John E. Hoover: 'Warden' Goodell abused his power in Monday Night debacle
BY JOHN E. HOOVER World Sports Columnist
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
9/28/12 at 3:54 PM
Roger Goodell is Warden Samuel Norton. The Green Bay Packers are Andy Dufresne.
That analogy drops key parties from the Green Bay-Seattle Monday Night Football debacle into the near perfect script of the 1994 film "The Shawshank Redemption."
The Seahawks won the game 14-12 after a Hail Mary touchdown pass that was clearly and definitively intercepted by the Packers.
Amateur officials awarded Seattle the touchdown. Replay officials upheld the call. Goodell, the 800-pound gorilla of an NFL commissioner, announced Tuesday morning that the result of the game will stand.
Just like in "Shawshank," everyone watching wants justice. Everyone, that is, but Warden Goodell and his ruthless prison guards, the NFL owners.
"Overrule?" Goodell says. "No, no, no, son. That's not happening."
The Packers stare unblinking into Goodell's eyes and ask the question:
"How can you be so obtuse?"
Goodell's nostrils flare. His temples pulse.
"Obtuse?" the NFL commissioner asks with furious, unseeing rage. "Obtuse? Thirty days in solitary confinement!"
The Packers kick and scream as they're dragged away Tuesday morning to permanent defeat.
"How can you do this? This is my life! Don't you understand? It's my life!"
Goodell, like the despicable Warden Norton, knows the truth. He knows how important it is to the Packers. And he knows what's right. But Goodell doesn't care. He is blinded by the good thing he has going. He and his band of uniformed thugs are taken asunder by their perfect product, their untouchable inflow of cash generated by their prisoners (the players) and supported, sometimes unwittingly, by taxpayers (the fans).
Might, and in this case money, makes right.
Goodell had a chance Tuesday morning to set the Packers free. He could have issued an unprecedented ruling that apologized to the millions of outraged fans who watched on TV and to the Packers and, for that matter, to the Seahawks.
"Due to an obvious error by a member of the officiating crew that incorrectly awarded the Seahawks a touchdown, and because the game clock had expired and therefore no further plays could have, even in the unlikeliest of circumstances, affected the outcome of the game, the NFL declares the Packers the winner by the score of 12-7."
That's what Goodell should have said.
Yes, it would have been an unparalleled show of power in American sport. The Seahawks and their fans certainly would be outraged. It would have been difficult. But that's the point. Doing what's right seldom means doing what's easy.
Goodell does have warden-like power - power with which he has bullied NFL players ever since he took office, like some wannabe tough-guy strutting around the yard in his $1,200 Italian loafers, showing his prisoners who's boss. He could have used that power Tuesday morning to declare Green Bay the winner.
Instead, Goodell chose to stand with his owners, unified against the NFL Referees Association that wants better retirement benefits and a bit more money. His decision to uphold the game's outcome is the very definition of obtuse.
By awarding the Packers victory, Goodell would have undermined whatever principles he and the owners have stood upon (or pretended to stand upon) since they locked out the officials in June.
"These replacement officials are so bad, I have to take action no other commissioner in any sport ever has," a Goodell reversal would have said. "We've erred in locking out the regulars, and we need them back. The NFL will give in to their demands."
Given that scenario, Andy Dufresne had a better chance of walking out the front gates of Shawshank State Prison with Red and Tommy by his side.
Protect the NFL Shield, Goodell says. Discipline. Integrity. Conduct. Respect.
And who cares what everybody thinks of us, so long as we get the TV ratings and sold-out stadiums and crammed parking lots and can push our brightly colored merchandise on future generations who also buy our hypocrisy?
Goodell wants NFL players to be held accountable for their actions. Tuesday was a time for Goodell to hold himself and his owners accountable for their own actions. But he didn't.
Maybe Goodell will have his deliverance. Maybe these events will force him and the owners to give in on their labor demands and actual NFL officials will return to the field. Then again, if events from Monday and Tuesday can't push Goodell to do the right thing, maybe nothing will.
It appears the Green Bay Packers will not be able to crawl through a river of filth and come out clean on the other side. Victory, however tainted, however protested, is Seattle's. Goodell's ruling indeed seems a life sentence for the Packers with no chance of parole.
But just like we did with Warden Norton, we now see through Goodell's slick veneer. Integrity? Means as much to Goodell as it did to the warden. Player safety? As important to Goodell as prisoner safety was to Warden Norton.
Like Andy Dufresne, we can only ask how, Roger Goodell, can you be so obtuse?
Original Print Headline: NFL's warden abused power
Officials signal after Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate pulled in a last-second pass for a touchdown to defeat the Packers on Monday. JOSHUA TRUJILLO / seattlepi.com / AP