Q & A with Jon Bon JoviRock star shows he's more than just Soul man

Philly News-19.02.2007

JON BON JOVI is many things to many people.

To most, he's a mega-rock star who continues to crank out hits.

To some, he's the boss; the owner of a successful franchise in the Arena Football League. He has three basic rules for his players: stay out of trouble, play hard and stay out of trouble.

And to a few, he's the guy that's helping build 15 houses in North Philadelphia.

Yesterday, as the Soul opened their fourth training camp, Bon Jovi sat down with the Daily News and discussed a variety of issues, including his aspirations on becoming an NFL owner, why the Soul have an awkward bye in Week 1 and what might cause him to never attend a Soul game again.

Q. What's your take on ESPN owning the rights to your league rather than NBC?

A. I don't mean this as any slight because I can already hear Commissioner [David] Baker calling to reprimand me, but in the grand scheme of things NBC was more about entertainment. ESPN is in the sports business. The exposure should grow across their variety of channels. Even if it's something as simple as ESPN Classic showing our playoff game from last year during off hours, people's awareness of our league will increase. We're in seven primetime games and they'll be able to do proper profiles to build stars of our league. There won't be 63 cutaways to the owner's box [to show Bon Jovi] during our games.

Q. Do you have any interest in becoming an NFL owner?

A. Sure. Everybody would love to be a part of that league. The reality of it is that you can buy a small European country cheaper than you can buy an NFL team, and you can't even buy an NFL team. There's two types of owners: the Mara family, the Rooneys - and then there's the Bob Krafts and Jeff Luries. Is it a dream? Yeah, I'd be lying if I told you I wouldn't love to have an NFL team. It sure would be nice not having to go door-to-door begging people to come to games and begging for sponsorship. But, at the same time, owning an NFL team is a whole different set of headaches and heartaches, I'm sure.

Q. With the Sixers and Flyers having down seasons, do you sense an opportunity to get your team into more Philadelphia households?

A. We're trying some different things, but I'm just preaching the same song: It's affordable, it's accessible, you're going to get that autograph after the game, but you're also going to see us on television. That's what differentiates us from the Wings and Phantoms and we're more affordable than the Flyers and Sixers.

Q. What's up with the Soul's bye in Week 1?

A. We had to take it. A big difference between AFL and NFL teams is that we don't own the venues. We are below the Sixers and the Flyers on the availability ladder [at the Wachovia Center], they get first cracks. We had two options: starting with three away games or opening with a bye. I said, we'll take the bye.

Q. Talk about the new AFL rule allowing for free substitution, rather than restricting coaches to one sub per position per quarter.

A. I refer to it as the Elway rule [as in Colorado owner John Elway]. I think it was brilliant of him. Free substitution increases the player pool exponentially. We're in a position now to draw players from NFL Europe, Canada and out of college. Now I can have a linebacker that doesn't have to have fullback skills. Players don't have to play both ways. It really just becomes indoor football.

Q. Are you worried about its effect on scoring, the primary marketing tool of the AFL?

A. It's hard for me to say. We have to make sure we have a great offensive line. Last year, [quarterback Tony Graziani] took a beating. In one game alone, he was knocked down 22 times.

Q. What's been the highlight of the offseason for you?

A. Getting the Philadelphia Soul foundation up and running and getting those 15 houses [in North Philadelphia] under construction.

Q. Talk about the decision to extend the contract of head coach Bret Munsey, who last year was your third head coach in 3 years.

A. He came in under a 1-year deal because he hadn't been a head coach. Halfway through, he was thinking about job security. But we were quite confident and comfortable with him. He is the kind of guy that I want running the football team. He's a no-nonsense coach who just needed the chance. He's a student of the game and a great representative of the organization.

Q. Which presidential candidate are you backing in 2008?

A. It's way, way too early for that. It's a long ways away.

Q. You were on tour during last year's playoff run. Any tours coming up?

A. I just finished an album, but I'm not going to tour. But I'm superstitious and feel like if I'm not there, they win. I'm one of those kind of guys that wears the same socks if we win. If they keep winning and I'm not there, I'm never going to a game again.