26 April 2012

A Virtuous Contempt

"There is no fate that cannot be surmounted by scorn."
- Albert Camus

And you thought this offseason couldn't get any more bizarre, right? Well how about a criminal allegation of wiretapping! Is that something you might be interested in?   

With accusations of eavesdropping on opponents levied against Saints' crime boss General Manager Mickey Loomis by the investigative journalists (term loosely applied) at ESPN's Outside the Lines, this Saints' offseason trucked into another gear on Monday. A (not so) long, strange trip indeed. 

Before we go any further, let's just remember that these allegations are from ten years ago. And they spring from a single, anonymous source who just conveniently remembered to alert ESPN and the US Attorney's Office this past week. WHAT A COINCIDENCE! WHAT A SUDDEN CRISIS OF CONSCIENCE AFTER TEN YEARS! 

Predictably, after ESPN released the information Monday afternoon, the network (ESPN) went into all-out affirmation mode. Blasted across its mind-numbingly redundant multiplicity of platforms, ESPN told the world all about the incarnate evil of Mickey Loomis. Never mind a presumption of innocence. Never mind a refusal to provide any evidence to the Saints when requested (sound familiar?). Never mind the prospect that maybe, just maybe, one "source" was a bit unreliable. 

Nah, innocence before proven guilt is so passé.  

Instead, full steam ahead with torpedoing Mickey Loomis' reputation and further irrevocably disgracing the Saints. Whatever "moves the needle," right scumbags? Who cares if it actually happened? Just report it as such. After all, a retroactive, single-sentenced, backpage retraction will keep the lawyers away. So hey, roll with it. 

What pristine, redeeming moral compasses the hypocrites at ESPN possess. 

ESPN, much like the NFL, largely operates as an unassailable monolith and frequently adheres to a philosophy of manufactured-headlines-presented-and-reiterated-as-irrefutable-truth. It's shoot first, ask questions later. Just ask Cam Newton and Auburn about that.

Some worthy current perspective: now six months into ESPN's sex abuse allegations against Bernie Fine at Syracuse, one the accusers--and central source--in ESPN's allegations recently admitted "the evidence that supports me is just pure luck, not real evidence. I made the ENTIRE thing up." Mind you, this a report from a mere 12 days ago that has further exposed ESPN's investigation and reporting as borderline fraudulent. That case is ongoing and ESPN looks less and less credible by the second.  

Yet now, we're supposed to believe that ESPN isn't capable of producing a flimsily-sourced, career-threatening accusation against Mickey Loomis in an effort to manufacture a timely headline? 

Does anyone but the people most closely affected by these weakly-sourced, criminal allegations even care about this approach? Do they even recognize what's going on? 

Thankfully, current and former Saints alike responded with swift ferocity to the ESPN report. Not in a measured or nuanced tone this time, but instead in a caustically visceral one. 

Greg Bensel: "1000% false"

Mickey Loomis: "Absolutely false"

Cortez Kennedy: "Completely false"

Rick Reiprish: "Completely untrue"

Former employee Rick Mueller: "There is no way this happened."

Jim Haslett: "This concept was never discussed or utilized." 
Robert Carrol, Saints' audio engineer: "I’ve spent too many hours in that Superdome not to think I would have seen something."

Joe Vitt: "juvenile, irresponsible, untrue, ludicrous, impossible."

And finally, Sean Payton via CBS' Larry Holder:

So who are we to believe? A litany of knowledgeable insiders? Or an anonymous source, ten years after the fact, from a desperate, imperious media conglomerate with a vault of ulterior motive and a history of shoddy reporting?

Regardless, it's high time that the Saints started to fight back. We're working on two months of scandal and unrelenting condemnation. And the brash, two-faced hypocrisy of Roger Goodell is still on display in all of its preening, reptilian glory. 

Player sanctions are still pending. And why? To further complicate the Saints' ability to draft optimally? Or because the NFLPA refuses to cooperate without, you know, seeing all of that irrefutable evidence Goodell keeps talking about in the press?

Didn't Goodell's lawyer, Jeff Pash, recently state that Saints' players were "clearly participants?" Didn't Goodell this week tell Rich Eisen (conveniently soft-balled by the league-owned network) that Saints' players "enthusiastically embraced" the bounty program? 

Well then why not just share all of that information with the NFLPA and get on with it? Are you hiding something? Lacking true evidence? Or just trying to make the Saints' draft preparations a bit more difficult? 

On April 2nd, Goodell was waiting on a recommendation of discipline from the NFLPA in order to finalize player sanctions. But now that the NFLPA has repeatedly requested evidence before cooperating, Goodell has completely changed his tune this week stating that he's "not necessarily looking for a recommendation from [the NFLPA]." 

So because the NFLPA demands due process while the league ignores it, Goodell will just march on ahead and levy discipline anyway? Why hasn't anyone in the media addressed this sudden change of heart? Is it not noteworthy? 

Without continuing to beat this whimpering, dying horse any longer, I'll just say the overarching frustration is this: a sprawling, propagandized carnival without the divulging of direct (or complete) evidence by the NFL and ESPN; the sweeping, ubiquitous chorus of damnation by a press who refuses to ask tough questions and seek answers; and the recent anonymously-sourced hatchet pieces on key figures Mickey Loomis and Rita Benson Leblanc. It's like a Cold War-era, CIA Black Op. 

But at some point, the power of contempt works both ways. 

This scorn will fuel the Saints. And people outside of New Orleans are starting to take notice. Albert Breer of the NFL Network said Tuesday the Saints are "like an angry, cornered animal" intent on fighting back. He also said more poignantly and accurately that this Saints' team is going to be "one motivated bunch." 

The Saints aren't remotely doomed and Mickey Loomis certainly hasn't "destroyed [any] chance for a successful season" as that insalubrious, talentless hack Jeffri Chadiha so ignorantly presumes. 

In the end, the seemingly infinite amount of disdain heaped upon the Saints should prove valuable. In a sport where the commodity of emotion plays a central role, this Saints' team will have emotion, motivation, and common purpose to draw upon in droves. Don't fool yourself. There is more to prove now than ever before. And what high theater will that inevitably produce. 

The 2012 season promises to be unprecedented, sublimely emotional, and maddeningly gratifying. 

And guess what? We've only just begun. 

Buckle up. History beckons. 

17 April 2012

Are the Saints Being Railroaded?

Go ahead. Mock me. I really don't give a shit. You think I've gone off the deep end with this whole bounty thing, right? 

Well maybe I am going all Conspiracy Theory Guy with this one. But maybe someone needs to for a little while. 

Regardless of my skepticism, plenty of questions still remain unanswered. But just one predominates. 

Solely, what direct evidence does the NFL actually have as to the existence of a multi-year bounty program in New Orleans?

Should we implicitly believe there was a three-year, institutionalized bounty program in place simply because Roger Goodell said so? Remember that the NFL Players' Assocation in preparing to defend Saints' players from pending sanctions has repeatedly asserted, again as recently as Monday, that "to date, the NFL has not provided the NFLPA with detailed evidence of the existence of such a program." Read that one more time and let it sink in. 

Furthermore on Monday, after NFLPA leaders met with league officials to discuss player sanctions, Drew Brees said “We didn’t get any meaningful evidence, or any meaningful truth or facts.” 

Isn't that mildly alarming? That after 6 weeks of public crucifixion, the players intent on defending themselves have not seen any evidence as to what they've been pilloried for? 

Who do you think is twisting the facts here? The NFLPA and Drew Brees? Or Goodell and the NFL? If there are 50,000 pages of information and documentation revealing a 3-year bounty program, then why not show the public--or at least the NFL Players' Association--definitive, hard proof of its existence? What is there to hide? Is the NFL fearful that disclosing evidence to the NFLPA makes the league even more vulnerable to legal action? Or is there anything of substance at all? 

If there was indeed evidence of Saints' players engaging in repeated, malicious, intent-to-injure activity on the field, those plays would be plastered all over every TV station and website in order to provide conclusive proof of the Saints' guilt. Right? 

But guess what? We haven't seen anything except for ONE PLAY: the hit on Favre in the '09 NFCCG. In a game of extreme violence, in a game where any given defense is on the field for ~1000 plays per season, we've seen exactly one play to back up the claims that the Saints ran a pay-to-injure scheme for three years. 

Sorry, but that doesn't smell quite right.   

The fact that the public has not been provided on-field confirmations of the Saints' bounty program is tacit admission from the league that their evidence is either flimsy, exaggerated, manufactured, or virtually nonexistent. This isn't to say a bounty program did not exist. Rather, it's to say that it didn't exist in the manner publicly portrayed and, moreover, that the league doesn't appear capable of proving it did. Unfortunately the league doesn't have to prove it because they essentially answer to no one, with one man responsible for dispensing punishments and hearing appeals. Sure, that seems like a reasonable system immune from the perils of abuse.  

What we have gotten in doses is an allegation of Jonathan Vilma offering $10k to knock out Brett Favre in the '09 NFCCG. Who witnessed and made this allegation? Did that person have any reason to fabricate this statement? Who, if anyone, corroborated this witness' account? Should we blindly believe what Goodell says that some mystery person said?  Apparently it's fair game for the NFL to just say "he said this" and expect everyone to take it as gospel which, not so coincidentally, the feeble mass football media certainly did. 

Don't forget that for decades, the NFL also told us that head injuries, concusssions, and CTE did not result from playing football

Do you still believe that today? 

Because the league has a history of misrepresenting the truth and a clear motive to continue doing so now, why should they not be held accountable by the press and the public into sharing the evidence behind their damning claims and draconian punishments? Not a summary or press release or memo of findings, but the actual evidence. 

While the overwhelming majority of these thin-skinned media puppets have attacked and disparaged the Saints from every conceivable angle for the past month--exacting personal retribution on a coach (Payton) they despised along the way--not one of these prostrate sycophants has taken up the task of investigating the simple claim as to why the NFL has repeatedly refused to share evidence with its own players' union. Doesn't that seem pretty fucking relevant to this case? Why has nobody in the media even sought an answer? It's mind-boggling to the core, but probably illustrative of a deeper reality: the railroading of the Saints by the league and its media arm as a brand protection strategy

The other evidence we have thus far is a three-minute audio snippet from a 2012 playoff game in which the Saints, mind you, were penalized NOT ONCE. Moreover, this evidence was captured and released by an independent filmmaker and not the league itself. Accordingly, the NFL has repeatedly sought access to all of Pamphilon's footage and audio. And why would they do that? Perhaps because the evidence used in dispensing team sanctions (free from third party arbitration, by the way) is so flimsy that it won't hold up against the players' union, their army of lawyers, and potential third-party arbitration. Wouldn't this be a logical reason the league refuses to share its "evidence" with the NFLPA? Because it'll get shot to all hell? 

And maybe this is why the league has stated that this is an "ongoing investigation"--because their evidence is for shit and so they can, furthermore, retroactively mold "new findings" to fit their long-term strategies and justify their sanctions. 

Seriously, why is the collective groupthink that Goodell and the NFL are beyond reproach here? Because they're so fucking swell and benevolent? Because Gregg Williams is a reckless, loudmouthed psychopath? Because Sean Payton didn't deign to kiss the commissioner's ring? 

The simple fact is that rhetoric in theory does not equal malice in practice, and those divergent concepts should not be punished as equals. And if there is concrete evidence that supports the claims and existence of the program, then why hasn't anyone seen it all? Why isn't anyone besides the players' union even asking to verify it? 

After all, Goodell has a documented history of manipulating critical evidence in the past. Did we ever find out why he destroyed all of the SpyGate evidence immediately after handing out punishment? In that case, Senator Arlen Specter, investigating Goodell in response to the destruction of evidence, asked why punishments were handed down before the full extent of the misdeed was known (sound familiar?) and concluded that during the investigation "there was an enormous amount of haste" (sound familiar?). Finally, Specter questioned the quality of the league's investigation at the time (sound familiar?). But hell, no way that could happen AGAIN, right? 

Instead all we've gotten are strategically-deployed "pieces of info" released to select media that the NFL owns in one form or another. Yes, the same suckling media that spinelessly refuses to request the totality of evidence in order to ascertain its veracity. Fucking cowards. 

We've heard about big, scary numbers (50,000 pages of documents OOOH!); a fruitless, bounty-specific email sent from prison by a felon to Saints' coaches in 2011 (Ornstein, evil, GASP!); an allegation of Vilma spewing hyperbolic, pre-game bombast one time; an admission from Williams--a confessed liar and spurned former coach--who may well be falling in line with the league in order to save his career; and an audio clip from a 2012 game that once again proved no action executed from the vile rhetoric espoused. 

How is that evidence of a systemic, three-year, pay-to-injure program? 

Guess what, it's not. It's a bunch of separate incidents woven together to form a convenient, seemingly cohesive narrative for the NFL to manipulate to its own ends. In the meantime, Sean Payton and the Saints' fans bear the brunt of what looks increasingly more like a McCarthyesque witchhunt in its absurd demagoguery and pervasive unsubstantiations.  

If the NFL, or anyone else, concretely displays the evidence that proves their claims, then I'll happily shut the fuck up and say I'm wrong. But for now I stand behind my previous assertion that the Saints' cardinal sin in this whole thing was defying Roger Goodell when questioned over the prevalence of bounties. God forbid you deceive the king at his own game of mendacious deceit. 

The league has an obvious, vested interest in developing a perception of concern for player safety. Combined with the actuality of mounting lawsuits from former players, that alone is enough to invite skepticism here. Without knowing the facts behind the claims, though, how can the public know if the punishments fit the crime? Or if the crime even existed as presented? How can other teams take comfort in Goodell's retributive, capricious approach to punishing a franchise and its fan base? 

Florio and PFT: the one legit media outlet seeking real answers 
Unfortunately, none of these paid "journalists" has the balls to ask the tough questions--or any questions at all--for fear of losing their precious access to shinebox on command. 

Instead, they mindlessly and sanctimoniously drone on about arrogance, asterisks, deception, integrity of the game, and every other pithy fucking soundbite they've been indoctrinated with from their corporate masters. 

Errand boys, the lot of 'em.

I guess that's the way the NFL and its supine media executes things: "we decree, you reiterate, they thoughtlessly accept as dogma, while we perpetuate the stuffing of our fat, slimy coffers with those suckers' hard-earned dollars." And for those of us who don't accept it? I guess it's relegation to the fringes, paranoia and all. 

But at some point when we stop blindly trusting this corporate behemoth, this increasingly-fabricated, dog-and-pony show that is the NFL, we just might all see the light. Or the darkness. 

12 April 2012

Going to the Mattresses

"If you had any fuckin' heart at all, you'd be out fuckin' stealing for a livin'."
- Nicky Santoro

Before any of you moralists and live-propers jump my shit, let's just be clear that I'm neither advocating lawlessness nor justifying illegality. It's like, um, creative license or something. You know, metaphors and stuff about having heart, taking chances, pushing envelopes, not giving up, and the like. So now that the disclaimer's out of the way, let's get on with it shall we? 

Since all of this bounty hysteria is mostly resolved save for player sanctions, let's set the table for 2012. 

This upcoming season promises to be most compelling and without question, unprecedented. Maybe it will be suboptimal from a standpoint of competitive efficiency, but from an angle of entertainment it doesn't get much better than this. And hey, when you strip away everything else and look at this from a broader perspective, and then realize that "we" are all the beneficiaries of a Lombardi trophy that has us now freerolling for life, then this turn of events almost seems apropos. Who knew? At some point as Saints' fans, we just need to embrace this if we already haven't. 

After all it could be worse. We could be Buffalo. Or Minnesota. Or, ahem, Atlanta. 

When considering all of the considerable fallout from this strange, strange year--starting with the twilight zone loss to Alex Smith and the 49ers that was a harbinger of things to come--one thing continues to resonate with me: the maintenance of culture.

By maintenance I mean two things: 1) continuing the franchise culture of aggression and envelope-pushing and 2) maintaining said culture in a sustainable and healthy manner. I'm in no way advocating the continued lunacy (and awful defensive strategems) that Gregg Williams espoused in New Orleans (and everywhere else he coached, mind you), but I am an advocate of sustaining the philosophy that attracted Williams to New Orleans in the first place. It's that same philosophy and mindset that's most recently netted Steve Spagnuolo, Ben Grubbs, Brodrick Bunkley, Curtis Lofton, Chris Chamberlain, and David Hawthorne. Perceptions be damned. 

The modern installment of this franchise has been built upon aggression, attacking, inducing confusion, and one-step-aheadism. And that's a good thing. This is not something to be apologetic for, nor is it a philosophy that should be abandoned because the team screwed up and Goodell subsequently overreacted. Instead, it's a mission statement that needs a tweak with some safeguards in place. Be arrogant all you want. Just stop being needlessly brazen.  

Relinquishing the "heart" and ferocity shown by both the city and franchise is no reasonable choice, especially under duress. 


Instead it's time to fortify, bunker up, and prepare for the looming, protracted battle against both on-field foes and off-field hatred. At this point, there's no other choice but going to the mattresses.   

The one thing I'm moderately terrified of, however, is this team losing its edge in the aftermath of its public scarlet-lettering. Over the past three seasons in which the Saints have proven themselves to be elite, fearsome, and unrelenting, the team's ubiquitous, collective swagger has become self-sustaining while generally cornering foes into being intimidated and reactive. This needs to remain focal.  

The governance of this attitude makes ends meet; and it's not a connective trait the team should be in a hurry to abandon in the face of a public crucifixion. 

Fuck dat. 

It's eminently possible to be fearsome and unrelenting without being malicious and recalcitrant. It's up to the Saints to ensure this blistering competitive philosophy prospers with the necessary adjustments and oversight, all the while eliminating behavior that's no longer tolerated in the (:air of gravitas:) National Football League. With Sean Payton still around to mold the attitude, I'd have no doubt the philosophy of aggression would persist. But that's not the case right now, and one wonders just what the response might be when Payton absconds to Goodellian exile.  

What the large majority of the viewing public/scorned media/league higher-ups want to see, presumably, is the Saints wallowing in the mire of their perceived karmic comeuppance. And they want to see us staggering around pitifully, bagging up, and shaking our heads in bewilderment. 

Two words: PIPE DREAM.  

It's one thing to be regretful and contrite for the stupdity, arrogance and apparently sinister motivations of the Gregg Williams-led Saints' defense, along with the continued deceptions and refusals to end the practice of bountying. It's another thing for that wrongdoing to dissuade forward progress. Let's not go milquetoast. We'll save that for the Vikings and the Falcons. It's imperative to acknowledge, repent, and suffer the consequences of misdeeds past, yet quickly move forward with a common, aggressive, winning purpose in mind. 

A punishment suffered does not a future sacrificed equal.


When the hysteria dies down and the games are played, perceptions will die a flaccid, whimpering death for the 60 minutes each week that actually count. 

Regardless of the hatred that exists now and will persist for the foreseeable future, those attitudes are almost completely irrelevant--officiating notwithstanding--to what happens on the field. 

#9 is still walking out of that tunnel, haters.

The roster is still stacked. And young. 

Mark Ingram should build upon the progress he made in 2011, and make the leap.  Jimmy Graham, Darren Sproles, and Marques Colston will continue to nightmarishly confound defenses each week. Ben Grubbs should allow the O-Line to proceed without missing a beat

The defense should be markedly better. One of the league's pre-eminent defensive coordinators is now in the fold, replacing that blustering, has-been, one-trick pony. What have you done for us lately? I believe that question answers itself. 

For the first time since 1993, the team apparently has an excellent collection of LBs. Martez Wilson and Junior Gallette should continue to grow into legit pass rushers. As Patrick Robinson's inconsistency gives way to confidence, his high talents will shine. And Roman Harper and Malcolm Jenkins might even combine to intercept a damn pass this year. We can dream.  

Hell, we might even get to witness our kickers engage in the proverbial "training camp battle." 

Doom-and-gloom is not remotely upon this team. Try as they all might, Goodell--that bloated, soulless, bumbling, corporate emperor--and his pliant, errand-boy messengers of pre-packaged, self-serving media narratives cannot force this team to suck. It's not going to happen. 

You feel that sting, big boy? That's pride, fucking with you.  

After the Super Bowl this season, the Saints were 7:1 favorites to win the 2012-'13 Super Bowl, trailing only the Packers. Now, after the shitstorm that just blew through town, the wise guys haven't downgraded the Saints too much. Specifically, the Saints are now 15:1 to win it all. For comparative purposes, the Saints started both the 2009 and 2011 seasons as 20:1 favorites. 

So while Vegas has basically concluded that, in light of BountyGate, it will be twice as hard for the Saints to win the big game, they still only list Green Bay (7:1), New England (7:1), Philly (12.5:1), and San Francisco (13.5:1) as having a better chance at glory than our Saints. 

If we've learned anything during the Brees era, it's that the team responds well to adversity. The entire '06 season. Losing the first 4, then winning the next 4 in '07. Being the first team to win the Super Bowl after losing their last three regular season games. The most road wins over the past three seasons. And now? Being the first team to have its coach suspended for not just ONE game, but for an entire season. 

What offers confidence is that this is a team with an optimal mix of talented veterans and promising youth, replete with the requisite guile to formulate a healthy counterpoise to the challenges that await. Fear not. 

If this were just some run-of-the-mill, plain vanilla team, it might be different. But they're not, so it's not. With or without Sean Payton in 2012, this team remains a contender. 

The caravan is on its way.

07 April 2012

A (Tragic) Hero in His Own Mind

"The ideal tragic hero must be an intermediate kind of person, a man not pre-eminently virtuous and just, whose misfortune however, is brought upon him not by vice or depravity but by some error of judgment." 
- Aristotle, The Poetics 

While the titular character of this here what-have-you might justly be Gregg Williams and the recent confirmations of his undisciplined frippery, impotent motivational urgings, and damning ignorance, the unfolding "tragedy" here is more poignantly directed at Roger Goodell. 

Mr. Goodell fancies himself a hero, yet the specter of his self delusions has, in all likelihood, produced a result far removed from the end he sought. 

Sorry, but this can't be unfolding according to the plan set forth by Goodell. On the converse, I'd argue, it's careened out of control. By now, this was supposed to be all tidy and cleaned up--message sent and all--so we could focus on the draft and the touchy-feely excitement of what-ifs for the upcoming season. But uh, not so fast. This thing has splintered in a hundred directions while the league works to corral this beast. 

Gregg Williams. Sean Payton. Mickey Loomis. Joe Vitt. Tom Benson. Jonathan Vilma. Jeremy Shockey. Warren Sapp. Kurt Warner. Brett Favre. Aaron Rodgers. Mike Ornstein. Joe Gibbs. Jeff Fischer. Buffalo. Washington. Kyle Williams and his Dad. Dick Durbin. Coy Wire. Carlos Rogers. Steve Gleason. Sean Pamphilon. 

On goes the circus, deeper goes the rabbit hole, back peels the onion, and all that metaphorical stuff. 

Nothing is fucked? 

The god damn plane has crashed into the mountain. With Goodell at the helm. 

Recently, I've wondered if Goodell is regretful for handling the Saints' bounty situation in the manner he has. In his quest to make a public spectacle and then scapegoat a singular entity for deep-rooted, accepted, league-wide mores, he blew back the veil on the whole operation which, to some, looks ugly and demented. I'm not defending the inherent depravity, but it is what it is: a long-standing reality that underlies the popularity of the sport. This is the deal we've made and the stance we've chosen. If you didn't know before, you know now. Proceed accordingly, but stop with the moralizing already. 

Do you think the owners who hired Goodell are pleased with the results of his inquest at this point? I don't. If protecting the revenue stream at all costs is the end goal here, then why handle a sensitive, explosive, potentially fatal situation in such a sloppy, public manner? 

Instead of successfully outcasting the Saints and moving cleanly on to his next objective (or abomination), Goodell unwittingly spawned a torrent of critical thinking about the realities of football. Not exactly what ol' Rog was shooting for, I'd say. 

It's been a massive miscalculation. 

The propagandized mechanics of perception-crafting just aren't as easy as they once were. People are more educated and much better connected. Information is too easily accessible. 

Hell, even many of the league's insiders and players have failed to follow suit and condemn the Saints. The task of condemnation has mostly been reserved for the weak, pliable, media army of errand boys who, devoid of critical thought (or the requisite testicular fortitude), bow to the whims of the league's power wielders. How predictable. 

But, there's been a substantial number of players and former players reasserting the prevalence of both bounties and absurd, hyperbolic locker room speeches (malevolence aside). There's been an increasing outcry over the hypocrisy of the league's stance on player safety (that you've heard roughly 1,378,923 times by now). There's been a fall guy fined six million fucking dollars, more than vile industrial polluters in many cases. And most recently, there's been an honest, terminally-ill former player (Steve Gleason) betrayed and taken advantage of in the aftermath of this Goodellian plan to publicly damn the Saints and shape the opinions of people dumb enough to not see this for what it really is. 

A brand protection strategy

And one that continues to look like it's gone horribly wrong. 

If protecting the brand--you know, THE SHIELD--is the goal here, then I'd argue that it's been a horrible failure. In my estimation the NFL itself, not just the Saints franchise, is "tarnished" by this incident in the eyes of some. And I'm sure that's not where Goodell was aiming. It was all supposed to be the actions of one awful, mean-spirited, rule-breaking franchise down in that lawless, sweaty Banana Republic, am I right? 

The conversation though, instead of focusing solely on the Saints, has drifted to the systemic culture of incentivized violence that the league is essentially built upon, and one that Goodell is aggressively trying to change. Try as Goodell might to hoist this solely upon the shoulders of the Saints, only the willfully ignorant or biased schadenfreudists see this as a "SAINTS ARE EVIL" issue instead of a league-wide norm that allegedly went awry in New Orleans. Don't let the subtlety be lost on you.  

The crux of Goodell's miscalculation lies in his response and punishment of a franchise that dared to spite him in the face of repeated wrongdoings and deceptions. 

At a time when response and punishment should have been all business, Goodell made it personal.  

And now, it's morphed into something not anticipated largely due to the extremity of the sanctions. Had Sean Payton been suspended for 4 or even 8 games, and fan outrage not been feverishly set ablaze, this issue would have faded into the background and we'd all be on our way to dealing with it. 

Instead, Goodell overreached and the shit hit the fan. Like I've said before, one misdeed shouldn't induce a worse one. And the heightened, visceral reaction from Goodell gave him something he never bargained for: chaos. 

The offspring of downright, Aristotelian hamartia in all its poignancy and gravity. 

This thing is bigger than just New Orleans; that much is clear by now. And no matter how adamantly Goodell tries to position it as a Saints-only issue, the more foolish he looks. The reality is that, now, the sanitized feelgood of the NFL has all but been exposed as fraudulent, at least to those who were previously oblivious to these realities; the game's savagery and base fundaments are now on full public display in all their glistening, high-definition, Pamphilonic glory. 

Goodell didn't bargain for this. It's one thing to clean up the mess in New Orleans. But now, he's faced with twisting the larger reality in order to perpetuate a dysfunction that some people aren't willing to accept anymore. I'm not one of those of people. But they are out there. And their outrage and disquietude now has smoking guns aplenty. Was this Goodell's aim?

Goodell sees himself in some heroic light, white knight and all. Benevolent protector. Staunch defender. Principled and unyielding ideologue of "The Shield." Yet for all of Goodell's heroic striving in light of the challenges he's faced with, his retributive reflex might finally have doomed him. Let us not forget that NBC corporate bigdick Dick Ebersol characterized Goodell as a "cold son of a bitch" once upon a not-so-distant time. Instead of being cold, though, this was a time that called for measurement and finesse. 

Qualities, apparently, that exceed the limited grasp of Goodell.  

And may, perhaps, doom his reign as NFL Commissioner.