The excellent, revealing (largely in a bad way) look at the NFL from Mark Liebovich of the New York Times Magazine contains plenty of great nuggets and insights about the dominant American sports league. One of them relates to the assessment of one of the Commissioner’s most conspicuous job duties: dealing with the media.
Liebovich writes that Goodell “can come off as tight, smug and sanctimonious” during press conferences. Texans owner Bob McNair confirmed that thinking indirectly, by listing a couple of things that Goodell’s bosses would like to see when the Commissioner is speaking extemporaneously and/or trying to make talking points seem spontaneous.
“We’d like to see him more relaxed and smiling and answering the questions,’’ McNair told Liebovich. ‘‘You know, he’s got all these legal advisers telling him you can’t say this or you can’t say that.’’
McNair’s assessment meshes with the perception that Goodell gets millions in part to be the public face of potentially unpopular decisions made behind the curtain by the billionaires who run the sport, and it’s one of the rare instances in which the men who employ and compensate Goodell have had anything but praise for him.
Which really isn’t bad for Goodell, given that he’s in the awkward spot of enforcing the rules against the people who supervise him.
“How many jobs do you have where you actually can end up disciplining your boss?” Goodell said.
Not many, but perhaps that dilemma speaks to deeper problems with the overall structure of a league that expects an employee to police his supervisor. Which suggests that, ultimately, the league would benefit from a truly independent body that oversees the sport.
But that’s the last thing the Commissioner wants. Because it’s the last thing his bosses want.