Q&A with Philadelphia Soul owner/rock star, Jon Bon Jovi
Jon Bon Jovi should be living it up like the rock star that he is right now. He has a rare day off from touring and he's pacing around his plush digs in Miami with the vibrant Florida sun beaming through the windows around him. With South Beach at his fingertips, however, he opts to stay in and talk football. That's what happens when you're the owner of the Philadelphia Soul, one of only two undefeated teams left in the Arena Football League.
Bon Jovi will take a break from his world tour on Monday night to fly to Philadelphia to watch his 8-0 Soul play the 7-0 Dallas Desperados in the first meeting between two teams with a record of 7-0 or better in league history.
After taking a call from AFL commissioner David Baker ("It's going to be crazy at the Spectrum," says Bon Jovi), the only owner in pro sports with a Grammy and Golden Globe to his name sat down with SI.com to talk about possibly adding an Arena Bowl ring to his collection later this year.
SI.com: You're probably the only person I've ever met excited to leave South Beach for South Philly, but it's for a good reason. Tell me what this season has been like for you as the owner of the Philadelphia Soul. Was there a turning point for you guys going from 8-8 last season to 8-0 so far this season?
Bon Jovi: The offseason acquisitions were the turning point. The holes we had were obvious so we set our sights on exactly what we needed. We needed a great, star receiver and Chris Jackson was going to be available, so we said he has to sign with the Soul. We needed a great back-up quarterback because Tony [Graziani] got hurt last year and that's when the team fell apart. We were lucky to get [Matt] D'Orazio. Then we made some other acquisitions and I was even scratching my own head saying, "Oh Lord, what if this guy is not better than that guy?" A classic case is Tony Dunn instead of Idris Price, who was a great locker room guy and a great team player. But coach knows best and the decision was made and I couldn't be happier. So we knew after the playoff loss what the goals were and thank God coach [Bret] Munsey and his staff have met those goals.
SI.com: Offseason meetings, setting goals, meeting goals, you sound very much like a typical sports owner. What's the biggest difference between being a fan of a team as opposed to being an owner of a team?
Bon Jovi: Well, it's a multi-million dollar nut every year, that's for sure [Laughs]. That's an interesting question you ask because being a fan of a team, you get upset if your team loses. Being an owner of a team [a loss] will cripple you, will knock you to your knees. When one of your guys get hurt you feel his pain, you think of his family, you think of his livelihood. I'll give you an example. Graziani took a cheep late shot and he's been out for four weeks. He came in for a quarter last week and shut it down again. All I thought about was the man's livelihood, about his wife and two boys. That's how magnified everything becomes when you own the damn thing. It takes great passion. Look at me, I'm sitting here talking to you on my day off, I should be sitting by the pool right now in Miami.
SI.com: How has being an owner changed your life?
Bon Jovi: It has changed my life immensely. Truthfully, when I got into this five years ago, I thought I'd have a foot long cigar and walk around saying, "Come here kid. Go away kid." You know, it would be one of those vanity projects that would probably go away in a minute. It would be like fantasy football for a rock star, but then like everything else I get involved in, I give it my all, regardless of the outcome. Then I really started to think about sports ownership much differently than most people do. A lot of times it's the bottom line with folks and they did for financial gain or they did it for power in their community or to be one of the 32 kings of the NFL. When I got involved in this, right from the inception, I didn't care if you were a Bon Jovi fan or if you liked football, I thought everyone had soul. Then when I compounded that and said, "Wait a minute, there needs to be an umbrella for philanthropy." I want us to be a difference maker in this community. There are now 60 families off the street and have a house to call their own because of the Soul. That's pretty great when you consider the scale of the dollars and cents that we make. It's all encompassing when you realize you can really change people's lives, you can make a difference, all under the guise of football. So, it has certainly changed my life.
SI.com: How do you balance playing rock star and playing owner at the same time?
Bon Jovi: It's very difficult. I tell you the honest to God's truth because I'm feeling the pain in my vocal chords right now as we're talking. I sang my ass off last night in Nashville and then when out with Big & Rich [Laughs] and then I got up way too early this morning and flew here to Miami and there's just so many hours in a day and it's not easy. It's not easy to wake up tomorrow morning for a speaking engagement and then play to 20,000 people tomorrow night, but it's the life I chose. It's all right by me.
SI.com: Getting back to this game on Monday night, it's against an undefeated Dallas Desperados team owned by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. As a Giants fan, you won over skeptical Philly fans by saying you all had one thing in common -- you're hatred for the Cowboys. Now, I heard that the Jones family gave you a tour of the Cowboys' new stadium when you were in Dallas last week and that you spent some time with Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo after your concert. So what gives?
Bon Jovi: I still hate the Cowboys. That doesn't mean I hate Tony Romo or Jerry Jones or Charlotte Jones or Stephen Jones. I love and admire their family immensely. In fact, I'll tell you something for the first time. The truth of the matter is I probably wouldn't have signed the contract to buy the Soul had I not had a meeting with Jerry Jones. Having a football rivalry is cute. That's sports. But I went out of my way to make sure the entire Desperados and Cowboys organizations were invited to my show in Dallas. So Romo was there and [Desperados quarterback] Clint Dolzell was there and the Joneses were all there. We're all buddies. They took me over to see their new stadium. But, you know, after all that nonsense they know damn well not to mess with me when it comes to my football. I bleed blue. [Laughs] So they'll come out and we'll razz each other but the minute it's over its all hugs and kisses and let's go get a beer.
SI.com: You're good friends with Bill Belichick from his days with Giants and have gone to see him a number of times at Patriots games and practices. What was the Super Bowl like this year? Did you root for your team or your friend?
Bon Jovi: It was very hard. In fact, while you're talking to me he's ringing me in my back pocket just now. [Brief pause as he checks his cell phone.]
SI.com: Do you need to get it?
Bon Jovi: I'll call him back. You know, he's an old, old friend of mine. I met [Belichick and Bill Parcells] in the mid-'80s when they were with the Giants and they allowed me to be the mascot for years so we've stayed close. Whatever team he's gone to, Cleveland, the Jets, New England, I've kept in touch. I've gotten to know Bob Kraft well over the last five years and he wanted us to play at their post-Super Bowl party, but we had just flown in from New Zealand and it was very, very hard for me to make a choice. So I opted not to go, I stayed home and watched it. At 6:18 pm, I told my friend that I will come out of my bedroom wearing the jersey of my choice and I came out wearing my Giants blue. Even Belichick said to me, "Head coaches can come and go but the Giants will always be."
SI.com: Is it pretty normal for Belichick to hit you up?
Bon Jovi: Oh yeah, yeah, I got a couple of pals like that, but Belichick is a real buddy of mine, we've been friends for 20 years. I'm still pissed at him for not coming out here on the road and hanging with us, but we're going to get together next week in New York.
SI.com: Knowing Belichick like you do, what's your take on this whole "Spy Gate" situation?
Bon Jovi: Hey, here's how you'll know I'm a close friend of the organization. I don't talk about the organization. I'm not allowed to talk about the organization. I will not talk about the organization. Have I been prepped properly?
SI.com: You're also a big Yankees fan. Would you compare yourself to Steinbrenner at all when it comes to being an owner? I'm of course referring to George, not Hank.
Bon Jovi: [Laughs] My wife begs me. She says, "You're a good enough actor, why can't you get a Steinbrenner face. You know, just be stoic in the box." I'm much closer to [Mark] Cuban, but I'm not on the sidelines yelling at referees and doing that kind of stuff, I leave that up to [Team President, Ron] Jaworski, but I am a very emotional wreck up in that owner's box. I have lost my cool on more than one occasion up there but just because I care so much. I think they should have a contest where me and Cuban have to watch our teams play and not move and see who flinches first. I think it would be really hard for he or I to last long.
SI.com: Being as emotionally and financially invested into this team as you are, what would winning the Arena Bowl at season's end mean to you. Where would it rank with some of your other accomplishments and awards?
Bon Jovi: Oh, it would be up there. It would be really, really high; it would be up there with winning the Golden Globe and getting nominated for an Oscar. I built this from nothing. I did this when everybody said, "Don't do this. Why are you doing this?" Well, everyone except my wife who asked me, "Are you going to love this?" and I said, "Yeah" so she told me, "Then why are you listening to anyone else. Do it."
SI.com: I know the Spectrum and the Wachovia Center serve as the homes of the Soul, but if Bon Jovi were a team, Giants Stadium would certainly be its home. What are your thoughts on Giants Stadium being torn down in 2010? You always close out your tours at Giants Stadium, do you plan on having a couple last shows there before it's demolished?
Bon Jovi: Actually I'm not going to do it this year. We always end every tour at Giants Stadium, but we're going to do Central Park this year. That hasn't been announced yet, there you go, we're doing Central Park. I think it's a great stadium, but in this day in age when it's all about those sky boxes and those revenue streams, I could see why they would want to get rid of it, but it's too bad. I think it a great place and a great place to play and I have nothing but good memories there.
SI.com: You have a handful of songs you play at every show without fail. Would you ever retire any of them? Maybe play it one last time at Giants Stadium and hang it up like a retired number?
Bon Jovi: Oh no, I'm not ready to retire Livin' on a Prayer, Wanted Dead or Alive, It's My Life or any of those. I'm really not. I even have an affinity for Runaway and that song's older than you. So I'm OK with most of those old hits.
SI.com: Is there an event or a stadium you haven't performed at that you would like to at some point?
Bon Jovi: I would have liked to have played Yankee Stadium, but I never had the chance because they would never give anyone the license to do that. I would like to play the halftime at the Super Bowl I haven't done that yet.