It was 16 years ago that Paul Godfrey was getting serious about the business of luring an NFL team to Toronto.
On the advice of the late Don Weiss, his first strong contact with the league, Godfrey was introduced to an up- and-comer in the league's legal department.
What began as a cordial business relationship evolved into a friendship, one that the Blue Jays president has nurtured over the years.
Yesterday in a ballroom at the Miami Beach Convention Center, Godfrey was there to see his friend in action.
"In 1991, I tied my wagon to this star and his name was Roger Goodell," Godfrey said after watching the NFL's first-year commissioner in his state of the union address.
"I'm really proud of how far he has come."
Proud is only part of it. If there was ever an impetus to some day get an NFL team to Toronto, this is it.
As the NFL's chief executive almost always is in this press conference, he was again asked whether the league has any intention of expanding to Toronto.
As is always the answer, Goodell's essentially was: "Not now."
Godfrey can take more comfort in Goodell's version than Paul Tagliabue's, however, as he is convinced more than ever, that the league eventually will come north.
"I've always said it is (inevitable)," Godfrey said. "(Yesterday) was not the venue for (Goodell) to say it. You cannot divert attention away from the Super Bowl.
"But if you are going to go international -- and this commissioner is clearly thinking that way -- Toronto would be the No. 1 city for obvious success. Other leagues have tried and proven that."
Goodell did reveal yesterday that next year's regular-season game in London, England, will feature the Miami Dolphins and the New York Giants. It's a good bet that at next year's Super Bowl in Arizona, he will be announcing the teams for a game in Toronto in 2008.
But the big prize lies beyond that. Whether it is -- five, 10 or 15 years down the road -- Godfrey remains determined to make sure it will happen.
"I think ultimately Toronto has played its role quite properly," Godfrey said. "We've campaigned over the years for a Major League Baseball team, a major-league basketball team and a major-league football team. This is the only one that has not been filled."
Part of the reason was Tagliabue's reluctance to walk on the sacred gridiron of the Canadian Football League. There is already a sense that Goodell doesn't see it quite that way, however. He doesn't see it as being in the NFL's mandate to make sure the Canadian league survives in spite of itself.
[b]Goodell did the courteous thing and met with some CFL representatives this past month and the word is it wasn't all backslaps and best wishes. The tone, we hear, had some frostiness to it.
Imagine, after all, what Goodell must think about a pro league that doesn't have a commissioner of its own and apparently is in no urgency to find one. [/b]His words yesterday were carefully chosen and purposefully vague, just as they were about improved drug testing, affirmative action hiring and other hot-button issues.
"Toronto is a great city and I'm sure it would be a great host for an NFL team, but that's for another day," he said.
Forgive Godfrey for smiling at that. He has met the commissioner numerous times over the past decade and a half, both formerly and socially.
They've lunched in Toronto and New York and shared their view on the value of a new world order for the NFL.
"I wouldn't get into detail of any conversations I've had with (Goodell) even prior to his becoming commissioner," Godfrey said.
"But I'm a pit bull when it comes to chasing sports franchises for the city I grew up in and love, and I will continue to be that pit bull."
Godfrey seems addicted to the NFL like a crackhead loves the white powder.
godfrey needs to wake-up:
-the NFL wants a couple more teams in california b4 they move out of the US.
-rogers ( or anyone else in toronto ) isn't willing to pony up the money for a new NFL team.
-the government isn't going to help fund a new NFL sized stadium.
-the government of canada doesnt want an NFL team here.
-godfrey doesnt have the money himself to put a team in toronto, so he should just shut-up....he's like a begger askin for rich peoples spare change to buy a team he can't afford himself.
without money, a stadium and the governments blessing, this won't get done....go away godfrey!