The Problem with Goodell


October 31, 2010

Yeah, I’m angry. I’m angry about the new “enforcement” of the tackles against “defenseless” players rule. I’m angry, but not for the reasons that you may think.

I understand that at all levels of football, there is a movement to reduce head injuries. Good. I’m all for it. By all means, make the game safer. However, it can be done within the confines of keeping the game the way it was meant to be played.

Here is my problem: In Roger Goodell, we have a commissioner that has neither the experience nor the ethics to enforce this rule.

Let's look at the ethical problem that we face with this enforcement. Goodell has been adamant in his push for an 18-game season. He wishes to do this by eliminating two preseason games. You see, Goodell notices all those empty seats at the preseason games, and that monetary calculator that he had installed in place of an actual brain starts counting the missing revenue in each seat. Therefore, his logical conclusion is to extend the season.

Now the commissioner would have us believe that with every hard hit he now places one hand over his heart and gets teary eyed over those poor young men in which he is emotionally vested. Excuse me why I stick a finger down my throat.

Goodell knows that an extension of the season by two games raises the risk of injury to a starting player by approximately 15%. While talking out of one side of his mouth about how much he cares, he is pushing an agenda that is detrimental to the health of the players. His hypocrisy is amplified by the fact that he is using this new enforcement as actual leverage for adding two games. By his logic, the crackdown on hard hits will enable players to play more games. Again, he ignores the fact that not all hard hits are illegal and that more games will take a greater toll on the body of EVERY starter, not just those who receive those hits.

Perhaps Goodell’s lack of ethics is even more obvious in the fact that after being approached over and over again into investing more money into post retirement pensions and medical plans, he has balked every time at placing any of the billions of dollars of profit into helping players after they leave the game. If he is so emotionally vested, then where is the sympathy and support for those players who spent a career making the NFL the most lucrative sport in the world? The NFL has no problem cashing in on the DVDs that celebrate the hard hits these players inflicted or received while playing, so please explain how a person with even the slightest bit of morality can not only ignore those players now, but also wave a tear soaked hanky at those same sort of plays made last week.

The newest decision coming from the commissioner’s office is just another arbitrary ruling made by a man who is painfully showing his lack of practical football experience. Make no mistake about it, a commissioner who had played the game would have approached this issue in a different way. Goodell would have us believe that every time the head of a defenseless player is hit, it’s a penalty. Even the most casual of fans know that NFL football is played at such a level that it is impossible to stop trajectory, or predict how the ball carrier is going to react. If this ruling is all about “following the rules”, then enforce the holding calls that hamstring defensive players. Goodell is not going to do that. It was never any more about the “rules” then it was about “caring”. It's about justifying his agenda.

Be prepared for the result of the pressure that is going to be laid at the feet of the NFL refs. There is no way that Goodell will allow the brunt of this ruling to continue to be piled at his door. You can bet that he has already spoken to the head of officiating and mandated that they start enforcing his ruling. From the viewpoint of the fan this is going to mean we will have to endure refs (who are only human) to make educated guesses as to what just happened in a bang-bang play. Was it a hit to the shoulder or the head? With the right amount of pressure applied by the commissioner, the refs are going to err on the side of job security. That means a 15-yard penalty and an automatic first down for every “guess” made by the officials. This is the end result of a commissioner that has no idea of how to differentiate between the inherent violence of the game and a legitimate intent to cause harm.

No one wants to see players injured. Anyone who pretends to think that there is a portion of fans who do is simply building a strawman argument. What fans want is a commissioner who is less arbitrary and less money driven. Let all the decisions that come out of Goodell’s office be less about how he can put finances before
fans, and all of us will be able to take the medicine, knowing that it's sweetened with good intentions.

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