Saturday, February 14, 2015

A Charmed Life

It has been said that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell had a very bad 2014. That is much exaggerated.

Oh, yes, he had the best running back in the NFL, Adrian Peterson of the Vikings, charged with child abuse. (Peterson eventually pled guilty to misdemeanor reckless assault.)  The battering of his fiancee (degeneracy at a casino? my heavens!) by Ray Rice had proven to be the league's greatest scandal in recent years and especially for Roger Goodell, who at first didn't realize a two-game suspension might be a mite insufficient for a vicious assault caught on tape.

There were other NFL players, such as the Giants' Luke Petitgout and the Panthers' Greg Hardy, charged this year with some sort of assault, black eyes for the league. And there is the continuing problem of chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

The latest scandal to hit the NFL, obviously, is "Deflategate," in which 11-12 of 12 footballs the New England Patriots' offense used in its defeat of the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC championship game were found to be under-inflated.

Fortunately for the Patriots- and for Goodell's NFL- the Patriots annihilated (figuratively, not literally) the Colts that day, especially in the second half, played after the problem was discovered and rectified. That led observers, some posing as intelligent, to conclude that the increased pressure on the balls had nothing to do with the outcome, a curious assumption given if the discrepancy had been ongoing (as is likely), the Patriots might not even have been in that game.

And so the Patriots' victory in the Super Bowl, resulting (perhaps not coincidentally) from inarguably the worst significant play call in NFL playoff history, also was a great win for Roger Goodell. The league's investigation (such as it will be) of probable cheating will go on, though exonerating the franchise will be made easier by its unparalleled success and the canonization of quarterback Tom Brady.

There is a declining likelihood that Robert Kraft's team will be significantly punished- and a Super Bowl victory is a small price to pay for any punishment. Additionally,there may be a growing (though unspoken) realization that commission of child abuse and domestic violence are committed off the field and hence largely invulnerable to action by the league office.   That will be a plus for Goodell's reputation- but will pale in comparison to his great good luck in having these scandals completely overshadow CTE, the most significant, and by far most deadly, transgression of the league.

And now comes along another stroke of good fortune- or at least not the bad fortune it should be for the league's commissioner.  Luke Brinker of Salon sets the table with

Here’s a protip: When you’re putting together your professional football team’s calendar, it’s best not to feature a guy caught on tape making racial slurs for Black History Month.

But that’s just what happened with the Philadelphia Eagles, whose wide receiver Riley Cooper is the featured player for February in this year’s team calendar. This, despite video of Cooper spouting ugly racial epithets at a 2013 Kenny Chesney concert.

Cooper profusely apologized for his statements, pronouncing himself “ashamed and disgusted” with his conduct. The Eagles, obviously, kept him on, and it seems that the designers of the team’s 2015 calendar could think of no better month than one dedicated to the history and heritage of African Americans to spotlight him.

Apparently, David Duke was unavailable. Neither was Mike Huckabee's fav, NRA enthusiast and white supremacist Ted Nugent, available to commemorate May, the month of Martin Luther King's assassination.

At first glance, the calendar malfunction should be attributed to someone in the Philadelphia Eagles' organization who was sufficiently negligent not to review something, distributed to the public, with which the team is identified. (Video below of the completely clueless Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless. Keep shilling for the NFL, guys.) But it's far more than that, for ESPN reports

The Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday said they were not responsible for an unfortunate juxtaposition in the team's official 2015 calendar.

A photo of wide receiver Riley Cooper is featured for February, which is Black History Month. Cooper drew criticism nearly two years ago after an online video appeared in 2013 showing him using racial epithets during a concert.

"We do not oversee the production of the annual team calendar," the Eagles said in a news release. "We do not provide any input about the players who are featured or where those pictures appear in the calendar. The NFL licenses the production of that calendar to a third party, and we do not have an opportunity to review the material."

One Philadelphia-area beat writer for the team was right on top of the story with these tweets on his Facebook page:

Ed Kracz
February 12 at 6:06pm · 
Riley Cooper graces the ‪#‎Eagles‬ calendar for February. Why is this a problem? Read this:
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Ed Kracz
February 12 at 2:29pm · 
‪#‎Eagles‬ (cont): ... the production of that calendar to a third party and we do not have an opportunity to review the material.”
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Ed Kracz
February 12 at 2:28pm · 
‪#‎Eagles‬ on calendar: "We do not oversee the production of the annual team calendar. We do not provide any input ...
Like · Comment

Ed Kracz
February 12 at 2:26pm · 
‪#‎Eagles‬ release statement on snafu of having Riley Copper as poster boy for February on the team calendar. February is Black History Month
Like · Comment

Yo, Ed, do you think there was room amongst those 140 (times 4) characters for "NFL?" Neither Mr. Kracz nor the team may utter those three little letters.  The commissioner of the league that let the contract to the "third party" which produces team calendars is ultimately responsible, but his is a name that cannot be uttered.

Roger Goodell is getting a pass. He has, so far, gotten a pass for the prevalence of concussions in the NFL, and when he exonerates the NFL's King of Cheats for Deflategate- or announces a relatively paltry penalty- he will ride it out. Tough job, that Commissioner of the National Football League thing, and at only $43 million a year.

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