Ahh, yes, Friday. The day we’ve all waited for during Hell’s Super Bowl. The day Roger Goodell explains why exactly he should be ... well, anything.
And especially this year, when whatever dribbles forth from his mouth will be greeted with great boxcars full of derision, laughter, scorn and violently upraised middle fingers. That’s how spectacularly he has taken the difficult job of being the underboss for 32 billionaires and turned it into a paint factory fire.
He is regarded by much of the outside world as a screeching liability, even though nobody believes he will actually lose his job, which is why the job is so nonsensical to begin with until you realize what the real duty here is.
He is a human shield, taking the abuse so that the Billionaire Boys Club doesn’t have to. And the hour we endured Friday, in which he tried to look penitent and concerned and human while keeping his faceplate bolted to his neck-and-forehead pegs, was another brilliant tour de force. He threaded the needle between playing a semi-pliant press corps with local questions like teams in Los Angeles and Europe and questions about whether he is in fact Robert Kraft’s yard dog. He looked commanding and feeble, strident and befuddled, and everyone will make fun of him as ineffectual and stupid when in fact he nailed the landing again.
He took the heat so they don’t have to, and they are happy.
They are also happy, of course, because the league continues to rake in vast nationloads of money. Tickets for this Super Bowl sailed past $10,000 in the secondary markets, the ratings Sunday will be absurd, people will ogle Katy Perry, and everyone will call the winner the greatest team in the history of the sport...
...and Goodell can go back underground for six more months of winter, shadow or no shadow. The owners win again, because the game of running this league is fixed all ways to Sunday. And yes, we know this to be true despite Goodell’s dismissive answer to Rachel Nichols’ questions about the league’s rich history of conflict of interest.
Indeed, this presser played as poorly as the last few, in that Goodell’s natural default position, the one he goes to under pressure or when the session reaches beyond 20 minutes, is dismissive arrogance.
It plays poorly, and if he doesn’t recognize that, he either holds it to his tin ear or he is speaking to The Audience Of 32. When he was asked about whether he deserved a pay cut, he kicked the ball back to the owners, and closed his answer with a properly grovelly, “and I don’t argue.”
They liked that. They all liked that, from the superannuated members like Dan Rooney, Bill Bidwill and Tom Benson to the relative children like Mark Davis and Jed York. He always makes sure to know his place as it pertains to them, and Friday is just the annual reminder of it.
In that way, no matter what else you read or hear anywhere else, he nailed his address ... as long as you don’t take seriously phrases like “be a positive contributor to society,” or “the NFL is made up of good and caring people.” What else is he going to say? “We plan to be the same money-grubbing leeches we’ve always been” or “We’re the same kind of people we’ve always been, and are you going to finish the rest of your sandwich?”
And since the NFL has gone past the hearts-and-minds stage of its development to Robert Klein’s supply-and-demand classic “WE have all the supply so we can demand whatever the ---- we want” stage, Goodell hit every mark his bosses asked of him. If we believe it should be anything else, we are being ridiculously naïve, if not out-and-out silly.
Even Nichols’ question, which had to be asked even knowing she would get the contempt-drenched response she got, has to be viewed in that context. Goodell’s owners would have said the same thing to her, only privately, more forcefully and with a greater reliance on obscene phoneme fricatives. If they deigned to speak to her at all, which they wouldn’t have.
For them, though, it was the second best answer of the day -- except maybe for his romantic answer to the question about the $25 billion revenue goal. That was surely their very favorite part.
As you, they and he knew it would be.