Thursday, December 30, 2010

Co-Weasels of the Week: Roger Goodell, Brett Favre, & Ed Rendell

This was just too easy.

After the first major snowstorm of the season tore through the Northeast on Sunday, prompting the NFL to move the Eagles-Vikings game to Tuesday, the first Tuesday game in the league since 1946, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell ranted that the NFL had, in effect, wimped out by not playing the game as scheduled. The blizzard wouldn't have actually touched down in Philadelphia until much later on Sunday. As it turned out, there were only five inches of snow on the ground by the scheduled 8:20 kickoff. However, the league, acting in the interests of public safety, for its fans as well as the players and officials, opted to err on the side of caution and postpone the game, the 2nd postponement in 3 weeks, both involving the Vikings. Oh, by the way, Minnesota won the game. I guess Gov. Rendell wasn't watching the Weather Channel (a cable cousin of NBC)....!

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had earned a reputation as a hard-line authority figure ever since he was appointed to succeed Paul Tagliabue as commissioner a few years ago. The seemingly endless number of suspensions handed out to players for off-the-field violations is proof of that. So why did Goodell whiff on what would've been a defining moment in his administration?

I think everyone knows the story by now. A heretofore little known website, Deadspin, broke the story earlier this season that Vikings QB Brett Favre had sent some vulgar, graphic messages, including some pictures allegedly of his private parts, to one Jenn Sterger, who, like Favre, was employed by the New York Jets during the 2008 season. At the time the story broke, the Jets were already dealing with a more recent problem, with reports that a cable reporter, Inez Sainz, had been hassled by some players in the team's locker room. Coincidental timing? Maybe. The NFL took forever to conduct its investigation, and on Wednesday, had closed the case by fining Favre $50,000 for not being more forthcoming and/or cooperative in the investigation.

$50,000 is pocket change for Favre, you see. The fine amounts to a mere slap on the wrist, which, understandably, didn't sit well with Sterger and her legal team. They would've been happier if Goodell had taken a more pre-emptive action and suspended Favre while the investigation was ongoing, rather than drag out the drama. Recall that Eagles QB Michael Vick made a much-ballyhooed comeback in 2009 after sitting out two seasons for the dog fighting case. Favre is treated with kid gloves. Why? Favre has something Vick hasn't had. An endorsement deal.

Favre also does commercials for Wrangler jeans, and had also shilled for Prilosec (a Procter & Gamble product). In short, Goodell, like other authority figures in sports, is still beholden to corporate America and their interests. Favre played on, until his iron man streak ended on December 13, and the commercials continued to play. In comparision, golfer Tiger Woods lost a majority of his endorsements when his public image was shattered a year ago at this time. Yes, he played on, but for the first time in his career, didn't win a single tournament during the season. The scandal still weighs heavily on him, even though he might not admit it.

By the same token, Favre tried to blot out the drama surrounding him. Kinda hard to do, when you're the biggest waffler this side of Eggo during the off-season. Favre's already said he's retiring. He's saying that to avoid a suspension, and that makes him no different than, say, for example, Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds in baseball. Where Goodell fails is by kowtowing to the corporate interests and protecting Favre as much as possible, instead of punishing him. In effect, he let Favre slide, and that is so wrong. If Favre were to play his little game again next summer, deciding again to come out of retirement, Goodell should be waiting for him with a year's suspension, maybe more, just to prove he meant to do it after all.

At the end of the day, we have 3 weasels. Rendell for his blind posturing and ignorance of public safety in the face of disaster. Goodell for not taking a harder stance on Favre. Favre for not being man enough to 1) admit what he did was wrong, and 2) walking away from the game again, this time to avoid a stiffer penalty than what was imposed. He's only heightening his guilt this way.

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