"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.