And the NFL — don’t kid yourself for a second — is certainly King Roger Goodell’s kingdom, newly negotiated CBA or not. With the ol’ 4 p.m. on a holiday "weekend" press release informing media that the player discipline in the Saints bounty matter has been upheld, it’s hard not to respond with one word and one word only:
Was there ever any other possibility?
I can picture the scene now — Goodell on his NFL-shield emblazoned throne on Park Avenue, decked in shiny, new Nike NFL gear, being fed grapes by his senior staff and his newly formed army of ex-beat writers at NFL.com dictating a press release.
With disdain, he speaks in between bites of the finest fruits off the vine … “I want this word for word, everyone. Verbatim. And if it’s not verbatim … Well, you don’t want to know …” He then delivers the following passage to his staff:
“Although you claimed to have been ‘wrongfully accused with insufficient evidence,’ your lawyers elected not to ask a single question of the principal investigators, both of whom were present at the hearing (as your lawyers had requested); you elected not to testify or to make any substantive statement, written or oral, in support of your appeal; you elected not to call a single witness to support your appeal; and you elected not to introduce a single exhibit addressing the merits of your appeal. Instead, your lawyers raised a series of jurisdictional and procedural objections that generally ignore the CBA, in particular its provisions governing ‘conduct detrimental’ determinations …”
Someone — a potential brave soul, a possible dissenting opinion — speaks up, “But Commissioner …”
Everyone else in the room gasps for air. Would someone dare challenge King Roger’s ruling? Would someone ever question thee?
"But Commissioner" — you could cut the tension with a knife; what’s going to happen? — "But Commissioner, what fine hair you have! And this dictation! It’s splendid!"
Everyone exhales with a huge collective sigh of relief. No one would dare think to challenge the King, er, I mean Commissioner. Not now, at least. Not when life is this good!
All kidding aside, the 4 p.m. day-before-a-holiday press release is usually reserved for firings, suspensions, and altogether bad news. Jim Tressel was fired from Ohio State the Monday morning of Memorial Day weekend, 2011. NBC let go the guy responsible for the misleading editing of the George Zimmerman 9-1-1 call the Friday before Easter Weekend of this year. A 4 p.m. company-wide email or press release the day before everyone’s out of the office is never a good thing.
But, in some cases, those press releases are reserved for the blatantly obvious. And seven-month lockout or not, there was no way Roger Goodell was overruling himself on this one.
There are currently no formalized checks and balances system — no judge or jury — in Roger’s Kingdom. And though there were some rogue, renegade media outlets — ProFootballTalk, to name one — which listened to Anthony Hargrove’s pleas, let Scott Fujita say his piece, and heard Jon Vilma out — the three players’ challenges were ultimately muzzled and denied in the end.
They felt Roger’s wrath on Tuesday.
Don’t like it? Well, too bad, fellas.
And guess what? The rules of Roger’s Kingdom aren’t changing anytime soon. Not as long the NFL’s doing as well as it currently is.
TV ratings are as high as they’ve ever been, stores can’t keep the new Nike merchandise on their shelves, and the game has become an ATM in which every party involved has a working PIN since Goodell assumed the role of commissioner. If you thought the NFL was America’s national pastime before this season, just wait until 2012. The NFL Network is adding five more Thursday night games, ensuring all 32 teams play in primetime at least once during the NFL season. There’s also going to be a new Spanish-language "NFL RedZone" channel next season.
The NFL’s at the top of its game and the future is only getting brighter. Any mole, any blip, any blemish will be eradicated.
Any challenge will be thwarted.
Even if that means doing so via a 4 p.m. press release.