When you are in charge of a multi-billion dollar enterprise, as National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell is, your prime objective (indeed, your only objective) is to ensure that it keeps generating the billions. That means that any problem needs to be nipped in the bud, things must get settled quickly and quietly, and above all, nothing should be allowed to grow from molehill to mountain.
Yet, Goodell has managed to create a scandal of several months duration involving a team playing football games whose balls did not meet the league standard for internal pressure. Tom Brady, quarterback of current Super Bowl champions the New England Patriots, got himself a four-game suspension from the Commissioner this season for things done during last year’s playoffs. Brady went to court, and the judge there determined not that Brady was innocent but rather that Goodell had gone beyond his remit and authority under the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the owners and the players’ union. The suspension has been lifted. Goodell’s office has filed an appeal, but failed to request a stay of the lower court’s decision. So Brady gets to play right away to start this NFL season Thursday, Sept. 10 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
So, for his mishandling of Deflategate, Roger Goodell is the newest recipient of our Red Forman Dumbass Award.
(For those of you who havent watched the late and lamented That 70s Show, Red Forman was a curmudgeonly father and a hard-working Korean War vet who just didnt understand why his son and his friends behaved foolishly, so he had a term for them: dumbasses.)
Goodell had two goals, and he botched them both. First, there was maintaining the integrity of the game. Second, he was supposed to boost the number of dollars this coming season was going to bring in.
On the integrity of the game, New England played with under-inflated balls, which some have said makes it easier for a receiver to catch. Maybe. I have no idea. Here’s the point: In the NFL, teams bring their own balls to the game. This opens up a huge opportunity to tamper with the equipment to one’s advantage. It’s not quite like a casino letting players come with their own dice, but quite a way down that road. This should never have been the case, and if Goodell had been paying attention to rules and practices that undermine the game’s integrity, then he would have stopped it.
Since he didn’t, preventing the rule violation couldn’t happen. So, he had to punish someone. Here’s where most of the debate has taken place. Did Brady encourage others to let a little air out of the pigskin? Did he notice? Is he completely innocent? I don’t know, and I don’t care. Goodell’s office investigated and decided that Tom Brady needed punishing along with the Patriots organization. The Pats were fined $1 million and gave up two draft picks. Brady got the previously mentioned four-game suspension.
The Patriots fine is OK if you feel you need to punish them for too few PSI. Taking away draft picks and benching their marquee player is a punishment, to be sure, but it means that future competitions will not be on the level. Without Brady, teams not affected by Deflategate because they didn’t play the game in question, will benefit. This makes the four-game suspension a case of two wrongs not making a right.
As for maximizing revenue, having Brady on the field enhances the interest the public has in the game, and that turns into more money for the league, its teams and its business partners. Who wants to see the Rolling Stones without Sir Mick Jagger? Yes, a lot of people will still buy a ticket, a T-shirt and a $15 beer, but not as many as if Sir Mick takes the stage.
This whole thing could have been over months ago. Goodell could merely have fined Brady a shitload of money and explained that, in future, the referees would handled all the balls. Instead, we have a court case being appealed to prevent a player from taking the field this season as punishment for something he is suspected of doing last season.
Roger Goodell, you’re a dumbass.
Jeff Myhre is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.