Ray Ratto

Goodell's contract extension talk is proof the NFL's doom continues apace


Goodell's contract extension talk is proof the NFL's doom continues apace

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.

One useful takeaway from this seeming madhouse of a weekend in NCAA Tournament


One useful takeaway from this seeming madhouse of a weekend in NCAA Tournament

College basketball peaked last week, as it typically does. There were 52 games, many of them hilariously delightful, only a few of them viewing slogs, and the sturdiest pillars of the narrative temple as it relates to the remaining 16 teams are:

* A 98-year-old nun who also functions as an unpaid assistant coach.

* A head coach who curses on air, gets soaking wet after wins and confesses that he worries about peeing himself on the sideline.

* A new version of the old debate about whether your view of Syracuse’s zone defense defines you as a basketball fan.

* Your dead bracket.

The nun, the glorious Sister Jean of Loyola Chicago, is new, and so is Eric Musselman (except in northern California, where he’s had pretty much every available pro job). But Jim Boeheim’s murderous zone defense, which he has employed since the Hoover administration, remains the litmus test about how you like your college basketball served.

Think of it as your AARP ID, if you must. It’s old-fashioned, it isn’t easy to watch, but it works.

And all the fun of a bracket that has more teams below the 4-seed than at or above it . . . well, Week Two is when most of that traditionally self-corrects. Even this year, there is the very real possibility that the gutty little underdog in San Antonio could be . . .

. . . wait for it . . .


And no, this is not the proof that the selection committee got it wrong. Not that they got it right – they’re pretty much not qualified based on work experience to do the job anyway, and their ability to ignore logical criteria at will to get a desired team or result is a long-standing tradition of this three-week bacchanal.

But if there is a useful takeaway from this seeming madhouse of a weekend, it is that it is not yet a sign that the revolution is underway or that the meek are inheriting the earth. If you ignore the seed math and look at the names next to the seeds, you still see the same basketball powers. In other words, the bracket will normalize as it always does, the power in the sport is never far away from the seat of that power, and those of you who root for the meek – well, your hope that charm can beat muscle rests on Eric Musselman and Sister Jean.

And the NCAA Tournament is not the vehicle to bet that prop.


For the moment, the Pac-12 is the Mid-American Conference


For the moment, the Pac-12 is the Mid-American Conference

If you’re a progressive thinker, the only thing that can save the Pacific 12 Conference from the grossest form of humiliation is for one of the six schools it sent to the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament – Cal, Stanford, Oregon, Oregon State, UCLA, Arizona State – to make a deep run. In Stanford’s case, to become the first four-seed to win a title.

If you’re a more desperate type, it is to hope that Oregon, Stanford, USC or Washington wins the NIT. Nobody will know it, but we did say “desperate.” And if you need to get to Utah in the Women’s NIT . . .

Well, you get the point. The Pac 12 is the first conference to bow out of the NCAA Tournament before the first weekend since the Big 12 was first formed in 1996-7. And because nobody remembers this sort of stuff year to year, it wipes out last year, when the conference went 9-4 and sent Oregon to the Final Four.

And when we say “sent,” we mean no such thing. In the NCAA Tournament, and in college sports in general, teams achieve. Conferences just get their cut.

Still, as the college sports industry is still covered based on the rules of tribalism, where the keeping of scores breaks down by laundry first and then by affiliation, the Pac-12 has been historically God-awful, which for things referencing the deity is a considerable stretch. Not only did they send only three teams to the NCAA Tournament and saw them evaporate before Friday dawned, they were 1-8 in bowl games, the worst record of any major conference since forever.

Plus, there’s the FBI, plus there’s the ongoing sense that the Pac-12 is the last of the Power 5 and getting worse, plus there’s the fact that it isn’t in the Southeast or Midwest, where this stuff really matters.

But we noticed it on Thursday because people kept bringing it up, especially after Arizona was owned by Buffalo despite having the putative top draft pick in DeAndre Ayton and specifically because a Sean Miller-coached team was so poor defensively.

And now comes the fun of watching the 12 conference university presidents panic as the other presidents make fun of them in the mahogany playground in which they all play. And don’t think that doesn’t happen. College sports is a big business played by kids for the financial benefit of older kids who keep score on things like this.

So the women start Saturday, and in a just and fair society that would get sufficient attention and play enough games to make the conference members feel better about themselves. We don’t have that society yet, so for the moment, the Pac-12 is the Mid-American Conference, and won’t get a chance to prove otherwise until December.

But hey, at least their task force on the structural future of college basketball was received . . . well, with a tepidness unknown to mankind. So yeah, they're on a hell of a roll.