Roger Goodell and the owners who plan to extend his contract have identified the three tasks he is to tackle in his remaining years as the Kick-Me sign of the National Football League, and they show exactly what the owners don’t get, and why their doom continues apace.
According to Jenny Vrentas of the MMQB.com, Goodell spoke at something called, modestly enough, The Year Ahead Summit and listed his updated in-box contents as follows:
1. Negotiating deals with new media.
2. Extending the current labor deal.
3. Setting up a succession plan.
In other words, moving the product increasingly outside the axis of the network television empires; putting the skewers to the union one more time; and finding someone who wants to be the next him at a suitably lower price.
In OTHER other words, focusing on the business and the palace politics, looking inward when the sport needs to look beyond its narrow, avarice-fueled present.
It is yet again more proof that whether Goodell is or is not the commissioner in 2020 isn’t the point. That’s inside-the-beltway navel-gazing usually made by people who think everything is fine, the problems are just politics, and the black smoke seeping into the air ducts is nothing to worry about.
What IS the point, is brain trauma and what the league intends to do about arresting the idea that it makes brain trauma instead of combats it. What IS the point, is diminishing youth football participation because parents see Issue A. What IS the point, is the scope of player advocacy in an angry political climate. What IS the point, is diminishing viewership by the next generation, and disenchantment from the elder generation. What IS the point, is the growing sense that franchises are severing their ties with the cities and regions in which they operate. What IS the point, is the sense that football is considered less important than the care and feeding of the magnates and oligarchs by the magnates and oligarchs.
But no, they (and in truth we) have been distracted by Jerry Jones and his raging-bear-in-a-a-vat-of-baby-oil coup attempt, because taking sides between Jones and Goodell is a nauseating Hobson’s choice that makes the NFL v. Ezekiel Elliott look like a children’s bedtime story.
The NFL has given is a cavalcade of issues in which there is nobody to root for and a panoply of characters to root against. While that anti-hero plot dodge may have worked for The Sopranos, the Sopranos ended more than a decade ago, and the culture and the nation is lurching violently toward something else – something that may or may not include football.
That’s what Goodell’s job actually should be -- figuring out the future -- and then it will be the job of his successor. But until the job is redefined to understand that, this is just a juicier-than-normal story of unchained deck chairs and political backstabbing, of which we already have plenty more than we can eat.