With the caveat that the AP report about the video is just one report and the story remains incomplete, it’s worth remembering a basic fact of life that media in general and sports media in particular have a hard time appreciating:
PEOPLE IN POWER LIE.
Part of the problem with a media universe in which insider access is so privileged is that the people charged with holding those in power accountable are themselves compromised. The reasons why this is so perilous a situation in the realm of politics are, I trust, obvious enough.
In the sports world, where the stakes are not as high, we give less thought to the fact that most in sports media are wearing multiple hats – as commentators, insiders, super “fans,” and, when it suits them, “journalists.” These multiple statuses have made some people in this ecosystem very rich and very famous. But if you’re cultivating friendships – and crowing about it – with the people you are covering, you are going to develop massive blindspots, even if you’re well-meaning and want to take your professional responsibilities seriously.
So when you’re friends with Roger Goodell, you might criticize his actions from time to time, but you’re going to have a harder time facing some simple truths about people in power, namely that, sometimes, they abuse their authority. Willfully.
It’s unnerving to live in a world in which those with power might actually look us in the eye, and with all the apparent conviction in the world, flat out lie. So we invest a lot of psychic energy, especially when we have some personal connection to those elites, believing them to be well-intentioned individuals who can be taken at their word. After all, you wouldn’t expect your friends to bullshit you to your face.
But lie they do, at least some times, and almost certainly more frequently than the typical rube (namely, most of us) wants to believe. When it does happen, it should be less shocking than it is.
The old saw that power corrupts is a useful reminder even outside the realm of politics. Lord Acton’s claim that “Great men are almost always bad men” might be a bit overstated. But you could do worse as a starting point for trying to gain insight into the (mainly) men who sit atop powerful institutions.
Updates: In case anyone thinks I was speaking too abstractly, or tearing down straw men, Steve Levy just said to Chris Mortensen: “it’s hard to believe that Roger Goodell would stare into a camera and lie, isn’t it?” Mort responded by saying that, at this point, he needed to await further information to pass judgment, but that yes, certainly for those who know him and are friends with him, it’s hard to believe.
And this, from Cowherd this morning: “As I get older, increasingly I don’t trust power.” Among those institutions that Cowherd lists that have abused their power: “Wall Street. Check. The American church (sic). Check. Government, Check. Dictators. Corporate America.” And so on. They have all, Cowherd says, failed Lincoln’s test of character: giving men power.
“The NFL was starting to control all of the television networks and too much of our collective souls.”
About the newly announced investigation, former linebacker Jonathan Vilma has it right: