I play basketball every Thursday night. It's a weekly game that has apparently been going on for decades. A group of 15 to 20 guys — varying in age and skill level — meet at Central Catholic high school, play for a couple hours, and drink beer afterwards. For someone like me, who still has some faint (very, very, very faint) remnants of the guy in this picture, this is perfect. An opportunity to have fun, compete, stay in (reasonably) good shape, and play with a group of guys who know how to play is basically the dream scenario.
This fact isn't lost on me. I look forward to Thursday night hoops more than I do for any other weekly occurrence. When possible, I arrive early to stretch and get some extra shots up. Sometimes I'll even invite others, but only after they've gone through an intense internal vetting process. Considering the fact that, in the last seven years, I've had three different girlfriends (and one wife), three different jobs, and four different home addresses, you could say this has been the most consistent thing in my life.
But I'm probably not going to be there this week. Why? Because the Steelers are playing the Ravens Thursday night.
For the past year, I have been very outspoken about my distaste for decisions made by the NFL. The Ray Rice debacle is just the tip of an iceberg that has things like "years of lying to its workforce about the long-term dangers of playing the sport" at it's base. Yet, when Sunday arrives and the Steelers happen to be on, everything stops.
To wit, my wife and I hadn't been to church in a while, so we made sure to go last weekend. But instead of going at our usual 11:45 time, we got up at 8:15 (8:15 on a freakin weekend!!!!) so we could attend the 9:30 service…so I'd be able to watch the entire Steelers' game at 1pm.
This, in a nutshell, is why the value of the Dallas Cowboys franchise seems to be increasing by the trillions every year despite the fact that it's owner belongs in a wax museum. It's why the NFL can be audacious enough to ask performers to pay them for the right to perform at the Super Bowl. It's why the Emmys delayed its broadcast for a day just so NBC could televise an NFL preseason game.
And its why, despite all of our protests and thinkpieces and outrage, Roger Goodell is not getting fired any time soon. He does not work for VSB or EBONY or Gawker or Grantland or Slate or Jezebel anywhere else where passionate, factual, and insightful pieces outlining why he should lose his job have been published. He doesn't know about the happy hour conversation, or the Facebook thread, or the group email chain you were involved in where people expressed how disgusted they were with the league. He does, however, work for the owners of each of the 32 NFL teams. And he definitely knows about the Forbes annual NFL franchise valuation, which states "the average NFL team is worth $1.43 billion, up 23% from 2013."
These numbers will continue to grow as long as we keep the NFL such an important part of our cultural zeitgeist, as long as its enough of a force to convince people like me and you to schedule their lives around it. And, as long as those numbers continue to grow, Goodell will continue to keep — and earn — his $44 million salary.