RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
Most of the NFL preseason chatter is about what's going on off the field. Today, the action is in a courtroom for more deflategate drama between quarterback Tom Brady and Commissioner Roger Goodell. Our commentator Frank Deford wonders whether Goodell is the right man for the job.
FRANK DEFORD, BYLINE: In an odd way, the longer and more tangled that what has been called deflategate goes on, the more it becomes about the commissioner of the NFL, Roger Goodell, than it does about Tom Brady, whom Goodell suspended for four games, deeming him guilty for having some part in deflating footballs in a playoff. Today's hearing before U.S. District Judge Richard Berman does not directly relate to Brady's culpability. Rather, the question is whether the commissioner had the authority to act as he did.
Mostly, Judge Berman simply wants the NFL to take care of its nasty internal affairs and just go back to making more oodles and oodles of money. Yes, it's all very messy, but then that's pretty much how everything ends up that Goodell is asked to adjudicate. Not since an obscure general named William Eckert was elected baseball commissioner back in the '60s has the chief of any American sport been such an embarrassment as Goodell has. Eckert was mercifully forced to resign, the last of his breed to get the axe. And no matter how the Brady affair plays out, it must be apparent to the owners that when the dust settles, Goodell has be put out to pasture.
Unlike Eckert, who was a total outsider - oh, my God, they picked the unknown soldier, one observer cried out - Goodell was the ultimate insider, rewarded by the NFL owners for being, well, a good soldier. His is a classic case of what in schools they call social promotion. Now in the Brady brouhaha, Goodell stands behind a league investigation. It was billed as an independent inquiry, a claim itself opened to debate. Brady, meanwhile, under oath, maintains total innocence, which, like the trumpeted independence of the league's inquiry, strikes me as what Huckleberry Finn politely called a stretcher.
Anyway, the end result is that the commissioner has concluded that his league's golden boy is a flat-out liar. So whatever happens from here on out is not going to change that unpleasantness. No, it has not been a sweetheart year for the NFL. It was the season the Super Bowl was not won by heroics but was lost by stupidity. Instances of the players' domestic violence keeps filling lurid headlines. Former players cry out for help, suffering brain damage. Deflategate drags on in perpetuity. But then, nothing seems to deflate those oodles and oodles of money that Commissioner Goodell and his owners rake in.
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