You never quite fully realize how dirty you feel about the NFL, until you shift your attention away to the other three major sports. Now that baseball’s always thrilling October post-season is underway, I took a moment to think about how I view Rob Manfred and MLB.
And sure enough, just like I look at the NBA and the NHL, I view the leagues as honest, neutral brokers. Sure, they want to make lots and lots of money, just like the NFL. Sure they want publicly financed stadiums – where possible. They want to play one TV network off another for maximum rights fees. And of course they want to open up additional revenue streams via digital, social media, merchandise and such, and even have eyes on international expansion.
Yet none of the other leagues are nearly as slimy as the NFL and Roger Goodell. Not even close.
For starters, each of the other three commissioners has a brain. And they are readily available to normal media opportunities (press conferences, and non-handpicked one on one interviews) and handle themselves with nimble mind, self-awareness, and general honesty. All three are accomplished lawyers who would be capable executives outside of their sports.
Goodell? Hah. Right.
He’s the fair haired idiot of a United States Senator who wrote a letter to the league and got an internship right out of his modest undegraduate degree from a little known college. Bing bang boom… and he’s now somehow making $43 million a year.
The NFL is now at the point where lying is what they do best, and they do it instinctively. They lie about things large, and small. And the dishonesty has so drenched the entire bureaucratic empire, that even when you KNOW you saw something happen – the league will swoop in to tell you: “Oh yeah? No, no you didn’t.”
That’s what happened Sunday in the Browns-Redskins game. A colossal officiating screw up, initiated embarrassingly enough by the league’s feel-good social engineering experiment – Sarah Thomas, aka: “Pretty Girl Ref!” – went uncorrected by the league’s vaunted (and expensive, and multi-layered) replay system.
Determining if a wide receiver got both feet in bounds, when he’s flying past you at incredible speed, while maintaining full control of the ball “through the completion of the catch” is hard.
Fumble recoveries are not.
You see who has the football, and point in the correct direction.
And yet, there was Ms. Thomas – a wonderful person, I am sure, and with some degree of officiating experience I’ve been told – botching the call in the most absurd way possible. There was the running back who fumbled, HOLDING THE BALL ABOVE HIS HEAD, while Thomas was looking at a pile of nothing on the ground, and boldly getting the call absolutely wrong.
From there, the typical corporate ass-covering began to accelerate at lightning speed. Her fellow referees – complicit in the error – must have decided that it’s not good for their careers to show up the league’s famous “Pretty Girl Ref!” and just went with the call.
The eye in the sky, likely did the same, all the way up to the vaunted “Command Center” in NYC where Dean Blandino – the man who rules the universe! – sits as God before his bank of monitors. The play stood, and the coverup formed like skin on soup getting cold.
(Note: My spies at FedEx Field said there was a large group of VIP women who were seen taking photos with Ms. Thomas in her referee outfit after the game. Which makes sense. She’s as much a marketing asset, as a side judge!)
The bullshit explanation after the game, was that “no clear angle” showed the ball being recovered by the Browns.
Like I said to start this whole thing: this is the league that lies.
And it’s a league that has proven – hello, Deflategate – that it will “die with the lie.” No matter what the cost in dollars, credibility, or reputation.
Not only is it maddening beyond belief to invest so much time, energy and money into being a fan of your team, only to get completely BONED by inexcusable errors on the field, followed by Three Stooges caliber incompetence by the replay system meant to save the day. But it’s also beyond insulting to have the league continue to lie to your face, and call YOU stupid for not understanding the rules better.
That’s what the NFL is all about now anyway. Visuals. Optics. “Look at how progressive we are! A female ref! A gay linebacker! The Rooney Rule!” And now, the Kaepernick Knee-Takers.
The NFL isn’t going away, or going broke, or going to lose it’s Top Dawg status anytime soon. But the bleeding HAS begun. We’ll see if, or when, it gets bad enough for somebody with a brain to find a tourniquet.
A good place to start, would be the truth.