Forget about Roger Goodell.
There. Somebody needed to say it.
Not forever. Just, for now. Because Sunday’s AFC Championship between the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers isn’t about him.
Sure, the thought of the NFL commissioner handing Tom Brady the Lombardi Trophy in two weeks is something out of a dream. I want to see it. Everyone in New England wants to see it. The Patriots want to see it.
But you have to get to the Super Bowl first. And the only way to do that is to defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
Goodell had most of New England up in arms earlier this week, when it was reported that he wouldn’t be attending the AFC Championship. Instead, the commissioner will be in Atlanta for the NFC Championship, to see the Falcons host the Green Bay Packers.
Judging from his twitter account, Goodell was also in Atlanta last Saturday, touring the Falcons’ new stadium, which is set to open later this year. He also made an appearance at the Falcons’ win over the Seahawks on the same day, followed by a trip to Kansas City the very next day, to see the Steelers beat the Chiefs.
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Instead of making his first appearance at Gillette Stadium since the Deflategate madness began, Goodell will choose to travel back to Atlanta, for what will be the Falcons’ final game at the Georgia Dome.
Whether it’s fear, anger, or stubbornness, Goodell chooses not to come to Foxboro. And because he was the one who played the role of judge, jury, and executioner in the Deflategate case that led to Brady being suspended four games to begin this season, most people here in New England want him to show his face.
But I could not care less.
All I care about is seeing Goodell on that elevated podium in Houston on Feb. 5, congratulating Brady, Bill Belichick, and the rest of the Patriots organization on a Super Bowl victory. Whether or not he shows up to Gillette Stadium won’t affect that outcome.
Some people need to see Goodell in Foxboro. I don’t. In fact, I’m sick and tired of even hearing the guy’s name. Part of me thinks he chose to go to Atlanta instead of New England because he knew it would create such a stir, that we’d all be talking about him for the entire week leading up to Conference Championship weekend. And what happens after that? We’ll be talking about him for two whole weeks leading up to the Super Bowl.
I’ve never been in the same room as the guy, but from afar, it seems as if he loves himself. Even more than that, Goodell loves the NFL being in the news. So much so, that he makes an announcement about the announcement, about the bleeping announcement of the league’s schedule release.
Now, here we are, talking about Goodell all week, because he decided to shun New England from his postseason travel plans. And I’m willing to bet he’s loving every single minute of it.
So my take on it is simple: I don’t care where Goodell watches football on Sunday. Why? Because even if he did show up to Foxboro, what would happen? If you’ve ever used the media entrance at Gillette Stadium, you’d know that he wouldn’t have to encounter a single fan, if he really didn’t want to.
So his presence at Gillette wouldn’t do anything for me. And it wouldn’t do anything for the Patriots, either.
It wouldn’t give them more motivation than they already have. And it wouldn’t distract them in any way, shape, or form from the ultimate goal.
Same goes for his expected absence this coming Sunday. It won’t change anything that happens on the field. And if that’s the case — which it is — why should I even care what Goodell does right now?
Again, I don’t.
But think about where this story line has taken us. You’ve got actual reporters in press conferences and in the locker room with Patriots players and coaches, asking them what it means for Goodell to avoid New England. As if they care. As if that affects their game plan.
Don’t get it twisted. I can’t stand Goodell. I’ll never understand why he’s perfectly fine with Brady serving the same number of games as Greg Hardy — a guy who beat his girlfriend and threw her on a futon full of guns. I’m convinced he doesn’t even know the definition of “integrity.” And his pompous, “I’m better than everyone else” attitude is something I would expect — but certainly don’t admire — from a guy who makes over $30 million a year to do one thing: make more money for his league.
Talking about him keeps his league in the news. Keeping his league in the news helps bring in more money. And don’t let them fool you. Money is the only thing the NFL cares about.
I get it. I’m guilty, right now, of doing exactly what Goodell wants. I’m writing a column about where he’s going to be on Sunday.
But only because I want you to know, I really don’t care if he shows up or not.
Listen to “The Danny Picard Show” at dannypicard.com, iTunes, and Google Play. Danny can also be heard weekends on WEEI 93.7 FM. Follow him on Twitter @DannyPicard.