There are good sports commissioners and there are bad commissioners, and then there is NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell: the Donald Trump of sports commissioners.
No matter how many errors in judgment he makes, no matter how powerfully the tides seem to be turning against him, his empire remains intact, even growing.
We saw the phenomenon again last night. The Super Bowl blackout should have been a disaster for the National Football League. The event's biggest draw -- Beyonce's 12-minute halftime fitness routine -- was over, and the game was shaping up as a blowout. America's viewing public had every reason to switch to "Downton Abbey."
Instead, the Super Bowl blackout turned into a phenomenon in its own right: Those who had already given up on the game tuned in to see what was going on inside the Superdome. A stroke of bad luck for the NFL turned into an unintentional publicity stunt.
Better yet, when play resumed after 34 minutes , San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick led his team back from a 28-6 deficit, very nearly winning the team its sixth championship. The Baltimore Ravens held on to win, of course, but the real winner was the NFL and the Super Bowl, which enjoyed its best overnight TV ratings ever.
No one is happier than Goodell, I'm sure. The same Goodell who has presided, clumsily, over the dawn of football's brain-trauma era -- even as the professional game's popularity continues to grow. The same Goodell who saw his "Bountygate" case exposed as little more than a witch hunt by former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue. The same Goodell who locked out NFL referees for the first quarter of this year’s season, putting his game’s integrity -- not to mention the players’ safety -- at risk for the sake of what would qualify as rounding errors on the NFL’s balance sheet.
Yes, Roger Goodell is the commissioner who can’t do anything right. He is also, apparently, the commissioner who can't do anything wrong.
(Jonathan Mahler is a sports columnist for Bloomberg View. Follow him on Twitter.)
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