Drunken driving is a killer crime that our society too often overlooks as the extension of a common vice. Thousands will have read Irsay's story in the morning and then, by midnight, be turning the keys in their ignition when they should instead be calling a cab. It's a crime, but it's one with which far too many people assume, every single night, they can get away. By punishing Irsay publicly and severely, the NFL wouldn't just be acting in the best interest of its own image; it would be setting an example for the millions who devour its product every day. If one person sees that someone as wealthy and powerful as Irsay got punished for this and for that reason decides not to do it, then it would be worth the time, effort and discomfort it will surely cause Goodell and Irsay's fellow owners.
Irsay has admitted in the past to issues with substance abuse, and it's possible he needs help. If that's the case, he should and likely will get that help. That's not the issue here. What Irsay stands accused of Monday morning is a crime and should be treated as such by anyone in position to dole out discipline for it. If Irsay is guilty, Goodell must find some way of punishing him and making it obviously hurt.
It's not going to be easy. A suspension? Tough to enforce. A fine? How much can you fine a billionaire and really make it sting? A forfeited draft pick? Well, that'd get some people's attention, now wouldn't it?
"We are simply confirming that, yes, he is subject to discipline," a league spokesman told ESPN.com columnist Ashley Fox on Monday morning.
The personal conduct policy and player discipline are hallmarks of Goodell's commissionership -- critical elements to the swaggering-sheriff persona that has made him millions and earned him regal status in the eyes of the NFL's swooning public. If Irsay is guilty of the crime of which he stands accused, Goodell is going to have to find a way to apply that policy to an NFL owner. And whatever discipline that is, it's going to have to be a good one.