Introducing the new NFL Commissioner: Santa Claus

September 28, 2012, 5:21 pm
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Programming note:Ray hosts his weekly chat on today at 12 p.m.Now that Roger Goodell has been reduced to JASIAS Just Another Supervisor In A Suit it may be time to reconsider not what a sports commissioner is, but what he (or she) should be.We know what a commissioner is, and we knew it well before the hilariously stupid NFL officials lockout. A commissioner is a front man for the franchise owners, and always has been, because the owners pay for him to be so. He does their bidding in all matters, and while Goodell pretended with some early success to be a lawgiver and molder of policy, his work in the players and officials lockouts revealed him to be Gary Bettman, or David Stern, or Bud Selig at half the cost.The guy who stands up and does the heavy lifting for the owners agenda, but who has little independence or freedom of action on his own.We can rehash the officials fiasco if you like, but we think you already get the gist of that. The owners sacrificed the product for an ideology (kill off all pensions) and an infinitesimal amount of money, and the customers cared about the product. Theyll put up with a lot, including the fact that players sacrifice far more short- and long-term health than they realize in playing, but the game itself better not be screwed with in any real way.RATTO:Referees-NFL labor dispute downgrades GoodellThe replacement officials did that, through no actual fault of their own, and that was it. Those people who waited for Goodell to step in and fix the issue forgot that he had already stepped in, on the wrong side, because he was obligated by the nature of the job to take up the owners desires, wrongheaded and stupid though they were.And the result was that pensions for officials will be phased out, but at the cost of Goodells public invincibility. He will now know what Stern and Bettman and Selig have learned the public believes them to be well-compensated hall monitors, the upper-management functionaries who tell you youre being laid off or having your hours cut so that the owner doesnt have to soil his hands.And nobody likes that guy. Nobody. Goodell lost a lot in these three weeks, to the point where he may be looking eye-to-eye with Bettman, who is now the front man for the owners latest player lockout. Most people who study the NHL know that the real problems here lie with the owners, and that the strategy of making the players pay for the owners failings is not a good enough reason to shut down the game again.And Bettmans reward for carrying their water is to be loathed for the act of carrying it. Just as Stern was during the NBA lockout, and Selig was when baseball went on strike as often as the Italian government.So if the commissioner has finally been revealed to even the most delusional of observers to be merely the owners version of a dean of students, its time to ask a question:Whats the point?If commissioners arent going to be paid by the owners and players jointly, they will always be owners lackeys, and as lackeys unable to convince the owners when theyre doing something shortsighted, stupid and damaging (like, well, you know). And if we all understand what commissioners truly are, why would we take anything they say or do seriously again?So we offer three notions.1. Let the players pay for half the commissioners salaries, and let them truly be neutral, fair-minded and influential. This wont happen, of course, because owners like this arrangement far too much, and because players never fight hard enough for off-field issues. If the owners need a front man for whatever they want to do, let it be one of them, so they can actually know what the outside world thinks of whatever it is theyre trying to do.2. Rather than name the commissioner in any player issue from now on, media people should merely substitute the word owners, or better yet, name each of the owners specifically. If that is too long and cumbersome, name the local owner or owners specifically in all stories, so they can enjoy the other kind of ownership the one called responsibility for actions taken. Outsourcing a blame magnet has run its course, and Goodells charred reputation is proof of that.3. Rename the commissioner to more accurately reflect his or her duties. TV rights negotiator, or First Lawyer, or Consigliere, or Designated Abuse Magnet would all be preferable.4. Or, most accurately of all, Santa. The commissioners true powers are that mythical, he has to do the heavy lifting that Mrs. Claus (the real boss of the operation) doesnt do, his job is doling out little rewards or punishments for behavior, and he is largely in charge of the bell-ringing and ho-ho-hos.Or just dont have one at all. If the myth of commissioners power ended when Kenesaw Mountain Landis died, we have been fooling ourselves for nearly 70 years now, and thats enough for even the hardiest of childrens tales.

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