Sacking Another Myth: The NFL and Goodell

"Above all, don't lie to yourself."

ByCOLUMN By MATTHEW DOWD <a href="">@matthewjdowd</a>
September 22, 2014, 6:32 PM
PHOTO: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks at a news conference at the NFL's spring meeting in Atlanta, Ga. on May 20, 2014.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks at a news conference at the NFL's spring meeting in Atlanta, Ga. on May 20, 2014.
David Goldman/AP Photo

&#151; -- Some myths and legends represent deeper truths about our lives and the world in a way that brings us closer to each other and to where we all want to go; other myths take us further from the truth and get in the way of seeing reality or confusing us over the steps needed to move forward. It is the myths of the latter that I have often written about in previous columns.

In politics in the aftermath (or even in the midst) of elections, many myths are promulgated that take us further from the truth and darken a true view of reality. And these then have deleterious effects on decision making in the present because they are a misread of what actually happened.

In 1992 and many years after, the myth was repeated that Ross Perot's independent candidacy cost President Bush his reelection. The truth was that Bill Clinton would have won by a bigger margin if Perot had not run at all when one looks at exit polls and second choice responses, as well as demographic breakdowns of his support.

The 2004 election carried with it many myths, one big one being that President Bush won re-election because of gay marriage initiatives being placed on state ballots causing an increase in conservative voter turnout. The final results actually showed there was no difference in conservative turnout between target states that had gay marriage referendums and those states that didn't have them.

In the last few elections I have also attempted to show that television advertising in presidential elections has very little if any impact on election results. And even though the media keeps reporting on the myth of the power of television ads (as well as this myth being pushed by consultants on both sides of the aisle), the state by state results show that advertising effects are minimal at best. I have addressed this one with much more detail in a previous column.

Many of us have also bought into myths in our personal relationships. I like to call one of these the Jerry Maguire myth because it comes from the movie line of Tom Cruise's character who says to his love interest "You complete me." While seemingly romantic, it perpetuates the myth that somehow someone else will make us whole, or complete us in way that fills a void we carry and will make us happy. Having gone through marriage and divorce very young, and then remarriage and divorce again, I finally figured out some truth of successful relationships. It is that it is only when we fill the void in ourselves outside of another and that we no longer need a relationship for happiness, that we are then finally ready for a healthy relationship.

And finally we arrive at a current myth related to the NFL and Roger Goodell. In the midst of the domestic abuse scandals, the myth has been repeated by nearly everyone that the owners won't fire Goodell because he has done an outstanding job and brought all NFL teams a tremendous increase in financial value. That Goodell has been such an outstanding executive as represented by growth in value that the owners won't do the right thing and fire him.

As the ESPN site fivethirtyeight has pointed out, the truth is quite different and the only thing overvalued is Goodell himself. Under the previous NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, NFL franchises grew at an annual rate of 11.7 percent. Under Goodell since 2006, NFL franchises have grown at a comparatively paltry 3.5 percent. And when compared with other leagues, the growth of the NFL under Goodell is dead last with a total growth of 32 percent over his tenure. This compares at the same time to the NBA at 65 percent; MLB at 82 percent and the NHL at 114 percent. What it appears Goodell is good at is spinning positive press and a myth about himself to the media and to the owners themselves.

If the owners really are business people at heart, and coldly look at the bottom line, and really care about and love the game and want to represent the best of America, showing Goodell the door would indicate they have broken through the myth to the truth. And when they figure out they no longer need the relationship with Goodell, they can then find the commissioner they really want and might help restore our trust and love of the game.

As I have learned personally and in politics and in watching the NFL quagmire over the last few weeks about buying into myths, there is much truth in this quote from The Brothers Karamazov: "Above all, don't lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.”

There you have it.

Matthew Dowd is an ABC News analyst and special correspondent. Opinions expressed in this column do not reflect the views of ABC News.

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