By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — It’s hard these days being Roger Goodell.
Sure, you haul in tens of millions of dollars every year just for showing up to work, and yeah, you’re allowed to play dress-up and pretend to be a lawyer when you feel like doing so, and OK, yeah, the product on the field is so addicting to millions of Americans that there’s almost nothing you could ever do to screw up enough where your job status would actually be in jeopardy.
All of that is true. But at the same time … poor Roger, nobody seems to like him all that much.
Fortunately, times are a-changing, thanks to The Sporting News’ latest ranking of the most influential people in sports. The Honorable Mr. Goodell ranked No. 1.
The rankings were determined by a panel of executives from the major sports leagues and television networks, sports writers and … the assistant vice president of Honda, for some reason, among others.
One of the panelists was — and this is the truth — the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, Troy Vincent, aka Roger Goodell’s right-hand man. In a shocker to end all shockers, Vincent spoke highly of his boss.
“There should be no surprise that Roger is most influential,” Vincent was quoted as saying in the news release. “He has led not only the NFL, but the entire sports industry, in becoming both the world’s most popular entertainment pastime and a platform for changing lives for the better. Sport uniquely unifies people regardless of their ethnicity, race or politics, and Roger is a catalyst in the growth of this phenomenon.”
Vincent’s been a bit of a jack of all trades for Goodell over the last couple of years, at times speaking in non-truths about deceitful league operations, other times serving as a beacon of hypocrisy on behalf of the league, and still other times happily playing the role of Roger’s fall guy. So it truly is no surprise that Vincent is not surprised by Goodell’s place atop the list, because to Vincent, certainly there is no man more powerful than the estimable commissioner.
The other league commissioners ranked highly as well. The NBA’s Adam Silver ranked second and MLB’s Rob Manfred ranked fifth. In a ranking which Troy Vincent and everyone else would not find surprising, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman ranked all the way down at No. 24.
A brief look at some of the highlights of the list:
1. Roger Goodell
2. Adam Silver
3. ESPN president John Skipper
4. LeBron James
6. Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank
7. Nike co-founder Phil Knight
8. Jerry Jones
9. Stephen Curry
10. Robert Kraft
20. NCAA president Mark Emmert
21. Michael Jordan
22. Mike Krzyzewski
28. Scott Boras
29. Kobe Bryan
30. Tom Brady
34. Mark Cuban
47. Bill Belichick
Clearly, the list is accurate, as the combined powers of Nos. 10, 30 and 47 proved to be no match for the authority of No. 1.
Granted, the most powerful man in sports should typically not be afraid to attend games played in his league, and he typically should be slightly more truthful than Goodell has been, and, well, he should maybe face an unpleasant question or two from a reporter every once in a while. But nevertheless, the NFL makes money by the yachtful, so Goodell’s power need not ever be questioned.
“This list represents the sports industry’s pinnacle of power and prestige,” Sporting News editorial director Steve Miller said in the release. “Anyone seeking a true understanding of why the business of sports is the way it is in this country need look no further than this comprehensive collection.”
That they do — and when they look at this collection, they’ll all be looking up at the admirable bastion of integrity known to the world as Roger Stokoe Goodell. After many years toiling in the background and putting his cunning genius to work, the sun is finally shining on the man responsible for all of the success of the NFL.