Sunday, September 21, 2014

Goodell missed another opportunity

NEW YORK - The NFL's version of Groundhog Day was Friday in Midtown
Manhattan when embattled commissioner Roger Goodell emerged from his self-
imposed exile, albeit 17 minutes late, and finally addressed the scandals
enveloping the league he is entrusted to lead.

There has been no confirmation as to whether or not Goodell saw his shadow but
don't except Jane Skinner's hubby in front of a group of national reporters
swimming like sharks again until the league's fall meetings, unless of course
there is some way to clone Peter King.

"Hey Roger, nice tie. How come you're so great?"

This is not about bashing house organs for the league, though. This is about
pointing out the latest in a stunning series of miscalculations that prove
beyond a shadow of the doubt that Goodell is not fit to carry the flag for the
fledgling FXFL, never mind the world's post powerful professional sports
league.

On one hand, you have to feel for Goodell. He's broken no laws and logic says
he's certainly not responsible for the actions of grown men who do bad things.
Moreover, the public really needs to stop looking to the NFL as some kind of
moral compass and start looking for the answers to deep-seated societal issues
in far more meaningful forums.

That said, it's hard to strike up serious empathy for a man who responds to
those unfair circumstances by being disingenuous, evasive and almost
stunningly incompetent.

During his 40-plus uncomfortable minutes at the podium, Goodell tried to play
a game of three-card monte with his target audience, leaning on the now tired
and cliched "I got it wrong on Ray Rice narrative" before pledging to now "get
it right" without any real substantive steps to get there.

Some of the proper buzz words were used. Lip service was paid to things like
transparency and due process before being diluted with contradictions moments
later as Goodell laid out a plan that was anything but.

"There will be changes to our personal conduct policy," Goodell claimed. "I
know this will happen because we will make it happen. Nothing is off the
table. They will have a set of clear and transparent rules for league and club
personnel, owners and players. My goal is to complete this work by the Super
Bowl."

Here's the thing, though, and what others aren't telling you. There was no way
Goodell could have stepped to that microphone on Friday with a concrete plan
to address the league's problems with domestic violence or any other
peccadillo you may find abhorrent.

Those things needs to be hammered out with the other side and the NFLPA's sole
reason for existence is to get the best possible deal for its constituents,
and that's doesn't always mesh with the Boy Scout Oath.

There is unquestionably a Pollyanna-like vision of what the NFL, and for that
matter society as a whole, should be and it's spearheaded by a group, while
admittedly well-intentioned, lacks the ability to grasp nuance.

You can call it the declarative-statement crowd, Keith Olberman-types fond of
jumping on the soapbox and spewing out absolutes which certainly can't be
collectively bargained in a week, if at all.

Instead of calling those idealists out, however, Goodell sought their approval
with empty rhetoric.

"The same mistakes can never be repeated," Goodell pledged while ironically
echoing his earlier miscues in this process. "We will do whatever is necessary
to ensure that we are thorough in our review process and that our conclusions
are reliable. We will get our house in order first."

This press conference should have been about education, laying out the NFL's
goals and explaining not only how the league is going to get there but what
steps are needed to accomplish the end game.

That strategy may not have satiated those whose only intent is bashing the
league at all costs but it would have helped illuminate the majority which has
an open mind and is willing to listen.

Instead Goodell's performance was a shell game, a tap-dancing act with the
lone goal of keeping that $44 million stipend by playing defense and hoping
the next news cycle captures the attention of CNN and FOXNews quickly.

The commish failed, however, because he handles his job the same way he
piloted the Rice investigation, on the fly with no long-term vision.
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