As the man said, “the definition of a gaffe in Washington is when someone inadvertently tells the truth”
By Theodore N. Beitchman
Bill Simmons didn’t inadvertently call Roger Goodell a liar on one of his podcasts. It was really advertent.
Here is the offending bite of Simmons’ podcast:
“Goodell, if he didn’t know what was on that tape, he’s a liar. I’m just saying it. He is lying. I think that dude is lying. If you put him up on a lie detector test that guy would fail. … And for him to go in that press conference and pretend otherwise, I was so insulted.”
So it was not surprising that ESPN suspended one of its stars — its most provocative writer and commentator — for three weeks.
And it was also not surprising that many in what passes for the mainstream media pointed out that others on ESPN have seriously questioned Goodell’s version of what really happened in the Ray Rice affair, for want of a better word, without penalties.
It is true that Keith Olbermann and Mark Schlereth have come down hard on Goodell’s veracity, such as it is.
But no one on the Worldwide Leader used the “L” word, which has almost become the parallel of the “N” word in civilized society.
The Bush administration made us afraid of instant annihilation if we didn’t go to war in Iraq, and it completely fabricated threats — “smoking gun in the form of a mushroom cloud” — to get the Senate votes to go to a preposterous war.
But one ever called Bush or Dick Cheney a “liar.”
Maybe they should have.
Rarely is Cheney ever called a draft dodger even though he sought and received five deferments in the 1960s to avoid going to Vietnam.
It must be obvious to everyone not on the NFL payroll that Goodell is not telling the whole truth about his ridiculous two-game suspension of Rice for decking his girlfriend in an elevator; and also when Goodell actually saw the second tape that actually shows the left hook.
And even Stevie Wonder could see that Goodell’s 44-minute sermonette before the press a couple of weeks ago was an exercise in spin control.
But when Simmons actually uttered the word “liar” it was too much for the lords at ESPN, which by the way pays the NFL $1.9 billion a year as a rights fee for Monday Night Football.
Seems a bit high to me, but I am not selling beer. Though it is absurd that ESPN suspended the Sports Guy because he offended their corporate partner on Park Avenue.
Actually, suspending him elevates ESPN for taking one of its stars out of the game for three weeks.
ESPN has done a superb reporting job on the Rice story and its sorry cousins — Adrian Peterson, et al.
Don Van Atta’s story on ESPN.com and its version on “Outside the Lines” were exceptional journalism — well-written, well-documented and very persuasive.
So it is obvious the lords in Bristol — John Walsh and John Skipper — must secretly agree with Simmons.
There may be no better journalist working today than ESPN managing editor Walsh — whom I am proud to say hired me as a senior editor at Rolling Stone 40 years ago and then at Inside Sports in 1980. And ESPN president Skipper is that rare businessman who appreciates the journalistic ethic.
The legendary journalist Robert Lipsyte, ESPN’s ombudsman — a fancy word for a conscience — wrote last Friday:
“Simmons is, in my opinion, ESPN’s franchise player but by no stretch a leading journalist. On his 45th birthday Thursday, my gift to him was recounting my favorite quote from basketball coach Butch van Breda Kolff: ‘Everyone’s strength is their weakness.’ He said he liked it.”
Simmons was suspended because he dared his bosses to do so. Nothing more. Nothing less.
In Bristol, CT. or in Washington, D. C.
And also because of what Lipsyte said in the lead of his Friday blog:
“Roger Goodell is the sports world’s villain du jour, but until the NFL’s elevator of investigation reaches the top — or ESPN delivers a smoking gun that proves when the NFL viewed the Ray Rice video — the commissioner is not a certified liar.
“And Bill Simmons has no license to call him one without more justification than ‘I’m just saying it.’”