War Minus the Shooting: Alles Klar, Herr Kommissar?
I’ve never been much of a fan of American football.
As I detailed here and elsewhere, while I grew up an natural mark for practically every team sport that finds favor in the lower 48, football never took hold with me for a variety of reasons. Although the same set of noxious elements were present to a greater or lesser degree in every sport, football in particular seemed to embody almost proudly all the things I hated about organized athletic competition: the casual racism, the ranging misogyny, and the reflexive homophobia, none of which had any benefit whatsoever in the playing of the game; the rampant machismo that encouraged hazing and bullying instead of unity and team spirit; the bloated, hectoring consumer capitalism that forced a confusing hometown loyalty to muddle with the nakedly mercenary desires of a handful of utterly corrupt businessmen and that encouraged a conception of the labor force as both heroes to be lauded and overpaid punks to be scorned; and the way the sport was an obvious surrogate form of culture for the ignorant and warfare for the weak. The National Football League, to me, exuded all of the poisonous aspects of pro spots and none of its virtues — and that’s before I learned about stuff like their deadly lethargy about concussions, a standoffish attitude towards steroids that was possibly even more harmful than baseball’s, and the seemingly infinite depths of moral repugnance to which their owners would sink.
So, you’d think I’d be pretty happy, or at least flush with schadenfreude, over the current crisis in the NFL, with Commissioner Roger Goodell — a man with the moral sensibilities of a toad, the ethical outlook of a grave robber, and a talent for falsehood comparable to a boulder’s talent for being heavy — under fire for his handling of the Ray Rice domestic abuse scandal. The treatment of domestic violence by every major institution, from all the major sporting leagues to the entertainment industry to most local police departments — is notable for being a total fucking disgrace, but the NFL’s reaction, ranging from outright denial cringing excuse-mongering to Bitchdowne School victim-blaming to the inevitable spin control, once the facts were finally out, that was remarkable in the blatancy of its prevarication. While it’s hard to find any bright side in the act of a man pulverizing his wife’s face and dragging her unconscious body around like a sack of feed, it at least has illustrated the depths to which the commissioner — here as in every sport never more than a craven apologist for the pig owners and, by proxy, the worst of the profit-generating players — will sink to protect the assets over which he’s been given just enough control to protect, but never enough to reform.
Well, yes and no.
The fact is, all Goodell has accomplished is to prove that he’s the worst commissioner in organized sport, which is to say he’s the most malodorous dog turd in a giant steaming mound of stinking shit. I find other sports more enjoyable just because of their essential nature, and am as likely as anyone to buy into their self-designated hype: baseball, the perfect game; soccer, the beautiful game; basketball, jazz in motion; hockey, a useful welfare program for otherwise unemployable Canadian dunderheads. But each of them has a commissioner, too, and as in all sports, that commissioner is an absurdly overcompensated lickspittle who will become instantly jobless if he ever does anything to rock the boat for the life-hating plutocrats he is selected to defend at all costs. Baseball has Bud Selig, a crooked man of crooked nature who fiddles needlessly with every rule of the game he feels like fiddling with unless it’s something that truly demands progress; he held the reigns of the MLB and stuffed the pockets of himself and his cronies through any number of cheating scandals, disgraced himself and the sport through his intransigence with its labor union, did everything in his power to pretend that he’d never even heard of steroids or any other performance-enhancing substance, and dressed himself up in the corpse of Jackie Robinson to such an unseemly degree that one would think #42 was welcomed with open arms and smiles by every team in the league, instead of joining baseball despite the intense hostility of everyone in the sport including the man whose commissioner’s chair Selig now occupies. FIFA boss Sepp Blatter is a sexist, a thug, a homophobe, a petty dictator, and a crook of such spectacular proportions he makes most American team owners look like shoplifters. Adam Silver shows some promise insofar as he may become a quietly efficient apologist for power rather than a grossly incompetent one, but he was preceded as NBA commissioner by David Stern, a man whose willingness to blatantly interfere with the rules and processes by which the sport was governed on behalf of his billionaire benefactors was as well-kept a secret as Liberace’s homosexualty. And Gary Bettman, the National Hockey League’s top man, is a two-bit hustler who would embarrass even a two-dimensional cartoon of a used car salesman.
Still, the NFL has its own self-given motto: it is America’s game. And if we allow it the status of being the national sport — which, baseball’s more ancient claim to the title withstanding, it seems we must just based on its runaway popularity — then it must represent and embody the entirety of the nation in disgrace as well as in victory. So it is with the crimes of Ray Rice and their subsequent cover-up by organized football: every step of the way, no one involved with football has, excuse me for this glimpse of the inevitable future, acquitted themselves particularly well in the way they have reacted. George Carlin, who along with all his other virtues was an astute observer of sports, listed his scale of “miserable, shit-eating vermin” as follows: athletes, sports media, team owners, and fans, with fans — pardon me: “fat, ignorant, beer-soaked, loudmouth, racist white male cocksuckers” — at the very bottom, the worst of the worst. Old lefty that I am, I’m not so sure about that; sports, more than anything else, proves the old adage that owners are always scum no matter what it is they own, and the owners of NFL teams are shitbags of the lowest caliber, the kind of people pederasts would go out of their way to piss on in prison. Washington team owner Dan Snyder alone is as abhorrent a human being as is technically deserving of the designation, the kind of man who long ago would have been dispatched with a rusty axe decades ago if Americans hated avarice as much as they do some of the other seven deadlies. But no one has really shown their best side in this. The sports media, led by human vomitorium Stephen A. Smith and gassy, aging pork-bucket Mike Ditka, have alternately minimized Janay Rice’s suffering and maximized her husband’s. Too many fellow athletes have taken the bond between teammates as holding a more privileged station than the responsibility to be a decent human being who is willing to call out unacceptable behavior. And fans…well, fans have acquitted themselves about as well as you might expect in this era of ‘men’s rights‘ and anti-feminism.
In the end, regardless of the equally heinous crimes of other sports; of the everyday shittiness of football owners, players, media and fans; of the pervasiveness in society of finding a reason to justify violence against women and to refrain from punishing those who perpetrate it — in spite of all that, Roger Goodell has chosen to be the public face of the NFL. He accepted a mind-boggling amount of cash for the duty of pretending that, when it comes the regulation of professional football in America, the buck, such as it is, stops with him. And while we’ve been willing to let him slide in the face of mountains of evidence for the barbaric and stupid behavior of owners, he’s been fucked, re-fucked, and double-fucked in the Ray Rice investigation, and the stink of that fucking is on his own pig dick. There isn’t a respectable business in the world that wouldn’t fire him; even the most monstrously degenerate mob family would dump his bloated, steak-stuffed corpse in the harbor over a fuckup this epic. There is ample evidence that he engaged in denial, media suppression, and a big fat lying cover-up to keep Rice’s crime in the realm of the manageable, and we, as a country, have a rare opportunity to make someone who truly deserves it fall on his sword. Let’s make him fall down the whole length of it, with nothing but acid to smooth the passage.