The New England Patriots quarterback plays in the league’s season opener but at home the commissioner stays. Who’da thunk it?
Roger Goodell’s decision to play hooky appears out of character. In his decade or so as commissioner, Goodell has attended every NFL season opener. But braving a journey to Gillette Stadium down a drunken Route 1, even protected in a luxury SUV, seems above the call of duty. Roger Stokoe Goodell surely likes dodging peppermint-schnapps bottles even less than drinking from them. Even if Tom Brady lent the commissioner the helicopter he used to travel to his Salem State speaking event in the spring, Goodell would still face the prospect of entering an open-air nuthouse overflowing with Patriot crazies. Without snow to throw, something—what thing?—wicked Roger’s way comes.
Tom Brady may have beaten the commissioner in his home court in New York City. The commissioner can’t beat Tom Brady on his home field.
“Yeah, start drinking early,” Brady advised Patriots Nation before the home opener four seasons ago. “Get nice and rowdy—4:15 game, lot of time to get lubed up. Come out here, and cheer for the home team.” Such a message would sound redundant for this season’s opener. The team’s spokesman four years ago interpreted Brady’s comments as “stay hydrated” and “drink a lot of water.” It’s unlikely that the Foxboro Faithful’s verbal messages to the commissioner would have similarly got lost in translation on Thursday night.
This spring, I queried the NFL about the commissioner’s presence at the league opener in Foxboro on September 10. They provided a positively Belichickian listen-to-the-crickets response. They opened up on the matter shortly after Judge Richard Berman banged the gavel down on their case on Thursday.
But NFL PR guy Brian McCarthy told Fox Sports that Goodell “believes the focus should be on the game on the field and the festivities celebrating the Patriots’ Super Bowl championship.” Nice of the commissioner to finally come around to that view after allowing an alleged infraction meriting a $25,000 fine in the rulebook to overshadow the greatest Super Bowl in NFL history and dominate offseason football discussions. Better late than never.
Last year, Goodell journeyed to Seattle a day early to participate in an NFL Play 60 event for kids before the league opener between the Seahawks and Packers. He called the start to the season “very exciting for us.” The year prior on opening night the Denver Post reported on a black SUV bearing the commissioner arriving at Sports Authority Field at Mile High thirty minutes before kickoff. “People have to follow the rules,” Goodell told the paper about several Broncos facing league discipline. “I’m not directly involved in that. I don’t have all the details, but if you commit violations of our policy, there will be consequences.”
Sounds like Judge Richard Berman’s message to Goodell. You don’t get to make up the rules as you go along. The consequences include an unwelcome mat rolled up to 1 Patriot Place and permanent persona non grata status in the 02035 postal code.
Roger Goodell has 68,756 reasons to stay out of Foxboro and 44,000,000 ones not to care.