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Roger Goodell as Emmanuel Goldstein

I found myself watching the NFL draft this week and I have to admit, I took a lot of joy watching Commissioner Roger Goodell take a beating.  For the entire first round of the draft, fired up football fans in Philadelphia raucously booed Goodell.  Pick after pick, out walked the beleaguered commissioner to announce each team’s first round selection and the fans responded with pure venom.   You’d think even Philly fans, famous for their outright cruelty, would get bored with the ‘let’s boo the commissioner” act.  But no, the rain of boos continued for hours and I waited patiently (hopefully?) for someone wearing a Wilbert Montgomery shirt to gun a cabbage right at Roger’s head.

Let’s face it – Roger Goodell is the least likeable person associated with any sport anywhere in the world.  Not only is Goodell blessed with a perma-smug look on his face that screams to anyone near him “punch me!” but he has mismanaged almost every league controversy during his tenure.  Whether it was Ray Rice drilling his wife with an uppercut, egregious over-punishment of the New Orleans Saints (some of which was overturned), or the bizarre, unfounded Kafkaesque “trial” of Tom Brady over the fact that footballs lose air pressure on cold rainy nights – Goodell has poured gasoline on every league brush fire.

Typically, that kind of record will get a man fired. However, Roger looks plenty safe.  He’s collecting $35 million a year.  The owners are showering the man with money, while the fans are burying him with hate.  Beyond the amusing spectacle of watching the awkward, smarmy Goodell getting heaped with derision, I found myself wondering aloud:  Why?!

Why do the NFL owners, the most unified group of totalitarian oligarchs since the Soviet Politburo, trot out Roger to be pilloried by riled up, sauced-up, NFL fans every draft?  Conventional wisdom would have us believe that the owners are desperate to protect the brand of the NFL from any criticism from fans or the media.  If you’re an NFL owner couldn’t you find someone who, for a cool $35 million per year, could be a little more competent and a little less odious than Roger Goodell?  So again, I was left wondering, why?!

Then it came to me.  The NFL draft reminded me of something I’d read about years ago.

“The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but that it was impossible to avoid joining in. Within thirty seconds any pretence was always unnecessary. A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledge hammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one’s will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic.”

–          1984 by George Orwell

For the same reason Orwell’s Inner Party trotted out Emmanuel Goldstein for the “two-minute hate,” the NFL sends out roger Goodell for the “first-round hate.”  When your real goal is to manipulate the proles and redirect their emotions; when you have no respect for the average fan; that’s when you create spectacles like the NFL draft broadcast.

The owners are acutely aware that the opposite of love is not hate, but rather indifference.  Believe me, the owners deeply fear indifference.

So, you give the fans an outlet for their seething hatred – you offer them up the most hated man in sports, once a year, to be scorned.  In order to prevent a revolution, or even worse the loss of Red-Zone subscriptions and TV ratings, it is best to just let Roger take a beating.  Let the unwashed masses yell and scream – there will be no damage to the league and nothing will change.  Fanatics can huff and puff at Goodell’s multi-million dollar brick house, but rest assured the pigs are seated comfortably inside.

The owners need not worry when fans are yelling death threats at the commissioner.  Just so long as it never gets to the point where the fans do something really dangerous – like turning off the television or cutting back on fan merch purchases.

That’s the game being played here folks.  It’s a two-minute hate with Roger Goodell playing the role of Emmanuel Goldstein.  We are all being manipulated – and I am right there with the rest of you, enjoying my hatred of Roger Goodell.  As Winston Smith confessed in 1984 – once the hate-fest starts, it is impossible to avoid joining in.

Does any of this bother Roger Goodell?  Not at all.  He could care less what the fans think, because he works for the owners.  And those same owners give Roger 35 million reasons to endure public hate and discontent.

For Roger, It’s all double-plus-good.

Copyright © 2017 cjcheetham