PHOENIX — Perhaps Roger Goodell is a riot at Billionaire Canasta Night at the Kraft compound.
Perhaps the NFL commissioner’s default public personality — snooty, defensive, unable to process the concept that anyone outside of his tax bracket would dare question his authority — isn’t an accurate representation of the real man.
Perhaps there’s an actual human inside that expensive, serious suit, an actual human with actual human emotions. But the sample size that suggests otherwise continues to grow. During his press conference here on Friday, the face Goodell showed was an all-too-familiar one in this NFL season of relentless controversy.
He tossed around buzzwords that surely were cleared with a fleet of flacks before he took his place behind the podium with just the right stoic pose, all insincere sincerity. He told us about humility and integrity and progress and learning experiences. He showed no indication that those words meant anything to him beyond their value in presenting an image of something he will never be.
He did not talk about his beloved Shield, but as always he stood as the shield for the owners to whom he is indebted his $44 million salary, all the while tirelessly talking about the fans, whose passion for this sport is unyielding despite his numbingly inept leadership. It’s a wonder he didn’t emphasize that silly and awkward NFL slogan, “Together We Make Football.” Must have been an oversight in the script.
He told us he talked to the media almost daily, a particularly bold claim given that he disappeared into his ivory tower, presumably the one on the Maine coast, for weeks when the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson disasters reached peak chaos. An occasional meetup with Peter King for chili does not count as talking to the media.
He suggested that commercials in which famous people, including an two-time Academy Award-winning actress, cry on cue for the cameras, signifies some sort of heartwarming progression with the league’s domestic violence crisis. I suspect Goodell admires them because they can fake emotion so effectively and get paid lots of money to do so.
Oh, and he barely mentioned those two words beyond his opening statement. It’s as if resisting saying domestic violence beyond an obligatory first reference will make them evaporate from our vocabularies. If only I could make the peasants forget why they should loathe me, how beloved I would surely be! Hmmm. Maybe Hilary Swank could give me an acting lesson. She seems worthy.
The only time we saw beneath the I’ve-got-this facade is when CNN’s Rachel Nichols, who has become an admirable and justified chronic agitator of Goodell’s this year, asked him about the conflicts of interest among his “independent investigators.”
Rattled and apparently lacking a prefabricated talking point, he defaulted to his haughty how-dare-you mode, asking her with effortlessly mustered smugness whether she would be willing to pay for an independent arbiter.
Goodell wants us to believe he is transparent — with his intentions, with his personality, and especially with matters of the league, including investigations that come in large part from him being anything but transparent. But the only true transparency occurred when Nichols asked a question he did not care to address and his misguided pride overwhelmed the calculated and well-practiced pretense. Then and only then did we see the real Roger, presuming that is not a total oxymoron.
Don’t know about you, but I’ve stopped giving a damn about what he says at these Buzzword Festivals. What I really want to hear is what he says afterward, when his roving pack of together-we-make-horsebleep, we-fooled-
’em-commish speechwriters and lackeys gather to discuss how well the whole charade went over.
Our best hope for truth? That someday, in the moments after he finishes addressing one hubris-inflicted crisis or another, he leaves his microphone on.