Let's take a deep breath and hold off on the canonization of Roger Goodell. The puffs of white smoke coming out of the chimney are a bit much.
Yes, Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL, slapped down the New Orleans Cheating Saints pretty good Wednesday. Somebody will make a T-shirt out of that soon. The big letters on the front: NOCS. On the back: a picture of Brett Favre, bleeding from the nose.
Goodell didn't have a difficult decision. One of his teams got caught doing something really stupid and Neanderthal and then lied about it. Suspend the guy in charge for a year, do the same to the guy in charge of the guy in charge for six months, collect some cash and take away some draft choices.
Goodell gets paid seven figures. He's supposed to do this. Identify the creeps and run 'em off. Do you suppose Pete Rozelle would have done any less? Matter of fact, Rozelle might have headed this off before all the public hand-wringing and posturing was needed.
Paul Tagliabue? Who knows. His lawyer-esqe obtuseness was impenetrable.
Let's discuss two segments of the sports world that are affected by Goodell's big day.
The New Orleans fans deserve better. Not from Goodell, from their team, for whom they spent their hard-earned money in an area still reeling from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and for whom their worship found new heights only possible in a crippled city craving distraction and heroes.
Shame on all you mindless, shallow jocks — and all you mindless, shallow coaches — who have now turned that 2010 Super Bowl into a sham and a bunch of question marks for your fans. What was the size of the bounty pot that day? Who got the biggest payoff? Was there a special pot donor, or co-mingled funds? And how many of the New Orleans Cheating Saints did interviews the next few weeks about their foundations and good work?
And more: How many players participated in this? Why, with one of the best quarterbacks in league history in Drew Brees, would you even need to bother? Brees will win many of the games on his own.
Most important, how many knew?
That answer is easy. ALL OF THEM. Make book on it.
To see the Saints fans firsthand this year at the home playoff game against the Detroit Lions was especially revealing. Yes, it was a playoff game, but they had the entire area around the Superdome packed and locked up hours before the game. The revenue from all the Brees No. 9 jerseys in the crowd had to be enough to top the gross national product of a small island country. New Orleans is a fun town, and these were fans having fun. There were thousands of them, committed in heart, soul and pocketbook, to something that, as it turns out, cheated on them. No, not for them. On them.
The proof of that will be the years it will take, after Goodell's sanctions, to get back to where they were. Those who doubt that, google the words "SMU" and "Death Penalty."
The second segment of the sports world worthy of this discussion is right here, LA LA Land, home of NFL arrogance and omission since 1995, after the departure of Al Davis and Georgia Frontiere. No Rams. No Raiders. No nothing.
When Al and Georgia left, we didn't mourn and we didn't whine, but we also didn't like not being in the club. We took a couple of runs at new membership. Several of our leaders with the deepest pockets did the due diligence, shook all the right hands and went to all the right cocktail parties. And then a rich oilman from Texas wrote a bigger check and that was all it took. We were reduced to an every-several-years flareup of new headlines, new positive statements from the NFL and new stadium-building speculation.
Those all led to the same place. Nowhere. Which is where we remain.
Talk is cheap. Architectural plans, legal fees and real estate maneuvering are not. Every time, the NFL has ventured the same thing that we have gained. Nothing.
Now, we have two suitors. One is Ed Roski, a genuinely decent man with all the right thoughts about the reasons to bring a team to the community, and Phil Anschutz, who may be the same and have the same thoughts, but who is about as accessible as the key to Ft. Knox and remains mostly a mystery.
In the wake of the news Wednesday about the Saints, the questions must be put to both: Do you really want to spend all those millions to be in this club? Do you like guilt by association? And isn't it kind of nice knowing, in the wake of this, that L.A. is an NFL-Free Zone?
The final word comes in an exhibit that seems to indicate that, while Goodell may have achieved a day of strong public relations and much of the public may be nodding its acceptance and agreement, the NFL culture will never change.
Wednesday afternoon, Warren Sapp, former NFL defensive lineman, sent out a note on his Twitter account that pointed the finger at former Saints tight end Jeremy Shockey as the leak on the bounty program. Shockey denied that, responding that he didn't even play defense, which, of course, was no answer, since everybody in the locker room had to know.
Two key points here:
— Sapp currently works as an analyst for the NFL Network.
— Sapp's Twitter moniker is QBKilla.