NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was a "surprise visitor" to Patriots Owner Robert Kraft's box at Gillette Stadium for Thursday's preseason opener against the Jaguars, according to Jim McBride of the BOSTON GLOBE. Goodell had been "touring several training camps this season, was in the area, and decided to catch the game." It was Goodell's "first trip to Gillette since the AFC Championship game" in '15, the postseason that "spawned Deflategate." The NFL "confirmed Goodell is still planning on being in Foxborough for the season opener Sept. 7" (BOSTON GLOBE, 8/11). ESPN.com's Mike Reiss noted Goodell "also visited" with Jaguars Owner Shad Khan and "departed the stadium before halftime" (ESPN.com, 8/10). CSNNE.com's DJ Bean wrote Goodell's absence from Gillette had become an "increasingly popular topic, particularly as he opted to go to Atlanta for a second time last postseason rather than revisiting New England and face the music for Deflategate" (CSNNE.com, 8/10).
NICE TRY: In Boston, Karen Guregian writes "sneaking in ... last night unannounced" was a "pretty slick" move by Goodell. However, Patriots fans "will be game ready" when he returns next month for the season opener. Guregian: "Unlike last night, you'll hear them. You'll know exactly how they feel about you. You will feel their wrath over Deflategate." While it may have been "wise trying to diffuse the situation beforehand, it's hard to believe you won't be in for a rude reception on Opening Night" (BOSTON HERALD, 8/11). PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Josh Alper wrote the likely "hostile reaction to his presence from the crowd" next month likely will not "be diminished by Thursday's unadvertised visit" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 8/10). In DC, Des Bieler writes there is "little doubt" Goodell "will still be booed heavily" on Opening Night. But Thursday's visit "was another step toward moving on." Bieler: "It could turn out to have been a savvy move if it takes some of the drama away from his Week 1 return" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 8/11). NBC's Mike Florio said it was "very smart" for Goodell to attend the game, as it "takes a little sting out of what's going to happen ... when he's back there again for the regular-season opener." Florio: "It is still probably going to be ugly at times ... but it won't be as bad as it could have been because he made it back there last night” (“PFT,” NBCSN, 8/11).
FLYING THE FRIENDLY SKIES: Patriots President Jonathan Kraft prior to Thursday's game talked to WBZ-FM about the two planes the team recently bought and said that since domestic airlines have been "going away from the larger ones, the Pats wanted to have access to 'wide-bodied' carriers." Kraft "referenced the large number of team personnel that travels for games, and that having a second plane helps maximize time in case there is a technical issues with one." He noted that having the two planes can "help with players' recovery" (BOSTON HERALD, 8/11). ESPN's Jalen Rose said, "This is the wave of the future because owners are now making more money." ESPN's David Jacoby: "The economics of this is they will actually save money from chartering planes. It's just a sound, strategic move" ("Jalen & Jacoby," ESPN2, 8/9).
Fans attending Heat games at American Airlines Arena this coming season "will only be able to get through the gate with tickets on their phones," according to Darren Rovell of ESPN.com. The Heat are the first team in the NBA "with mobile-only entry." The T'Wolves and Cavaliers are among teams that have "mobile-only ticketing, but they permit fans to use a driver's license and credit card to get in." The Heat said that it "decided to adopt the system after finding that roughly one in three fans entered with a mobile ticket last season." The ticket on the phone is "still transferable." The Canadiens drew heat last month after announcing a similar change to digital-only ticketing" (ESPN.com, 8/10). NBC Sports Bay Area’s Ray Ratto said, “If they don't have a backup plan for this, then I think you're going to make a lot of angry fans.” NBC Sports Bay Area’s Monte Poole: “Just because one-third of your fans are doing this, I'm not sure there's a rush to make 100% of your fans to do it.” NBC Sports Bay Area’s Kelli Johnson added, “This is also a way for them to monitor their fans and get valuable information on who is sitting in that seat” (“The Happy Hour,” NBC Sports Bay Area, 8/10).
The Indians' trade for Mets RF Jay Bruce on Wednesday added $3.7M to the team's payroll for the rest of this season, and manager Terry Francona said he hopes Indians Chair & CEO Paul Dolan is "getting a lot of credit" for green-lighting the move, according to Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland PLAIN DEALER. Francona said of Dolan, "He's kind of taking a big bite right there and don't think we don't appreciate it. It's going to give us a better chance to win." Hoynes notes the Indians "opened this season with a franchise record" $124M payroll (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 8/11). The AP's Tom Withers noted Indians President of Baseball Operations Chris Antonetti also credited Dolan for "stepping up." Antonetti: "Ownership has been incredibly supportive in trying to put the best team possible on the field and gives us a chance to earn a postseason berth and advance to the World Series. This is just the most recent example of what's been a consistent track record for them in trying to do that, and providing us the necessary resources to try to make that happen" (AP, 8/9).
EXTENDING THE WORLD SERIES WINDOW: In Cleveland, Kevin Kleps noted the Dolan family is "being praised for their willingness to again take on salary during the Indians' extended championship window." The club's payroll was in the $50M range just six years ago, but the Dolans have "proven in the past that they'd spend when they thought the time was right." Kleps: "Coming off a World Series run and with a collection of solid-to-terrific players signed to reasonable, long-term contracts, there's no better period than the present" (CRAINSCLEVELAND.com, 8/10). THE ATHLETIC's T.J. Zuppe noted Bruce deal furthers the "death of a narrative perpetuated by years of frugal (and sometimes less than desired) spending by team ownership." The Dolans "promised to step up when the time was right." Zuppe: "With the club at least in position to make another run at a World Series appearance, ownership has done enough to warrant a second look from those that swore them off as cheap years ago" (THEATHLETIC.com, 8/10).
Jack White's Third Man Records has partnered with the Tigers "for a limited-edition vinyl record" that will be "available only as part of a ticket package" to the Sept. 24 game against the Twins, according to Brian McCollum of the DETROIT FREE PRESS. The blue-and-orange 7-inch was "manufactured at White's Third Man Pressing operation in Detroit and features a new song, 'Strike Out'" by the quartet of Brendon Benson, Ben Blackwell, Dominic Davis and Olivia Jean. The song was "inspired by the old urban schoolyard game of the same name, which Blackwell says his dad played in southwest Detroit." McCollum notes the record's B-side includes an interview with former Tigers CF Kirk Gibson conducted by White. Cover images for the record were taken by P Daniel Norris, a "hobbyist photographer." A portion of revenues will "go to the Kirk Gibson Foundation and the Detroit Tigers Foundation" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 8/11). ROLLING STONE's Jon Blistein noted White is an "avid baseball fan who threw out the opening pitch at a Tigers game" in '14. White in April released a song, "Battle Cry," for baseball bat maker Warstic, which he co-owns with Tigers 2B Ian Kinsler (ROLLINGSTONE.com, 8/10).
The Texans are holding training camp at West Virginia's Greenbrier Resort, and in N.Y., Ben Shpigel notes by "escaping the energy-sapping heat in Houston, the Texans believe they will train more efficiently, and with less strain on their bodies." Texans GM Rick Smith said that the measurements "gleaned by the team’s sports science analysts" have "already justified the move." However, the camp’s remoteness has "created logistical challenges, demanding of Smith and his staff more forethought when inviting free agents for workouts." The isolation has also "produced meager crowds" (NYTIMES.com, 8/11). In Houston, Jenny Dial Creech offers "reflections on a week in West Virginia" from Texans camp (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 8/11).
BRACE FOR TAKEOFF: On Long Island, Neil Best reports the Jets "would not say how many people signed up" for the team's “Boarding Pass” promotion before Wednesday's deadline. Fans with the promo pay $725 for the "usual 10 preseason and regular-season tickets, with a twist: variable locations, over which they have no control." The Jets’ "only promise is that the face value of the 10 game tickets will exceed $725." Tickets will come from "various sources." For example, lower deck seats "might become available because visiting teams or players do not use their full allotment" (NEWSDAY, 8/11).
ACROSS THE POND: In Boston, Andrew Mahoney notes Celtics and 76ers will travel to London in January for a regular-season game at The O2 arena. It will "mark the first time the Celtics have played a regular-season game in London, and the eighth time the NBA has hosted a game in London during the regular season." The Celtics' only other regular-season contest outside the U.S. or Canada came in '15, when they played the Kings in Mexico City. The Celtics also "participated in eight international exhibition games" (BOSTON GLOBE, 8/11).