Every 50 years, Couch Slouch assesses the commissioners of the four major professional sports leagues. The last time I did it, I was in kindergarten — without the far-flung knowledge I have today — so I must apologize to MLB’s Ford Frick, the NFL’s Pete Rozelle, the NBA’s Walter Kennedy and NHL president Clarence Campbell for my then-adolescent judgments.
No such problem a half-century later, so here we go:
Bud Selig (MLB): The good news is baseball’s growth during Selig’s 22-year tenure. The bad news is, in order to accomplish this, Selig might’ve made a deal with the devil; then again — and I’m checking replay to confirm — Selig might be the devil himself!
He’s supposed to drive the integrity of the game; instead, he’s the wheelman for the owners’ getaway car.
For most of the steroid era, Selig didn’t just turn the other cheek, he buried his head in sand halfway to China. First he pretended PEDs didn’t exist, then he pretended he was policing it before anyone.
Meanwhile, in chasing the almighty dollar — which, in Selig’s defense, is truly America’s pastime — the MLB poo-bah has had games played from late March to late October, started cold-weather games at 8:30 at night and made the All-Star Game the determining factor as to which league has home-field advantage in the World Series. He’d even award a wild-card playoff spot to Cirque du Soleil if he thought it would fill the owners’ coffers.
Selig moved opening day to Australia this season; that alone might be okay. But consider that after the Dodgers and Diamondbacks played two regular season games in Sydney, they then returned to play a week’s worth of spring training games. Plus those contests down under — 7,800 miles away from Arizona — counted as two home games for the Diamondbacks.
Most of these lapses could’ve been wiped out for me if Selig had stood up to the yahoos and said no to replay. But nobody says no to replay, least of all a behind-the-curve, blinded-by-greed money ball commissioner.
Roger Goodell (NFL): Heck, he looks like a commissioner, talks like a commissioner and walks like a commissioner, which means, by all rights, he should be a commissioner. Not to mention he just sparkles in an Armani suit and smells like old Eastern money.
I’ll say this — and I apologize for sort of mixing metaphors here — he was given the keys to a cash cow, and up until now, he hasn’t stopped milking that cow for beaucoup bucks.
But . . .
I think he can survive the head trauma issue — fans, in particular, largely don’t care if players are concussed into irreversible brain damage — and he’ll survive other player-safety/painkiller lawsuits, and he’ll survive changing sports tastes (here comes soccer!!!), and he’ll survive Daniel Snyder’s intractable, indefensible Redskins nickname position.
However, he will RUE THE DAY he insisted on seizing the entire calendar week for NFL games. The Sunday-to-Monday-night ritual was in perfect rhythm with our seasonal football needs. Thursday nights and beyond? He’s going to kill the goose that’s been laying multimillion-dollar eggs.
Gary Bettman (NHL): Maybe it wasn’t his fault, but when you preside over three labor-management disputes, resulting in two shortened seasons and one entirely canceled season, it doesn’t reflect well on the top dog, or, as Robin Williams’s Adrian Cronauer screamed near the end of “Good Morning, Vietnam”: “This is not going to look good on my résumé!”
Can you imagine the Burger King CEO surviving multiple work stoppages in which no Whoppers were sold for, say, even 48 hours?
On a positive note, Bettman has brought hockey to the great outdoors, and without the NHL, the NBC Sports Network, a.k.a. NBCSN or the Nothing But Costas and Soccer Network, might be showing test patterns of Al Roker’s neckties.
Adam Silver (NBA): In his first major test, the NBA draft lottery went off without a hitch last week, plus I thought he showed stellar judgment in handing off host duties to deputy commissioner Mark Tatum.
Q. As an L.A. guy, have you noticed that both of your NBA teams have ownership issues? (Patrick Gallagher; Pittsburgh)
A. Do you remember in “The Godfather,” when Vito Corleone had a sit-down in the garden with Michael Corleone to explain “this Barzini business” and what to watch for? I don’t think Jerry Buss ever had that conversation with Jim Buss.
Q. What’s the worst trend you’ve seen in sports in the last 25 years? (Christine Bennett; Cedar Rapids, Iowa)
A. The NSA monitoring coach-quarterback headset-to-helmet-radio connections during most NFL games.
Q. Did the judges allow you to wear nasal strips during your divorce proceedings? (Dan De Federicis; Saratoga Springs, N.Y.)
A. Yes, but my anesthesiologist advised against it.
Q. Is Shane Battier skilled enough to have drawn a charge from the French in 1940? (Eric Hauser; Washington)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
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