Malcolm Butler’s interception capped an NFL season that sucked the soul out of sport and left a void for the non-NFL fan/sportswriter seeking a football season where some form of justice would be served to a league that regularly dehumanizes its players for the sake of the profit machine.
The greatest quote from Spaceballs is “Evil will always triumph because good is dumb.” In Super Bowl XLIV evil won despite the good guys lacking ignorance. The Patriots are not bad guys in the black hat sense, though deflated footballs and Spygate fail to burnish a reputation of fair competitiveness. The bad guys are Roger Goodell and the faceless inhabitants of the NFL offices on Park Avenue that treat their players as well-paid fan belts or carburetors. Goodell’s NFL consists of league officials initially denying the debilitating effects of traumatic brain injuries (concussions) and forcing the players into molds requiring media availability resulting in cliché spouting celebrated by the sport’s cognoscenti and concurrently expressing derision of free spirits exercising their well-won individuality.
The Seattle Seahawks rebelled against Goodell’s NFL. Their Adderall warts are the well-documented stain on the franchise. However, Pete Carroll includes alternative ideas into training such as yoga. Marshawn Lynch is about that action. Richard Sherman’s arrogance is off-putting, but matched by his on-field exploits. The only Madison Avenue friendly Seahawk is Russell Wilson. The Seahawks prove the possibility of winning and celebrating the individual in a sport of ruthless conformity. The sports fan who finds football to be a droll exercise of rote analysis masquerading as brilliance (yours truly) could care less about the machinations of the football season, but found a rooting interest in a team that challenged Goodell’s media dictums with “Cardboard” Doug Baldwin. Baldwin’s celebration in the Super Bowl is ironic; his pantomime defecation is exactly how the NFL views the players responsible for making owners their billions. Goodell clearly views the players as replaceable chattel subject to his ever-changing morality and absolute control. Never would an outcome been so karmic: a visibly uncomfortable Goodell handing the Lombardi Trophy to the Seahawks, and possibly having to congratulate Marshawn Lynch on winning the Super Bowl MVP trophy.
Alas, the Seattle victory turned into instant hot-take regurgitation in the media centers of the sport. Carroll became Mr. Magoo and Lynch became the ironic martyr. The real Magoo is Goodell.
Instead of being able to watch the September pennant races free of football’s inanity every sports fan was subjected to Ray Rice’s violent assault and Goodell’s incompetent/immoral punishment. The story of this season is Ray Rice, Greg Hardy, and Adrian Peterson. Goodell’s claims of being humbled by these incidents is undone when he sneers arrogantly at Rachel Nichols when she (rightly) supposes that league partners conducting investigations is a conflict of interest. Goodell manages to step in dog excrement yet fails in emitting foul odors to his 32 bosses. America and the practitioners of football are uncomfortably aware of the hypocrisy. As long as the ATM of football continues to churn out record profits, does any owner truly care if players are fined for not spouting clichés to the media, wearing different colored cleats, or celebrating touchdowns in the fashion of most hip-hop videos? More importantly, does any owner care if their employees suffer traumatic brain injuries or have their bodies rendered into arthritic masses unable to perform normal activities of daily living upon completion of their football careers. Goodell’s action on player safety consists of an unenforced concussion protocol (e.g. Julian Edelman was supposed to be pulled from the game per independent neurologists yet the message somehow “failed” to get to the field) arbitrary, heavy handed suspensions (Bountygate), and the failed imposition of an 18-game schedule along with successful imposition of Thursday night games. Goodell’s NFL is “The Man” so many fight against.
The Seahawks were the anti-establishment candidate. Their players are not angels, but rightly called out NFL hypocrisy. Seattle celebrates the individual and the organization fosters a climate where players can be who they are. Their owner doesn’t appear to throw parties where Goodell is present – their players rightly point out the hypocrisy. The Seahawks are emblematic of the sad truth that so often “The Man” wins and so many times the one who is brash and calls attention to the establishment’s nefariousness is doomed to failure. I have scant interest in the outcome of NFL games, but if it’s possible, I’m less of an NFL fan than ever because the good guys never win.