Playing Fantasy Schadenfreude with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell
I was going to write "An Open Letter to NFL Commissioner Goodell," but now that an elevator security camera caught former Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice red-fisted while clocking Janay Palmer -- now Mrs. Rice -- I revised that notion. An elevator speech is a better idea! For those of you who don't know what an elevator speech or pitch is, it's a 30 second prepared summary that one practices to promote oneself, a project or dream. Then, should you ever find yourself on an elevator with a producer, agent or Saudi Queen who could write a check for a gazillion dollars and make your dream come true, you won't be tongue-tied. Presumably, the idea of an elevator speech is that 30 seconds is the time it takes to hold someone "captivated" as they wait for their destination. Elevator speeches came before Twitter, and as such, are a form of an in-person tweet.
So many people play Fantasy Football. I play Fantasy Elevator.
The Scene: A bank of elevators just past the lobby of NFL Headquarters at 280 Park Ave, 15th floor, New York. I've been riding one particular elevator up and down for days! (I know. Kind of creepy stalking stuff here, but hey, it's a fantasy!) The elevator door opens on the ground floor and -- wonder of wonders -- NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell enters! We're alone. I clear my throat.
"Mr. Goodell. I know there are security cameras on us so you don't have to worry about me spitting in your face or sucker punching you, although you probably deserve to be spit at or punched. Actually, I don't believe anyone 'deserves' to be beaten, unless it's in self-defense. My punching you would merely be Fantasy Schadenfreude. Also, it's a crime to haul off and hit a person just because you're angry at them! (Deep breath.) Unless of course, we were related or engaged or married which we're not, thank God!" I know. I'm a smart aleck.
He's looking very uncomfortable and looks up at the numbers hoping I might disappear. I realize that my preamble was already 30 seconds! Oops. That's not the way to go with a 30 second elevator speech. Maybe I need to adapt this to an elevator lecture! I back up and press floor buttons to delay our ascent to the 15th floor, where Roger's offices are located.
I clear my throat again.
"Roger, you have an opportunity to grow a pair... of ovaries. I don't have balls, Roger; nor apparently, do you. But I hate that expression because it implies only men are brave. So try ovaries. Women are brave and are great role models. It takes guts, stamina, courage, energy and might I say a little magic to grow new ways of being and living. In nine months, you too could germinate a vision that could transform the tired testes-driven culture the NFL swims in. You could run PSAs during games letting everyone know that using force on the field is one thing, while force in your home (and in elevators) is completely another! You could break cycles of violence, teach that a punch does not equal love, fund counseling and shelters for families including their pets, underwrite empowerment-based verbal, emotional and physical personal safety classes for women, such as those given by IMPACT Personal Safety, The National Women's Martial Arts Federation and Prepare Inc. NYC, while promoting books on healthy relationships and violence-free masculinity." (45 seconds.)
I remember that a good friend recently told me, "You should make your books required NFL reading," so I hand Roger copies of Beauty Bites Beast and The Safety Godmothers. (I always have them on me.) I take a breath and look at my watch.
There are so few opportunities that any of us have to take a stand and be really bold and courageous in the swirl of controversy. So far, I've kind of threatened, lectured and ridiculed Roger. He's probably not listening. I switch gears.
"Mr. Goodell, you have a chance during the month of October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, to take the high road; to forever and unambiguously stand for the people who would benefit most from your personal and professional condemnation of family violence: women and kids of both genders, and ultimately the players themselves who are basically fodder for other people's entertainment and profit." 19 seconds.
I try another angle: "Mr. Goodell, it has come to our attention that -- and this is too perfect for words -- the NFL's real attitude toward women is embodied by the Grand Canyon-esque dollar disparity between players and cheerleaders. Millions of dollars for men, pennies for women. And frankly, there are many of us who are now cheering for the women of the Oakland Raiders, Cincinnati Bengals, Buffalo Bills, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and New York Jets who are finally organizing to get paid more than the paltry below-minimum wages you dole out to them. Roger, what you've done to them is truly humiliating, and they've finally fought back! I hope you're ashamed. Other than that, Rog -- may I call you Rog? -- everything's great. Oh, here's your floor. Have a nice day -- and you might want to take the stairs from now on!" I yell, as the doors close.
NOTE: This article is an updated and expanded version of my column in the Pasadena Weekly that originally ran on October 2, 2014