Suddenly the National Football League looks a lot more like the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers than the 1985 Bears.
Which is to say, the Shield is buckling. In ways no one could have envisioned even six months ago.
That's when Ray Rice ended a drunken argument with his then-fiancée with the most vicious -- not to say villainous -- left hook since Joe Frazier was slinging them, setting off a chain of events that, like a certain half-witted burglary about 40 years ago, may yet bring down an entire government.
No, not the United States government. The government of, by and for Peyton 'n' Drew 'n' Andrew 'n' Them, aka the Republic of Roger the Hammer, aka our great national obsession, the NFL.
The NFL's inept response to the domestic violence issue -- coming on the heels of its long-standing and flat-out callous denial that concussions were a growing problem in its game -- may not yet move Congress to strip the league of its tax-exempt status. But it's got certain members thinking along those lines.
(And high time, too. The notion that the offices of one of the nation's most robust industries should be tax-exempt -- which means the taxes on TV revenues are passed on to the clubs, and thus are far lower than they should be -- is absurd on its face and has been for a long time. The working class in America supports enough moneyed freeloaders without bearing the burden for an engine of such conspicuous wealth as the NFL. Time for the Shield to carry its own weight.).
In the meantime, Ricegate is beginning to more and more resemble its aforementioned predecessor, in that the man at the top, with every fresh revelation, becomes exposed more and more as a dissembler if not an outright liar. Like Richard Nixon, Goodell is neck-deep in this mess, and the day suddenly seems likely that he'll be called to account for it.
And as if that's not enough, there is this: After 39 years, the FCC has finally deep-sixed the NFL's notorious, and notoriously unjust, blackout rule.
Like the reconsideration of the NFL's tax-exempt status, that may or may not have been influenced by the league's current inability to get out of its own way. But it is indeed a day long in coming, and no matter what the motivation, it's a day that should be celebrated by right-thinking people everywhere.
The NFL has always maintained with a straight face that the blackout rule somehow served the fans, a patently ridiculous claim. In point of fact, it's a great hob-nailed boot to the fans' nether regions, forcing fans to subsidize failure by denying them access to their team's televised games unless those games were sold out.
In essence, the league was saying this: "Sure, we know the Jags stink. And we know they aren't trying not to stink. But unless enough of you fork over several hundred dollars you don't have for tickets (thereby boosting the bottom line of your shiftless owners), we won't let the rest of you watch your team on TV."
Which is, in every universe but the NFL, blackmail.
And now will no longer be allowed. Whatever the motivation.