How to Punch Commissioner Roger Goodell in the Mouth
The cheers that Gene Steratore and his officiating crew received in Baltimore Thursday night were unprecedented. Usually, it would be the Ravens (and, prior to 1984, the Colts) that would have received the hero’s welcome coming out of the tunnel.
Instead, it wasn’t just Ray Rice and company that were showered in love. Steratore, co-owner of a sanitary supply company with his brother, received adulation akin to a rock star playing a stadium.
This Sunday, the likes of Ed Hochuli, Mike Carey, Ron Winter, and others will receive similar ovations, followed by several weeks of diminishing cheers from a crowd that lived through one of the NFL’s most unnecessary and bizarre chapters.
The referee lockout, as everyone knows, reached a fever pitch on Monday night, when the Seahawks defeated the Packers after a miscall the likes of which hadn’t been seen since the Giants/49ers playoff debacle a decade ago. Only difference is, in 2002, that was about a penalty. This time, it was about possession.
Within 36 hours of the incident, Chris Mortensen of ESPN was already reporting that the resolution to lift the officials’ lockout was nearing its climax.
This after months of no budging, and week after week of the players, coaches, and fans suffering through bargain-basement officiating from men (and one woman) not qualified to judge a pie-eating contest at the fair.
Make no mistake, it wasn’t the play itself that suddenly made Roger Goodell speed up the negotiating process and make more concessions, oh no. It wasn’t Golden Tate’s now-controversial catch, one that will be replayed on Top Ten specials long after we’re dead that forced the Commish’s hand.
It was the public fallout.
See, you and I don’t matter to Roger Goodell. We’re football fans. We’re going to watch on Sunday no matter how much he undercuts and dilutes the league.
It’s the OTHER people, the non-diehards, that he’s worried about. Those of casual interest, the ones that MIGHT watch on Sunday, but also MIGHT NOT watch on Sunday.
Think about it: Goodell, ever since becoming the commissioner, had a mandate which was his baby. He instituted the Player Conduct Policy to rid the league of public hooliganism and general scum-baggery.
Less than 3 months after this policy was put in place, Pacman Jones (nightclub shooting), Chris Henry (multiple arrests), Tank Johnson (weapons charges), and Michael Vick (dogfighting ring) were all condemned to suspensions of varying length, and all publicly dragged through the muck for their wrongdoings.
This type of policy wasn’t so prevalent when his predecessor, Paul Tagliabue, served his 17-year tenure as commissioner. But Goodell, he’s a different animal; the kind who likes to assert himself, and look strong, no matter what the circumstance.
Looking strong, that’s Goodell. And with looking strong comes a strong public image.