Ray Rice was for years one of my favorite famous people in sports, let alone one of my favorite players. He was, dating back to his Rutgers college days, a standup guy with a great public attitude and a work ethic and performance to match.
Then we found out he beat up his fiancee in a New Jersey casino elevator, and that changed immediately. You could see the dust from my fandom floating in the air after how fast my allegiances to Ray Rice disappeared.
See, because while I'm not so sure about how the rest of the nation sees domestic violence, me finding out a person I look up to just beat down their S.O. is for me a pretty quick dealbreaker. And never mind difficulty with sentiment. If I can walk away from everyone and everything I've ever known to come live in a place like Seattle (as I did 10 years ago), I should have no trouble reconciling a sudden and decisive end to my fandom for anyone or anything over a sordid discovery.
In fact, growing up in Vegas taught me that underneath the public facades that so many put up there is in many cases a giant self serving asshole who will step on whoever they need to and give zero fucks about what they're doing wrong or who they're hurting. And that's just the random tourists: Both my folks as well as several friends worked in prominent Vegas Strip casinos and have met hundreds of celebrities from both sports and entertainment. While many were great people, many were total dickheads, some beyond the scope of reason and sanity (and no, I'm not naming names, but some of the bad ones include some of my childhood favorites and some of yours). I think merely by growing up in Vegas I had given up the notion of public figures being heroes by adulthood.
So it makes a little less sense to me than it does to others that we have any responsibility to protect Ray Rice from prosecution and other punishment to the fullest extent of the law. At the same time, I realize why the public and the NFL and the relevant governments are having a harder time with what should otherwise be a Judge Dredd style slam dunk decision. People for years looked up to Ray Rice as not just a football star, but one of the shining beacons of everything that was right about football, a great character guy and an example to the rest of us... before this.
This sentimental disconnect probably has a little bit to do with why NJ authorities and why Roger Goodell have so badly screwed up how they have handled the due process and punishment for Rice's behavior.
It's no secret that many across America were already not happy in general with Roger Goodell's tenure as NFL Commissioner. The Ray Rice disaster was not really so much a cherry on top of a shit cake as it was a barrel of watermelons dumped in a splattering heap atop it, leaving the table looking like the unholy marriage of a scat film set and the stage at the end of a Gallagher show.
In fact, scat, slapstick and bigotry might be appropriate symbols for Goodell's handling of this whole disaster. The NFL's role in the subsequent failed cover up is nauseatingly disgusting, Ray Rice acted out a Three Stooges short on his fiancee's face, and many people both uninvolved and directly involved have shown that they still have a culturally backwards sense towards whether or not it's ever okay to physically strike a significant other over a domestic dispute.
Like many of you, I want Roger Goodell gone after this. Hell, I wanted him gone before this, given his cavalier disdain for serious issues facing the league such as the serious health and brain-damage problems of retired players.
But as it was before, Roger Goodell isn't going anywhere no matter how upset we get with him, no matter how much media figures like Keith Olbermann rake his credibility over the coals, because the only people who can oust him are the other owners. And the only reason they would oust him is if his decisions were directly impacting their bottom line.
And as angry as the public gets over the Rice disaster, 50K-70K are still going to pack every NFL stadium hosting a game this weekend. Millions of fans across the world are still going to tune in and obsess over this weekend's games. Advertisers still see the incredible value in reaching an audience of this size and have no intentions of pulling their NFL sponsorships over a commissioner's mishandling of a domestic violence case involving one of his players.
And given that, none of us angry at Goodell have any leverage to oust him over it. None. His placement as commissioner is by and large a business decision. His role by and large is to make business decisions. And the league's decision to oust him would have to be by and large a business decision. The NFL is not going to lose a significant portion of its business over the outrage.
This never minds the sordid reality that a good portion of the other players, coaches and executives, not to mention the fans, are probably themselves wifebeaters, people who see no big deal in taking a swing at their wives/girlfriends/fiancees, especially provided they say sorry later and move on. That's a whole other can of worms that goes beyond football, let alone the Ray Rice disaster.
Roger Goodell probably doesn't deserve to be the face of anything, let alone the NFL, after this disaster. But sadly there isn't much of anything we can do about it.