside is littered with three failed American Football Leagues, the All American Football Conference the World Football League, the United States Football League, the NFL-backed various incarnations of the World League of American Football which started in 1991 and ended life as NFL Europa in 2007, the XFL, the Spring Football League, three leagues which never got off the ground, the All-American Football League, the International Football League and the Professional Spring Football League. But Pelosi and his partners think they have the right stuff to succeed even in an economic downturn.