Goodell’s latest defeat, Deflategate, has many questioning his ability to execute his role as NFL Commissioner. In exonerating New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, the judge presiding the case basically compared Goodell to Joseph McCarthy. And perhaps with good reason. Despite media reports, there have been no concrete evidence to link Brady to the underinflated footballs. The case against Brady was a sham from the beginning and was destined to fail. Anyone who goes on a fishing expedition gets what they deserve and those who buy into it just helped raise former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s IQ by 30 points. Add to that his botching of Ray Rice, bounties, and concussions and the results see Goodell take a nosedive on the commissioner depth chart.
Adam Silver of the NBA and baseball’s Robert Manfred are rather new to the sports commissioner biz. Some would say Silver gets brownie points for his handling of former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. But I would advise Mr. Silver that pandering to groups that could less about your business is not a sign of good leadership. Manfred came on board just as the Biogenics case wrapped up and Alex Rodriguez was handed a season-long suspension. So in this case, he has not been tested yet.
Bettman meanwhile has been playing it cool in the heat of scrutiny. You can question some of his ideas but his approach to the game both on and off the ice has been close to being pure genius. For better or for worse, the game of hockey has grown in popularity during Bettman’s tenure especially in non-traditional markets. Bettman has resisted calls for change in the game from both traditionalists (i.e. those who care about the game) and the politically correct crowd (i.e.: those who could care less about the game). He has also stood tall in labour disputes with the NHLPA. It is like sending stiffs to go up against a heavyweight champ. Bob Goodenow, Ted Saskin, and now Donald Fehr, all have tapped out to the little man in the end. Bettman continues to get plastered with bullets from the media but manages to dust himself off in the end. That or sports journalists are simply bad marksmen.
We could debate whether Bettman is the best commissioner in sport but there is no doubt that he is looking good while his counterparts are either sitting on the sidelines or getting beaten up in the courts or in the media. Perhaps it is time to give Bettman his due. Goodell would do himself some good by calling Bettman and getting some pointers.