This is a tired, cliche and borderline lazy way to start a story, but whatever. Go fire up Google real quick and type in “Roger Goodell lies” and hit the enter button.
As you’ll see, there’s no shortage of internet material dedicated to exposing the supposed fibs spoken by the NFL commissioner. In fact, Google says there’s “about” 240,000 results, and a Google search of just “Goodell lies” actually brings you nearly 400,000 results.
When it comes to giving his word, Goodell’s as reliable as Matt Cushman in “Jerry Maguire.”
It’s near impossible to comb through those results and prove they’re all lies, but to say there’s some distrust between the face of the NFL and its fans would be a slight understatement. Domestic violence incidents, integrity of the game, Deflategate and the supplemental discipline process tied to all three have hurt the credibility of Goodell and the NFL.
But Goodell’s continued insistence on saying the league’s Thursday night product actually is a good product might be one of his biggest stretches of the truth yet. Goodell, at his yearly state of the game news conference Wednesday, talked about the supposed health of the Thursday night games in a matter that was questionable even by his standards.
Let’s dig a little deeper, shall we? (Goodell’s comments in bold and italics.)
“‘Thursday Night Football’ is something that we are very committed to. ‘Thursday Night Football’ ended up being the No. 2-rated show on all of primetime on NBC this year and No. 4 on CBS.”
Shocking. In a question about whether less might be more when it comes to Thursday night, Goodell starts by talking ratings, because ratings equal money, and Goodell, in his defense, is doing his job: making the owners money. That’s his priority.
“So we see our fans reacting positively to that.”
Another staple of the NFL, basically saying “Because the ratings are good, that means fans are watching, and if fans are watching, the product must be good.” In theory, it makes sense, but we’re also addicts. We’ll watch our favorite teams when they’re on, and if they’re not playing, we’ll still find a way to gamble on the games or follow our fantasy teams or really do anything to distract us from the fact that our time on this world is fleeting. (That’s a little dark, but you get the picture.)
“There is a lot of discussion about the safety of the game, but we have seen absolutely no indications that there is any further risk of injuries, and injury rates are actually slightly lower on Thursday night than they are on Sunday.”
Neat. What that exactly means is anyone’s guess. A strong statement with vague details or explanation, otherwise known as “The Goodell.”
“When it relates to the quality of the game, we’ve seen that be incredibly positive also. We’ve seen less turnovers. We’ve seen less penalties on almost every aspect of what you would say the quality of the game. We’ve seen high-quality football on Thursday night.”
The average margin of victory on Thursday night games in 2016 exceeded 11 points. Four games were decided by at least three touchdowns, and five more were decided by at least 12 points. But at least there were fewer turnovers and penalties. One of the best games — Minnesota and Dallas in Week 13 — came on a week after those two teams played the Thursday before (Thanksgiving) and had a full week to prepare.
“We put all 32 teams on there. That’s something we did.”
No real point here. Just fun to take this quote out of context.
“We are thinking about whether we reevaluate that and maybe don’t have quite the number of teams …”
Basically, “We’re thinking about whether we should continue to put the Jaguars and Titans in primetime every season.” Good call.
Goodell finished his answer with this:
“So we are going to look at all of that, and continue to work on something that we think has gotten off to an incredible start and we are very optimistic about the future on that.”
Incredible and optimistic. Financially, sure. The NFL, despite all its warts, continues to make money hand over first, and no matter how much we complain, there’s not going to be wide-scale change until the bottom line takes a hit. That’s just the way it is. Expecting the NFL to do otherwise is foolish.
But this definitely feels like one of those times the league should listen to its players. Players like Richard Sherman, who called Thursday night games a “poopfest” and doubled down with an article on The Players’ Tribune literally titled “Why I Hate Thursday Night Football.”
“We’ve seen blowouts, sloppy play and games that have been almost unwatchable — and it’s not the players’ faults. Their bodies just aren’t ready to play,” he wrote.
Sherman added:”‘Thursday Night Football’ is just another example of the NFL’s hypocrisy: The league will continue a practice that diminishes the on-field product and endangers its players, but as long as the dollars keep rolling in, it couldn’t care less.”
If Goodell came out and simply touted the financial boon that comes from diluting the product by having a Thursday night game every week, that’s fine. But to say it’s a high-quality product — at least compared to what we see on Sunday — is, well, a lie.
Thumbnail photo via Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY Sports Images
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