I see people are drawing the incorrect conclusions from the cancellation of the Hall of Fame Game Sunday night due to massive incompetence by the groundskeepers and makeup artists in Canton and typically lousy customer service from the NFL. Lots of rage and scorn and fist-shaking and “who’s responsible for this outrage?” stuff.
Wrong, wrong, wrong and, might we add, wrong. Losing a showcase game due to the inability to monitor the earth upon which it is played is actually a good thing, you see, and for people to criticize it makes no sense if you’re looking at the bigger picture, which is this:
The more crises the league bollixes up, the sooner people will finally weary of the operation and demand changes by doing the one thing that scares the industry more than anything else.
Withholding their presence, and by extension, their money.
The Hall of Fame Game between . . . oh, who gives a damn . . . was cancelled because the Fulbright Scholars who painted the field used a kind of paint more reminiscent of the kind hawked relentlessly by the Flex-Seal guy. The players and organizers agreed that nobody should have to play on a freshly paved gridiron, the fans in the stands got soaked with non-refundable charges for admitting their lives are empty husks that can only be filled with a fresh infusion of meaningless football, and it ended up as football’s version of the MLB All-Star Game that ended in a tie – only worse.
Now how is any of this bad?
The game is like the other 64 practice games – a scrimmage that could easily be held in a secret location for all the value it possesses as entertainment. The only thing it manages to do is squeeze more money out of people already football-taxed to their limit, all in the ongoing effort to make sure everyone remembers how important football is even when it isn’t. Thus, any game that isn’t played for any reason is a net win for society.
Second, that the league couldn’t manage to make the game work is another dent in its already ravaged image as The Company That Can Never Be Wrong. It has been wrong a massive number of times on a hilariously high number of issues, and its only effective defense is the unstated but indisputably factual assertion that “football is heroin and you need your fix, and we’re the only ones with the junk, the needles and the alley space.” The more it comes to rely on this at the expense of matters like, say, competence, the sooner it will have to face its growing list of inadequacies honestly and forthrightly.
Just one more brick in the wall, kids. One more brick in the wall.
And third, it may help smoke out commissioner Roger Goodell into admitting the truth about his regime, which is this:
“I work for 31 billionaires and an entire city. They want things done this way, with the long-term goal always being the short-term money, and I and my colleagues figure out the ways to make that happen. I make money for them, they approve of that, and they pay me a ridiculous sum to continue to do that. I am not responsible for a lot of the ills of the sport, but I am responsible for making sure that you ignore those in pursuit of the next money-generating opportunity I can help create for my bosses. Now why don’t you take your impertinent and whiny little questions over to Jerry Jones and Stan Kroenke and Dan Rooney and Bob Kraft and bother them for awhile? I’m late for my ermine cape fitting.”
The Hall of Fame Game cancellation accomplished none of those things – it was, in the end, a punch in the stomach to someone wearing a chest protector. We are still at the stage where the NFL cannot actually be embarrassed enough.
But we don’t know where that third rail actually is until the league hits it, and frankly, we need the folks who bring us the NFL to touch that rail and get the high-voltage education they desperately need, and that we can sit back and enjoy while keeping our wallets right where they belong – safe from outside interference.
Because that’s entertainment too.