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The National Football League is all about regression to the mean, and because it is the most powerful entity on earth (just ask someone who works for them), the weather will be as docile and obedient as everything else.
As the week progresses and this becomes a fairly uninteresting buildup to Sunday’s big quiz show, we are going to find that the owners have deputized Roger Goodell to crush the polar vortex, made sure that there won’t be any Artie Lange/Chris Culliver fun’n’games on Media Day, will see to it that Richard Sherman doesn’t have another pro wrestling flashback, and will spend his spare time flavorizing Friday’s State of the Me Address.
This has been, you see, a turbulent year for the league, between the increasing pressure for meaningful concussion monitoring and reduction, the officiating problem as the league tries to sea-change the culture of the sport, the ongoing controversy surrounding the Washington Things, the surprising drop in Super Bowl ticket prices, and the continued wrestling of money from the weak, the powerful and all humans inbetween. A plutocrat’s work, after all, is never done.
But Goodell doesn’t get paid 1.7 Peyton Mannings for nothing, and his performance Friday is expected to be as bloodless as it is nothing-to-see-here. He has in the last several years turned his Friday address into the rhetorical equivalent of punching a heavy bag filled with oatmeal, and since he can see most of the questions coming well ahead of time, he can put his lawyer’s training into practice and make the question punch itself out between the time it leaves the reporter’s lips and arrives at the business end of the in-house speaker system.
And since the weather seems to be sufficiently cooperative re: having to postpone or move the game (a longshot at best), the rest is relatively easy to muzzle.
The officiating issues will be handled by tweaking some rules and replay situations, and by Goodell sacrificing a goat each night to the gods who control Terry McAulay and his crew for Sunday’s game. A controversy-free event will allow the matter of the impenetrable playbook and the insufficient number of officials to die down until the owners’ meetings, which gain far less attention.
Sherman seems sufficiently chastened, and we are sufficiently Sherman’ed out, for that to be no issue at all, and Goodell has passive-aggressive’d the matter of Danny Snyder’s nickname pathologies to the point where the league has become an almost innocent bystander in the eyes of most folks who care about the issue. Snyder has taken the brunt of the abuse, which is of course fine by Goodell, and as long as Snyder doesn’t either cry uncle or notice that he’s the only one catching the grief for his obstinacy, the league will sit back and let inaction reign supreme.
The falling ticket prices, albeit those on the secondary market, will be boxed neatly as a one-time glitch caused by the unsubstantiated weather scares (for which the estate of Benjamin Franklin will be sued in state court some time next month, we are sure), and it will be hyperbusiness as usual next year in Arizona and the year after that in Santa Clara, when the gouge-a-thon celebrates its 50th iteration.
The only thing that can ruin the remorseless march toward normalcy is a bad game, a controversial game, or some key player arrests between now and game time (and the last such event, Barrett Robbins’ Tijuana meltdown in 2003, has chastened the bold and the loopy alike since then – or it’s caused teams to heighten internal security).
And in the meantime, Goodell watches the Weather Channel and smiles knowingly. After all, if the Arctic Circle wants an NFL franchise some day, it will have to play ball this weekend. In the mothership that is professional football, it’s all quids, pros and quos.