FAKE DEATHS, TRIALS BY INSTAGRAM AND KNUCKLEHEADED CAREER MOVES HAVE MADE THIS AN NFL OFF-SEASON ONE TO REMEMBER. THESE CRAZY STORY LINE SHAVE SET UP ANOTHER WEIRD AND WONDERFUL SEASON AHEAD ON THE GRIDIRON.
The NFL returns, with more Aussies but less Jarryd Hayne! Plus: why college football is beer than pro.
a bloke who supposedly had died, Roger Goodell is, well, surprisingly alive. He doesn’t simply have a pulse – he has a personality.
On June 7, the NFL’s Twitter feed contained a shocking snippet of breaking news: “We regret to inform our fans that our commissioner, Roger Goodell, has passed away. He was 57. #RIP.”
A hacker group called Peggle Crew claimed this bit of genius, and it took Resurrected Roger only a few hours to post a proof-of-life photo and a pithy, un-Rogerlike response on his own Twitter account: “Man, you leave the office for 1 day of golf w/ @JimKelly1212 & your own network kills you off. #harsh.” He was probably smiling when the NFL told him that his Wikipedia page was briefly changed to announce that his cause of death was “deflated lungs”.
Reconfigured Roger carried his new persona to the NFL Draft in Chicago, where he was vociferously booed every time he took the stage. By the time the fourth round started on the third day, he appeared to have become a WWE caricature – laughing, waving his arms above his head and shouting, “C’mon, bring it on! There you go! There you go!”
And why not? Rich Roger has raked in compensation totalling US$180 million since 2005, and had a salary of $34 million in 2014 – the last year for which his salary will be public, now that the NFL has forfeited its tax-exempt status.
And the league has never been healthier from a financial standpoint. It’s a $10billion-a-year monolith, and if Goodell’s projections are correct, that number will be $25 billion by 2025. Each of the 32 teams will get $226.4 million apiece this year simply for existing, courtesy of $7.2 billion in television revenue, up from $3 billion in 2010.
There doesn’t appear to be anything he could possibly do to mess that up, because the public’s thirst for the NFL is insatiable. He’s been doing a lousy job of protecting The Shield, as the league refers to it, but it doesn’t matter. If the NFL was an orchestra, it wouldn’t need a conductor, and it could play Beethoven’s Symphony No.9 with kazoos and trash-can lids.
He seems to understand that. Asked in the midst of a scathing concussion debate about the dangers inherent to the game of football, Recalcitrant Roger blurted out, “There’s risk in everything. There’s risk in sitting on the couch.”
In May, the US Congress issued a 91-page report that says the NFL reneged on $16 million in funding for a concussion study that will seek to diagnose the condition Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) in living patients.
It got worse on July 1 when a federal judge denied a motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by more than 1500 ex-players, alleging that all 32 NFL teams illegally obtained painkillers and intentionally peddled them to players without explaining the potential side effects – all in the name of expediting their return to the field and generating more profit. The discovery phase of the trial will begin, and the discoveries are likely to paint the NFL in a very bad light.
Will Redoubtable Roger maintain his undaunted exterior in the face of unrelenting criticism? That’s one of the many compelling storylines for the 2016 season. How will it play out? Read on …
Roger Goodell: unliked, but has The Shield in gold-plated shape.