And now, softly, the hammer comes down on the Hammer.
If Roger Goodell's reign as NFL commissioner is indeed weaving, trying to find legs that are suddenly gone, there won't be a bang to herald the final toppling. There will only be the whisper of gentle reproof in a carefully vetted press release, and then the quiet rustle of money slipping out the door.
Nothing walks like money when you run an empire built on the dollar, and the National Football League is assuredly that. And if you listened carefully at the top of this week, you could hear money's footsteps, fleeing the scene of the crime(s) with far more thunder than any editorial or public opinion poll could generate.
Here were Campbell and Visa and the Radisson and McDonald's, either backing way from the suddenly radioactive NFL or expressing its displeasure with the way the league has so clearly not addressed the issue of domestic violence in its workforce. Here was Anheuser-Busch issuing a statement that said, in part, "We are not yet satisfied with the league's handling of behaviors that so clearly go against our own company culture and moral code. We have shared our concerns and expectations with the league."
This is the brewer of the Official Beer Of The National Football League saying this. This a company that pours $200 million a year into the league coffers saying this.
Look. Roger Goodell can survive the storm if it's just the media or the public banging on him and his league, because that's just a PR deal and he can do enough -- even if he hasn't yet -- to spin the narrative back his way. With this rare exception, the league's become positively adept at that over the years. Just ask all the neurologists whose reputations got trashed because they were foolish enough to suggest the league had a concussion issue.
But when it's the money that starts getting queasy, that's a problem. It is, frankly, the only way to effectively hit back at any of our capitalist monoliths anymore. They've all got iron jaws, but their wallets are pure glass.
Hit 'em there and it hurts. Hit 'em anywhere else, and they'll never feel it.
And so now Roger Goodell, for all the public outcry at the way he's mishandled the Ray Rice thing, has a problem that actually threatens him for the first time.
The fans will keep watching because the fans long ago became hooked on the product, and addicts are easy to keep in line. But Big Money doesn't get hooked. You get hooked on it.
And now it's restless. And the NFL's late for its next fix.