How much shattered faith is due to Goodell?

by Gary Shelton on February 1, 2019 · 0 comments

in general

Friday, 4 a.m.

Okay, he's a tool. He's overpaid, and he strong-arms the players, and his sole purpose in life is put another dime in the pocket of another owner. All of that is true.

To a fault, he thinks he's right all of the time. He doesn't explain himself or his league very well. In his attempts to identify with the common fan, he seems disingenuous or, worse, duplicitous.

On the other hand, Roger Goodell didn't interfere with anyone.

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Given the insistence of the world to lay the blame for the blown call in the NFC title game, people seem to miss that point. He wasn't guilty of a helmet-to-helmet collision with Tommylee Lewis. He wasn't the referee who blew the call, and he wasn't the offensive coordinator who called the pass and he wasn't the defensive coordinator who called the coverage.

Yet, once again today, Goodell is the NFL's Mr. Wrong, the one in the cross-hairs of the controversy. He's the one the Saints fans are angry at, and he's the one the Rams' fans are thankful four, and he's the one who Sean Payton is using for a shield to mask another playoff failure.

After all, he's convenient. He waited too long to make a statement about the human factor in games. He's the one who indicated he had talked to Saints' players when he had not. He's the goofball in charge, and his league has goofed again.

Never mind that Payton blew a 13-0 lead, or that the Saints still got the go-ahead points on that drive, or that he's 4-5 in the playoffs since 2010. This is someone's fault, by golly. Let's blame Goodell.

And let's face it. Goodell doesn't exactly make you want to defend him against all critics, does he? He's always considered himself a hanging judge, at least as far as the courts will allow, and his history of making a muscle at the expense of the players is a long one.

In some ways, Goodell reminds you of another guy in power, a guy who bends reality to suit his storyline, a guy who is hard to trust, a guy who is hard to believe in. You know. Donald Trump.

Oh, Goodell has won his unpopularity one decision at a time. Ask yourself this question: Do you trust the NFL to do the right thing? More and more, fewer fans do.

There was Ray Rice. There was Greg Hardy. There was Tom Brady. There was Zeke Elliott. There was Jameis Winston (maybe the only case Goodell won convincingly). There was Spygate. There was Bountygate. There was Deflategate. There were the anthem protests.

And every step, Goodell seems to offend a few more fans.

I've said it before: You wonder why Goodell insists on being sports' version of The Punisher. Why not just have a league representative, a union representative and an at-large representative to seek judgement, and Goodell can go back to naming his yachts and acting like royalty.

This one, though, is different. No one seems to be debating the call anymore, or the game, or Payton's clock management, or Greg Zuerlein's amazing leg. They just want to rattle the cages over Goodell, who was watching in a booth at the time.

It's as if even the most jaded fan realizes there is no justice to be had. There is only anger, and Goodell seems to invite a good bit of it into his home. There is nothing he can say, really, nothing he can do. Saints fans don't want his empathy. They are wounded, and they want to howl.

And where better to place their anger?

That's why they jumped on Goodell when he suggested he had talked to Saints players, although the Saints players say no, he didn't. Here's the question: Why didn't he? Why not call Drew Brees and Payton and Michael Thomas and a few others? Why not ask what they think the league can do? Why not, unless you think you're above their responses?

Personally, I think Goodell is largely responsible for the reaction he has received. He destroyed the evidence the league had in Spygate. He wasn't open enough about Deflategate. It wasn't his fault he lost the Hardy case (that was a judge's work), but he didn't satisfy Dallas fans with Elliott.

The end result is that more fans than ever believe they've been done wrong by the NFL commissioner. There is a crisis of faith in the league. It's bigger than a defensive back interfering, and it's bigger than a referee missing a call (actually, two).

It's the fading credibility of a sport that needs credibility most of all. A common man has to believe that the powers demand fairness, or what's the point?

Now, days before it's biggest game of the year, the league could use a little faith.

Unfortunately, the commissioner's office is fresh out.

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