Greg Cote

Yelling ‘All is well!’ in burning building, commish Roger Goodell defends state of NFL

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell smiles as he speaks during a news conference in advance of the Super Bowl 52 football game on Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018, in Minneapolis. The Philadelphia Eagles play the New England Patriots on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell smiles as he speaks during a news conference in advance of the Super Bowl 52 football game on Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018, in Minneapolis. The Philadelphia Eagles play the New England Patriots on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018. AP

Super Bowl With a Smirk returns for our third of five daily columns needling the self-important NFL and the excess and gravitas of its big game.

One of the most amusing annual spectacles of Super Bowl Week is watching commissioner Roger Goodell present his annual state-of-the-NFL address and then field questions from the national media. It’s a little like watching a man say “Stay calm. All is well!” with a forced smile as the flames climb the collapsing walls around him.

On Wednesday, Goodell spent 40 minutes in Minneapolis accentuating the positive about the season ending Sunday — itself a Herculean feat, especially when done with a straight face.

Then again Smirk might be too harsh here. I mean, I guess the NFL did have a fantastic year if you set aside a decline to record-low TV ratings, a war with the White House over players kneeling during the anthem, the resulting #BoycottTheNFL movement, serious injuries to star players, concussion and brain trauma, safety concerns threatening the sport’s future, the XFL startup, players hating Thursday games, franchise relocations, Goodell’s own exorbitant salary, lack of minority coaches and the sham of the Rooney Rule, officiating blunders, the catch/no-catch dilemma, diminished quality of play, the Colin Kaepernick blacklisting grievance, too many international games, the sameness of the Patriots’ dominance and — wait, did I mention record-low TV ratings?

Players getting arrested has become the good ol’ days. President Donald Trump had it easier the day before in his State of the Union address.

Goodell dodged all of the questions that made him sweat, and missed a chance to do something meaningful when asked about an increasing perception among players that there is collusion against Kaepernick, who ignited the anthem-kneeling social-injustice protest.

“All the clubs individually make their own decisions who’s on their rosters,” Goodell said weakly. “We as a league do not get involved with that.”’

Dear Roger: You as league better get involved with everything causing this palpable decline in NFL popularity before the flames get higher and the TV ratings lower.

▪ Dolphins great Dan Marino appeared on ESPN’s Golic And Wingo show Wednesday from Minneapolis and said of Tom Brady: “It’s amazing what he’s been able to do. My hat’s off to him.” Curiously though, Marino was not wearing a hat at the time, leaving one to wonder whether the hat had come off for Brady in advance, or if the whole hat remark was disingenuous.

▪ The fingers that hold five Super Bowl rings once drew milk from a cow’s nipples. Turns out this Super Bowl is a homecoming of sorts for Brady, who as a kid used to visit his maternal grandparents and do chores at their farm in tiny Browerville, Minn. It’s true, too, even though (here it comes, and I’m sorry) Brady milking cows is so udderly hard to believe!

▪ A Twitter map indicates every state in America is rooting for underdog Philadelphia Sunday except the four northeastern-most New England states and, for some reason, North Dakota. Somewhere in Bismarck right now, a front-running farmer in a No. 12 Brady jersey is tending his flaxseed crop.

▪ MIAMI WINS SUPER BOWL LII! OK by that I mean Pats receiver Phillip Dorsett will be the 62nd Miami Hurricanes alum to appear in a Super Bowl — most of any college since the 1970 merger. The U edges Tennessee’s 61 and Southern Cal’s 60.

▪ The NFL will have four concussion specialists at Sunday’s game, three at field level and one in the broadcast booth in case Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth start brawling again.

▪ Gronk Update: The Patriots tight end, now “expected” to be freed from concussion protocol and play Sunday, offered a meteorological report Wednesday, saying of Minneapolis, and we quote: “It’s freezy freezy!”

▪ In an unrelated story, Wednesday’s Eagles’ practice was slightly delayed but no injuries were reported as the team bus inadvertently was struck by an arctic Mastadon during a flash blizzard.

▪ Patriots-Eagles will be seen in some 200 countries, Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, and in almost 25 languages. Right now, two bickering crones stirring a pot of goulash in Budapest are arguing whether Eagles quarterback Nick Foles is up to the task. “Nedvesiti az agyat!” (He will wet the bed), cries one.

▪ NFL security officials are warning about counterfeit tickets. If, for example, the ticket you bought from that guy in a van seems extraordinarily small and reads, “AMC Theaters / The Shape Of Water / Admit One,” it may not be a bona fide Super Bowl ticket.

▪ Finally, our Super Bowl Party Tip du Jour: Have the Taser and zip ties ready just in case neighbor Loony Al is belligerent-drunk and urinating in the driveway before kickoff again.

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