On the one hand, Roger Goodell recusing himself from the New Orleans Bounty Dance judging panel is good thing.
On the other, replacing himself with his former boss, Paul Tagliabue, is not.
On the third hand, maybe this is a step toward getting Goodell out of the prosecutorjudgejuryappeals court business, which is a good thing.
And on the fourth, maybe its also a sign that commissioners should either be paid by both players and owners so impartiality has a chance to flourish and absurd hatefest impasses can be minimized.
Nahhh. Thatll never work.
But it should. Either that, or the commissioners job should be temped out to some hiring hall that also furnishes court reporters, actuaries and consultants. I mean, in the last few years . . . well, lockouts, actually . . . weve seen through the veil and now understand that commissioners get paid not to oversee the game but to take sandwich orders from the owners and kick the players union in the groin on command.
Thats why they get booed every time they pop up in public, a festival a Whack-A-Mole that gets the mole paid in eight figures every year. And they get the job so that some owner doesnt have to be the mole. That alone is worth 10 extra large a year.
But you can see we already are exceeding our jurisdiction on the news that Goodell has decided to get off the HMS Bounty and concentrate on things that dont make him look so . . . well, relentlessly vindictive, high-handed and bullying. I mean, its nice work if you can get it, but it wears on a fella after awhile.
Goodell became a national villain over the last year or so, which was not part of the master plan when he took the job. He came in, punished a few miscreant players, and everyone cheered. Then he became the face of the lockout, and fewer people cheered. Then he got stuck neck-deep in the ongoing hilarity that is Louisiana politics, football style, and suddenly he looked like the hall monitor whose shorts ride up periodically so he takes it out on the students.
This, even at his magnificent salary and benefits, is not what he signed up for. And while hell still have to be the public mean guy so that Bob Kraft can go on pretending to be kindly old Uncle Bobby, some issues become a cavalcade of diminishing returns.
So, confronted by the knowledge that he was becoming caricatured as what he essentially is the owners beat cop, with all the objectivity of a Chicago ward-heeler he decided to pass this particular cup of merlot-gone-vinegar to Tagliabue, who used to be commissioner when being the commissioner meant a lot more invisibility.
Tagliabue was indeed the Bowie Kuhn of football, someone who tried to keep the demands of the job from lapping too forcefully at the door of his summer house. The commissioners job at the time was in many ways not much more powerful than being an owners cabana boy, and Tagliabue wasnt really asked to address the tougher questions of the day. He was a head, with someone elses figure.
But Goodells ascension meant more out-front work, more hands-on adjudications, more kicking the union into line, that sort of thing. He looked good doing it, and people largely approved.
The funny thing about being the front man, though, is that the sins of the invisible superiors eventually start becoming part of the front mans wardrobe, and then believabilitycredibilitysupport starts to rust and flake off. The New Orleans thing had become too much a drain on Goodells other work on behalf of his superiors, and people were beginning to sense that there was something inherently wrong with the arresting officer also being the chief justice of the Supreme Court.
So he passed that on to the guy he used to work for, and ultimately Tagliabue will get a nice little retainer for doing what Goodell would have done anyway. The process is still no more neutral than it was before, but at least Goodell doesnt end up looking quite so bad.
Until the next stupid thing one of his bosses clients does. Thats the thing about the job. Theyre not paying that kind of jack for any old P.R. work; and when the P.R. isnt going quite as good as you like, you either change the lineup, or you really change the lineup.
So think of Tagliabue in this instance as Colin Kaepernick. Hes getting a play, not the starting quarterback job. You still get the 49ers, for good or ill, but its something to change the mood a little.