Monday, 26 January 2015

Deflategate: Would you buy a used car from Roger Goodell, or ask him to investigate where we should have lunch?

Speaking of Roger Goodell, one of the findings of the investigation of his 'investigation' in the Ray Rice spousal assault was that he took very poor notes of their meeting, laughably thin, basically unusable.  To me, it demonstrated that he wasn't 'curious' during this investigation.  Whenever a manager is interviewing an employee for potential discipline/dismissal, it's recommended that you go in with an open mind, eager to get that person's side of things, her story, rather than with pre-conceived notions about what took place and what further actions 'should' result.

During their interview, with NFLPA staff and his agent present, Mr. Rice told the Commissioner that he "hit" his fiancée.  As this story unfolded, I wanted to know more.  What did he mean hit?  Did he mean shove, rough shove, slap, push, fend off?  Did he mean punch?  What kind of punch, a fake "Leave me alone beeatch or I'll..." that turned out horribad, or a full-on punch, with intent?  All these questions should have been asked, if the Commish had been curious.

During these kind of interviews, a subject will sometimes lapse into 'conversational-ese', and use figures of speech like "Well we walk into the store, and one thing leads to another, and..."  At which point the interviewer has to stop and backtrack, and ask, "What specifically led to what?  What do you mean one thing led to another?"  Any time you hear words like "whatever" or "blah blah blah", you have to stop the subject and encourage him to be precise, specific, and give a full account, that this isn't a bar tale that needs to get to the punchline, no pun intended.  You want the full story, the whole picture, not a sketch.

So that when Roger Goodell didn't press Ray Rice on what he meant by "hit", he wasn't doing his job, he wasn't being curious.  He didn't need information to make a decision.  He'd already cut a deal with Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti to go easy on Ray Rice since he was a fine young man who'd made a stupid mistake.  So he didn't really need the facts, the whole picture.  He didn't need to take any notes.  The decision had already been made.

This was almost a show trial, going through the rigamarole to give the impression of due process and an opportunity to express remorse, to make the slap on the wrist more palatable.

One of the excuses that Roger Goodell has used to explain the poor notes he took, and the botched handling of this case, is that he's "not a lawyer".  Which is a scream.  If you admit that, what the heck were you doing acting as a hanging judge in the Bountygate investigation, and suspending all these coaches and GM's?  If your incompetence is an excuse in the Ray Rice tomfoolery, then how do you stand by the penalties enacted on the Saints?

And now the league is investigating another darling franchise and owner, Robert Kraft's Patriots.  It will be interesting to see how involved Roger Goodell will be, or whether due to potential conflict of interest or bias or his tarred image or all three he'll maintain an arm's length remove.

But it will be difficult for the league to 'get it right'.  Its credibility has been damaged lately, so very few will be satisfied that justice was done in the deflation of footballs case.  Analysts say that the Patriots staff will stay mum, there won't be a 'smoking gun', but again, there didn't need to be one for the Saints, they used the lack of institutional control as reason enough for the harsh suspensions.

On the other hand, how can you suspend coaches and players and staff on the eve of the Super Bowl?  Do you rob your fans of the best game you can offer?  Or do you allow a team of cheaters to prosper, and defer punishment until later, when it won't matter?

He's learned this lesson too late, but Roger Goodell is better off having an investigating arm doing the review of cases like these, and maybe an independent arbitrator doing the final ruling.  We'll see how they handle this football.  Will he be curious, or will he have an idea of what 'should' happen, for the good of the league?

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