Thursday, September 11, 2014

9/11 Goodell Quickie

Obviously, it's hard to ever write about things as inessential as sports (or anything, really) in the shadow of the anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001. Thinking of everyone who lost someone or was impacted in other ways.

In case you missed it: Here is yesterday's newsletter (which went unpublished here for some no-good reason). It's on the journalism implications of the Apple Watch. Don't miss anything -- sign up here to get it in your email.

Roger Goodell: Hoo boy. A couple points I'm paying closest attention to:

*The NFL is all-in on "incompetence" over "malfeasance." That's not a great look, but latter would be/have been a much bigger problem. (Dan Wetzel has a clear-eyed take on that.) The release of the AP story was the first time I allowed myself to even contemplate Goodell might not make it through this. That's not saying he won't -- but that I could even remotely envision it now? Yikes.

*This "independent" investigation is a necessary PR move but not necessarily sufficient. It's hard to say "independent" when the investigator is being overseen by two owners, one of whom (Mara) is on the record supporting Goodell and the other (Rooney) owning a team without an exemplary record as it relates to their star players' run-ins with violence against women. This committee will face much more scrutiny than your typical whitewash.

*What are owners telling the most tapped-in NFL reporters (like Peter King) about Goodell. What is the language? Is it unequivocating or are there cracks? Because cracks are the things that ultimately undo a seemingly untouchable commissioner. The "independent" investigation probably buys Goodell some time with owners -- unless the AP story yesterday turns into something bigger.

*The owners are loyal to Goodell, but they are even more loyal to their business interests. His future rests on the owners' evaluation of whether Goodell can still maximize their investment or whether he has been diminished enough that keeping him around devalues their league even slightly. Because it's a lot easier to find a new commissioner with 100% maximization potential than hope that Goodell can recover whatever he has lost.

*That Goodell is indelibly tarnished is a given here -- he has also overseen the tarnishing of his beloved "Shield." He obviously can live with that, because he loves his job more than he loves the league itself. At a minimum, the Rice story has shown that his monarchical consolidation of power has not been in the best interests of the league.

Upshot: Goodell's entire role rests on unquestioned authority. The questions are there now.

-- D.S.

Monday, September 08, 2014

9/8 NFL Week 1 Hangover Quickie

I had been waiting for the Ray Rice developments to play themselves out, and they have -- the Ravens have cut him. His career is -- if not over -- tabled indefinitely (and certainly more than the 2 games that the NFL would have seen him sit, which now seems laughably low).

The entire situation begs larger questions about how the NFL handled it, how the Ravens handled it and how the media handled it. But there is a pretty good chance that the move by the Ravens will curtail all of those discussions, and it'll be back to football tonight.

The best things I have read today on this were Vox's analysis of where the power in this story is (with the people who have the video footage) and Deadspin's fair questions about how the media was largely led along on this back when it broke.

The whole story casts an entirely deserved gloom over what was otherwise a pretty amazing opening Sunday of the NFL season, full of comebacks and weird results and fantasy awesomeness (and cringing) and the glorious return of NFL Red Zone Channel.

-- D.S.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Sunday 9/7 CFB Hangover Quickie

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If the playoff was held today:

(1) Oregon
(2) Georgia
(3) Texas A&M
(4) Florida State


*Best win of the season: Oregon (at home over Michigan State) edges incumbent Texas A&M (on the road at South Carolina), with USC winning at Stanford sliding into 3rd.

*Michigan State: Big Ten champs, zero chance at playoff? MSU fans should have every reason to believe that the team will run the table from here and finish 12-1 with a Big Ten title. But as it relates to the playoff, they are in trouble.

They are going to remain behind unbeaten (or 1-loss Pac-12 champ) Oregon, unbeaten FSU and whoever wins the SEC (if not the 1-loss SEC runner-up), plus whoever inevitably comes out of the Big 12 unbeaten or with one loss. MSU will have a single quality game on its schedule -- a loss at Oregon. (No, wins over Nebraska and Ohio State in East Lansing won't count as "quality.")

*Confirmed: Ohio State without Braxton Miller is exactly what we thought they were.

*Not ready to believe in Notre Dame yet. But the most overrated team in the country is clearly UCLA.

*Texas is... not good. But Baylor's amazing QB situation is astonishing.

*Sort of can't believe what Florida was able to do on offense (I know, I know: Eastern Michigan is terrible. But still. Last year's team would have won 13-0, not 65-0.)

*Sort of can't believe where Northwestern is at right now -- it's a mess, and the coaching staff doesn't seem to have any capacity to fix it.

*Next week's best: Georgia-South Carolina, potentially the play-in game for the SEC East title.

Enjoy the return of NFL Sundays.

-- D.S.