Friday, August 7, 2015

Roger Goodell's Cult Of Personality On Shaky Ground

"You gave me fortune, you gave me fame;
You gave me power in your old God's name.
I'm every person you need to be;
I'm the Cult of Personality." - Living Colour

Benito Mussolini stood on a balcony, arms folded in an exaggerated motion and high up on his chest puffed with arrogance, jaw hard-set, lips pursed, head nodding confidently as if affirming his magnificence, his entire body absorbing the adulation of hundreds of thousands of his adoring subjects...

The charismatic Adolf Hitler whipped his throngs into a preternatural, undulating frenzy, speaking softly and pausing for effect at the beginning of his addresses, building to a fever pitch that transcended time and left his audience begging for more. Jack Kennedy had Jacqueline and together they brought the romanticism of the mythical Camelot to an American public that needed to believe that royalty existed.

But Mussolini had no stomach for Hitler's racism and Hitler had no use for Il Duce's lack of intestinal fortitude and failures on the battlefield - Kennedy had no use for the doctrine of either, and was still dealing with the fallout from their failures when some freak blew his brains out on a late autumn day in Dallas.

And that's one of the the few things that any of them had in common, besides the undying support and admiration of their countrymen at the height of their reign, that they all persihed by the bullet. Kennedy was assassinated and Mussolini was executed by his former loyal blackshirts and strung up by his ankles at a gas station in Milan so that his former subjects could desecrate his lifeless body.

Hitler was the only one that went out on his own terms, eating a .22 slug as Joseph Stalin's Red Army bore down on his Berlin bunker - each sent young men to war, each have the blood of their generation - and of millions of human beings - on their hands.

In the grand scheme of things, and compared to the backdrop of history dripping with the blood of millions, the corruption and propaganda campaign of a commissioner of the National Football League seems petty in comparison. After all, no one is dying by his hand, his subjects have jobs and plenty to eat and when they lose a battle, well, there's always next week or even next year.

But that doesn't change the fact that this commissioner, Roger Goodell, and his leadership style smacks of the former of the aforementioned political figures - a literal Cult of Personality, defined as arising when an individual makes use of mass media and propaganda to create an image for himself as heroic and worship-worthy...

...and while it is extremely unlikely that Goodell will meet the same fate as the others in relinquishing his throne, it goes to figure that as the walls close around him, his propaganda campaign against the New England Patriots and star quarterback Tom Brady exposed as a fraud, it is nevertheless true that many in the media and fans alike are calling for his ouster.

At issue, of course, is his consistent mischaracterization of Brady in meting out punishment on the certain Hall of Fame quarterback, using the media to "leak" half-truths and outright lies in order for the public to regard him as a hero of the people, the man who brought those "cheating" New England Patriots down - and now that he's been busted through his own short-sightedness, his empire is starting to crumble around him.

But what causes this? Why did Hitler find it so important to deceive his people into thinking the German Army had the enemy in its grasp when, in fact, the Russians and the allies were on his doorstep? Why did Mussolini wrap himself in the Italian flag and introduce failing societal programs for the poor to motivate the rich to surrender their foreign assets and gold to line his pockets?

Why did Goodell tell the world that Tom Brady was involved in a conspiracy to gain a competitive advantage in football games, and turn what should have been a simple fine to the team into one of the most perverted displays of totalitarianism in the history of sports?

To a degree, all public figures exhibit symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder - or, if you'd rather, Malignant self-love - in that they maintain a feeling of self-importance, are obsessed with fantasies of fame, requires excessive admiration and constant affirmation, feels entitled, is devoid of empathy and is envious of others as he feels others are envious of him...

...displays arrogant and haughty behaviors, is exploitive of and uses others to meet his agenda and is certain that he is misunderstood, except by people who share his high status.

To be sure, Roger Goodell manifests many of these symptoms, or at least enough to be diagnosed by a mental health professional - and not just Goodell, as many of his underling executives seem to live vicariously through him, and his association with law firms seem to be based on them employing lawyers that provide him with exactly what he wants, regardless of the cost.

Do we know for sure that Goodell suffers from this disorder? All we can do is assume when corroborating with the DSM manual, but there is every chance that he could have just been put in a tough spot by his people, and forced him to either throw them under the bus to make it go away, or to cover up their mistakes by persecuting Brady and the Patriots.

This is a far more reasonable scenario, though Goodell has proven that he's not adverse to throwing people under the bus, nor could he be considered noble enough to take a bullet for his team - and we may never know what compelled Goodell to fabricate this incredible tale of the greatest quarterback in the history of the league having general knowledge of his equipment handlers letting air out of footballs.

It could be any of the aforementioned scenarios, or none at all. But one thing is certain, and there's no getting around it: Roger Goodell is in a heap of trouble.

So what happens to Il Duce? Is he fated to resigning under pressure from the league's franchise owners, or even removed via impeachment? What about his henchmen? Kensil? Blandino? And what about Ted Wells? The Judge in the case before him has a vested interest in keeping lawyers to the highest standards, and the Wells report that implicated and indicted Brady was such a sham that even his contemporaries are ashamed of it.

But the player's union and the players themselves have to accept some blame in this mess as well.

The players for 31 of 32 teams ratified a Collective Bargaining Agreement that gave Goodell absolute power to discipline players as he saw fit, within well-set law, and also the power to act as arbitrator in the appellate process, meaning that he could hear the appeal on a penalty that he handed down, which is akin to Goodell having his cake and eating it, too.

Bob Kraft, owner of the Patriots, was a driving force in getting the CBA pushed through by "kicking the lawyers out of the room", effectively eliminating the opposition for Goodell and placing the players representatives without representation themselves - and also for going to bat for Goodell back in 2006, helping him to gain enough owner votes to make him commissioner in the first place.

Little did they know at the time what a monster they were creating by allowing the CBA to be ratified as it was, as the players were simply tired of the work stoppage and wanted to get back to playing football - though to be fair, the players for the Pittsburgh Steelers refused to sign, fearing the kind of power the CBA was going to give Goodell.

All of this said, what should happen to Goodell?

Simply, the best answer is to allow him to continue on as commissioner, but with an amendment to the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Under United States Code Amended, 29 U.S.C.A. subsection 158[d], the two parties in an active Collective Bargaining Agreement can amend such agreement by actively bargaining and coming to a mutual decision. The owners, for whom the commissioner works for could mandate bargaining on this scale to modify Article 46 of the CBA to ensure that the commissioner can not hear the appeal of a punishment that he handed down...

...and also that he must present a list of well-set law to follow, precedence and limitations to what a player or team can be punished for in respect to certain infractions.

To simply fire Goodell and his henchmen won't eliminate the problems inherent - and it's not as if the commissioner hasn't bettered the league through his economic structuring, promoting and television deals that provide every team with equal rationing of the $7 billion in revenue generated through his work, such a significant amount that each team can pay their players' salaries, travel expenses and front office salaries for the entire league year.

Goodell is an economist, not a lawyer. In a perfect world, he would be the Chief Financial Officer of some major corporation instead of the commissioner of the National Football League, but this is far from a perfect world. The best solution is to amend the CBA and force Goodell to represent the league with honor and integrity instead of allowing him to run amok with a heart full of entitlement and a head full of delusions of grandeur.

Mussolini didn't deserve a second chance and neither did Hitler. John Kennedy never even got through one term of his reign and one never knows if he would have gotten to a second - but Roger Goodell isn't responsible for war crimes, and isn't even the leader of a country. He is a commissioner of a sports league, and shouldn't have as much attention as he brings on himself...

...but that's how a Cult of Personality works, and in the end, if there must be such a thing, and should Roger Goodell survive this filthy saga, shouldn't we expect that our revered commissioner act more like a benevolent president and less like a tyrant?

"I sell the things you need to be;
I'm the smiling face on your TV.
I'm the Cult of Personality.
I exploit you, still you love me;
I tell you one and one makes three,
I'm the Cult of Personality"



  1. The thing that weighs on me is the rift in the owners, it would seem it is not just Hitler but the entire Axis and we stand alone more like England suffering though the blitzkrieg of negative publicity.

    We need to form the Allies but don't know who they would be.

    1. John, I appreciate the context, as I see you view history much the same as I do. The allies would have to be formed of the owners who would be afraid of the same thing happening to one of their players or, worse, their entire team. There needs to be reform to the CBA and, thankfully, there is a legal precedence to follow.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment!