Last month, Sports Illustrated published a profile of both NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith, the two men most vital to striking a compromise on a football labour deal.Since that deal is about to implode all over everyone’s face, let’s take a look at the clues left behind in these character studies of two hard-headed, stubborn men determined to win at all costs.
So, naturally, we all saw this coming, right?
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From “The Fighter” (February 21, 2011) by Jim Trotter
Smith, 47, who is completing his second year as the union’s executive director, looks neither harried nor hurried … Smith pushes forward in what is sure to be his most challenging fight … To look at his past is to see someone who knows what he wants and doesn’t stop until he gets it, someone accustomed to combat, who sees little virtue in backing down …
“I just don’t walk away from fights,” Smith says. “You either believe in your ability to get it done or you don’t. Walking away from a tough fight where everybody thinks you might get your arse kicked—who’s going to blame you for it? Staying and fighting when you know you might get your arse kicked, that’s hard. I can’t trick myself into taking the easy way out.” …
The more vicious the threats become, the more determined he is … Smith doesn’t believe in secrecy … Smith was quoted as shouting to a group of players in January, “We are at war!” … “One thing I know—he hates to lose.” … So Smith pushes and prods. And plans.
He shreds his knee and misses a semester of school because he cannot get around with a full-length cast on his leg. When he returns he’s told he’ll have to make the track team again to have a shot at a scholarship … No one will question him for walking away, but doing so is not in his nature. … Not only does Smith win his scholarship—he also earns National Christian College Athletic Association All-America honours as a senior.
Smith relishes a fight … “De is a very intense guy, but he’s also a realist” … One of the ways Smith tries to determine the power players in the league is by “poking the elephant” to see the reaction he’ll get … others say he should not be taken lightly.
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From: “The Man Of The Hour” (February 07, 2011) by Peter King
Goodell, sandy-haired and fit at 51, is the steward of this multibillion-dollar juggernaut, having attained the job he dreamed about back in college … … make no mistake: This will be a deal the commissioner drives … if he recommends an agreement, it will easily get the three-quarters vote necessary for passage …
Goodell will need all the boldness and problem-solving skills he’s shown since his bartending days … best known so far for being the tough cop with players … But the commissioner has a cold and confrontational side that serves him well in staring down miscreants and business adversaries alike.
“The way Roger talked to me when I was still hiding from what I’d done was such a slap in the face,” says Michael Vick …
He did, however, know how to protect himself … One morning he saw his youngest brother, Michael, being picked on by two kids on the opposite corner. “I ran across the street and kicked the crap out of them” …
[Goodell’s father] lost the 1970 Senate election … “But what did he retain?” Roger says. “His principles. His integrity. His character.” … “Roger has so much of his father in him” … “I learned in high school that I was going to have to outwork people … If I work harder than him, I’ll beat him. And to this day I overprepare” …
Had to learn to hold his own in the testosterone-fuelled locker room … “If you stand up for yourself, you fit in,” says O’Brien. “And he fit in better than any of the other guys … He came into a city under siege and was hard-nosed and stubborn.
When the Rolling Stones were scheduled to perform at Super Bowl XL in February 2006, it was Goodell who ordered the suggestive lyrics in Start Me Up and Rough Justice to be censored or he’d replace the Stones with Stevie Wonder.
He never shut off the commissioner switch … Expect Goodell and the league to bend on that issue but stand firm on their core economic demands … he’s also quite good at drawing a line in the sand and letting nothing obliterate it …
“There was a coldness and a ‘that’s it’ tone in Roger’s voice that was chilling,” says Ebersol. “At his heart Roger can be a cold son of a bitch.”
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