By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
MINNEAPOLIS (CBS) — Some critics have accused Roger Goodell of dodging the tough questions at all costs, of having specific planted questions in the audience at his annual Super Bowl press conference, and of avoiding questions from reporters from certain cities when a particularly sensitive subject might come up as he’s being broadcast live across the country.
To those critics, I say this: Shame on you.
If those abhorrent accusations were even close to true, then how on earth would you explain the opening to a question from the NFL’s Play60 Super Kid during Wednesday’s press conference?
Kidding aside, Goodell spoke to the media and the world on Wednesday in downtown Minneapolis, in a press conference that certainly lacked the buzz and controversy of the sessions from recent years. The commissioner spoke at length about the league’s intentions to take closer looks at the rules about what is and isn’t a catch, he took one question on Colin Kaepernick, one question on the Raiders and the Rooney Rule, and one question on national anthem protests.
Amazingly, despite Goodell’s recent history of pursuing Tom Brady in federal courts for the better part of two years, the commissioner faced zero questions about the fact that Brady is once again in the Super Bowl. The Boston Globe’s Ben Volin joked with Goodell that he was all out of DeflateGate questions, and he and Goodell shared a polite chuckle. But nobody else even mentioned the history.
What a shame.
For the second straight year, I personally didn’t get the chance to ask Goodell a question. Last year I had a couple of (admittedly long-winded) questions ready in case I got the chance to ask them. I was denied. I’m not alone in this; poor Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald might still be standing in a San Francisco hotel ballroom with his arm raised, waiting to ask a question to Goodell.
This time around, I asked the man wielding the NFL microphone if I could speak to the great and powerful Goodell. I was told two people were ahead of me. He gave the microphone to two people, then a third, and then never came back to me. It was quite sad.
And, so, as I did last year, I might as well share the biting question that would have aroused the wrath of the man on stage and brought him to his knees out of the great shame brought to him and his whole family. (More likely, he would have deflected the question, spoken in platitudes, and said he disagrees with some of my facts but is OK with me having a different opinion.)
(Goodell’s belief that people can have different opinions of facts kind of speaks to a lot of issues here, doesn’t it?)
(OK, I’m rambling.)
Anyway, in my mind, here’s how I pictured the question I would’ve liked to ask the commissioner.
Roger, Tom Brady is playing in this Super Bowl. He’s a player that you deemed to be a cheater and a liar. Granted, it turned out that you manipulated his testimony and you also destroyed the data collected throughout the 2015 season that proved the league was wrong, but nevertheless you deemed Brady to be a liar and a cheater.
Yet at the same time you were pursuing Brady in federal courts, you spoke publicly about how you have a respect and admiration for Brady, and that you believe is a “surefire Hall of Famer.” Given that you believe he is a liar and a cheater, why do you believe he’s worthy of being enshrined in the Hall of Fame?
Pretty straightforward. I would have loved to hear his answer. It probably would have been along the lines of this.
The (Imaginary) Answer:
“Tom is a tremendous athlete, a tremendous competitor. He’s been great for our game, and for our league, and certainly for the Patriots. I think his accomplishments speak to that. But at the same time, I have a job to do, the league has a job to do, and part of that job is to enforce the rules. And the rules apply to everyone. So what happened with Tom happened, and we dealt with that, but Tom is a still a terrific player, and he’ll be taking the field for his eighth Super Bowl on Sunday night.”
That’s what I would’ve expected at least. It wouldn’t have knocked his socks off, but it may have forced him to think on his feet, which is always a worthwhile spectacle.
I look forward to the opportunity to perhaps sit in a chair in a grand ballroom next year and get denied once again. I enjoy reliving my middle school dance nightmares every year at Roger Goodell’s press conferences.