Home Ethics Contemporary Issues Lessons from “Ballghazi”

Lessons from “Ballghazi”


All of us learn from a very early age that the majority of life’s lessons come at us in venues and environments we would never suspect.  A quip here, an aside there, some seemingly innocent action and reaction, a musical piece, or even a sunrise or sunset can prompt those synaptic connections deep within our consciousness that yields something “learned”.

The actions this past week by a cast of latter-day Shakespearean protagonists/antagonists has prompted an invasion of my consciousness and I “learned” something about the NFL, Roger Goodell, the NFL Players’ Association, and the ravenous piranhas whom we affectionately, albeit erroneously, brand “the media”.

Within the past two decades we have learned something about our American political setting – it has become captive to those who “frame the argument”.  By framing an argument, all one needs to do is to give the key phrases an infusion of “new” meaning.  Case in point: A “hate” crime has to do with acting upon one’s belief system which gives license to look down on another person or culture based on race, religion, gender and the host of other designations associated with vicious actions against the other person or culture.

I realize that this is my definition, but I believe it captures the general intent of the laws designed to punish “hate crimes” – notice I did not mention about doing anything to prevent or avoid such crimes – we just punish those who commit them.  So, can anyone explain to me why rape is not a “hate” crime?  It certainly would qualify under the stipulated definition above.

This is merely an example of the use of language to not only “frame” the argument, but to serve up anyone who disagrees with the “definition” as a promoter of such actions.

In short – if someone or some group can control the meaning of the language, they have won the argument even before it begins!

There are those in the media who revel in this activity and, of course, we in the general populace have either been too naïve or too apathetic to deal with it.

And this is the first lesson from “Ballghazi” – the media, on all levels, actually switched a verb used by Tom Brady in reference to his cell phone.  Brady said that the cell phone was “broken”.  And what were the headlines?  “Brady destroys phone.”

Do we not conjure images of a vengeful Brady taking a hammer to his cell phone purportedly to avoid any messages it may have contained?  With that verbal switch, anyone who heard this “news” would surely have indicted Brady and blamed him for everything from the stock market crash of the 1920’s to the recent failures of space craft attempting to replenish the space station circling Earth.

“He destroyed his phone!”  He is guilty of letting air out of the footballs!  Mind-boggling logic, eh?

This leads to the second lesson from “Ballghazi”:  If you, or your players’ representatives, agree to permit the person who doles out punishments for your organization to sit in “judgment” of appeals of those punishments, then there is some waterfront property I would like to sell you and you can see it at low tide!

Lewis Carroll (real name, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) the author of Through the Looking Glass and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, could not have invented the characters we have seen this past week in the latest episode of As the NFL Turns – the maligned hero, Brady; the Mad Hatter, Ted Wells; the White Rabbit, Robert Kraft; and, of course, the Red Queen, Roger Goodell.

I have heard of kangaroo courts before and have even seen a couple of them in old Three Stooges productions, but until I read the transcripts of the Wells Report and the “hearing” (now a euphemism for an NFL League “review”) presided over by Red Queen Goodell I thought they were only by-products of fertile imaginations of the authors who described them.

This leads to the third lesson from “Ballghazi”:  when the Red Queen holds “court”, the only reality is in her mind, and it is up to the rest of us to try to figure it out.  There is no admissible “evidence” and the charges may be applied retroactively, capriciously, and arbitrarily. To wit: The significant “charge” against Brady was his unwillingness to “cooperate” with the League, according to Red Queen Roger; however, the Wells Report clearly cited Brady for having been “very cooperative”.  Uh…well…uh…er…hell, I don’t know!  But the “hearing”, remember, is actually being held in the Red Queen’s mind!

Corollary to this revelation, after Wells told Brady not to even bother with the cell phone, everyone in the Brady camp believed that the cell phone would NOT be an issue.  Well, the Mad Hatter must have forgotten to tell the Red Queen, and as soon as the “hearing” began, the question of the cell phone suddenly crystallized out of the Red Queen’s mind.

Now here is the truly “Red Queen” thing Goodell did – when Brady indicated that his cell phone had broken but that he had transcribed 10,000 messages, tweets, and whatever else the “cloud” can house or produce, and, furthermore, that he, Brady, was ready to hand them over to the Red Queen, the Red Queen scribbled a note in the margin, “not practical!” Only from the mind of the Red Queen could such an assessment of clear evidence be dismissed out of hand.

Finally, the fourth lesson from “Ballghazi” is that the NFL Players’ Association is no different than the deck of cards which the Red Queen ran rough shod over time and time again. Not only did they negotiate a truly terrible contract, or CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement), they have fueled the delusional world view of the Red Queen through their assent by silence.

Ultimately, it is a “zero-sum” game – all because some down-the-line minion from the Indianapolis Colts mentioned at half-time of the AFC Championship Game that a couple of the footballs felt a “little bit off”.

And for the past seven months, America has been exposed to the nonsense that comes from a regulation without historical precedent or logic, without any structured means of redress for violation, and without a procedure to ensure its enforcement.

And THAT, my friends, is the product of the Red Queen’s mind!

Corollary lessons learned: 1) it is fun to try to defeat the “Evil Empire” (Patriots); 2) it is even more fun to finally take down that good-looking super-hero with the beautiful wife just to prove to the world (or to ourselves) that he is “human” after all; 3) bad rules without any history of establishment and or structure for redress create a morass of chaos and divisiveness; 4) for the NFL, even bad press is better than no press; and 5) the Red Queen, as Roger Goodell, knows how to survive!

Dr. Arthur Ogden is the Chair of Sports Management at the United States Sports Academy and can be reached at aogden@ussa.edu.



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