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Thu, Aug. 22

Hang Time: The Goodell, the bad and the ugly

Seth Wenig/The Associated Press, file<br>In this March 11, 2013, file photo, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell takes questions during a news conference in New York.

Seth Wenig/The Associated Press, file<br>In this March 11, 2013, file photo, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell takes questions during a news conference in New York.

Hey, this is no joke anymore. Although in the past I've approached it as a joke, this is now officially void of humor. Like the Oakland Raiders parking lot after an overtime loss to Denver. Like replacement refs on Monday Night Football. This is past the point of being a fun sideshow.

Roger Goodell has ruined the NFL.

Seriously, no kidding anymore.

The rest of us define "ruining" far differently than His Rogerness. Raj and his owner underlings watch only as the league's bottom line revenue swells to Apple realms. If that's ruining, sign them up.

The bread crumbs trailing to Roger's plate have officially reached peculiarly vaudevillian proportions, and just in the last week. But, let's look back further than that.

First, let's look at the not-so-serious blunders that have made NFL fans (the peasants) furrow our brows.

• An 18-game season proposal. Roger's ultimate dream, that no one outside of a few owners want. And he doesn't want it for the sport or the substance of the game, but for added revenue even at the risk of exposing players to more potential head trauma.

• The new kickoff rule. It was a reactionary rule during concussion-related lawsuits to decoy the reality that player health isn't a priority in Goodell's office. Otherwise exciting kick return opportunities have become an endless loop of touchbacks. I can appreciate anything that improves player safety, but with Goodell drooling for 18 games, and in all likelihood probably more, the player safety alibi to make changes in kickoffs is tragically transparent.

• The league's leaked demands to award Minneapolis the 2018 Super Bowl were pure Goodell-porn. Free police escorts for team owners. Presidential suites at no cost in high-end hotels. Free billboards across the Twin Cities. Seriously, the $9 billion annual revenue struggle is real.

• Making halftime performers PAY to play the Super Bowl? Only on Roger's watch.

• New overtime rules? Puh-lease.

We can laugh off these schemes with our own form of civil disobedience, which is to keep watching games, keep buying tickets and merchandise, keep loving the product. I am guilty on all counts.

But seeing Roger for what he is - an insatiable glutton in search of the $25 billion bottom line - is one thing. Knowing what lies beneath is where the real ugliness lives.

• Screw the injured ex-players. Roger's watch has included a pig-like cap on lawsuit damages, which, of course, the league had to lift after a federal judge questioned whether there would be enough money to cover as many as 20,000 retired players suing the league.

• Spousal abuse vs. Weed. The NFL on Wednesday upheld its one-year suspension of Cleveland wide receiver Josh Gordon who, like the Arizona Cardinals' Daryl Washington, was suspended for ONE YEAR for failed drug tests. Ray Rice? On video literally knocking his fiancé out cold? He gets two games.

Goodell's motives for his bizarre reign as NFL Commissioner are up for debate. It seems apparent that he'll stop at nothing to reduce the NFL to an ATM or to misdirect any true misgivings about player safety.

It also seems apparent, by the vastly divergent punishments involving player behavior, that physical abuse of women isn't a top priority.

I'll still watch games and love the NFL experience. But I won't view it the same way, not with that signature on every ball in play.

And that's fine, surely Goodell doesn't care.

I do. That's the difference.

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