Sunday, April 1, 2012

My Time With Roger Goodell: An American Horror Story

As the preeminent sports journalist/ sex doll tester in all the tri state area it was no surprise that I was standing in front of the NFL home office building on Park Ave.  As I gazed up at the equivalent of the Vatican for the Church of Football I couldn’t help but think that this is where I belong.  After a little less than two months I had arrived in the big leagues and it was about fucking time.

With all the allegations of collusion; his salary and the size of his dick all coming into question Roger Goodell knew the importance of getting his side of the story.  Or at least that’s what the letter from his secretary had said.  It had also said to bring a change of underwear.   But I hear that every time I go to Olive Garden so I guess that just means they’ll be providing food.

I entered the marble foyer and was struck by utter vastness of the building.  That and blaring elevator music.  The first floor was more a palace than an office building, albeit sparsely decorated.   In fact despite having 20 foot high ceilings there wasn’t a single painting or photo on any of the blindingly white walls and the harsh fluorescent lights.  The lobby also had the unmistakable stench of a room cleaned using too much pine sol and ammonia.   After acclimating myself to the unhealthy breathing conditions I made my way to the secretary.  She was a small women, she wore a white dress and would almost blend right in to the wall if not for her dark auburn hair and her blood red lipstick.  As I walked up to her she was furiously typing on her computer with an almost unnatural broad smile, her eyes never blinking.  After hovering over her for several minutes I finally cleared my throat.

“Hello Aaron” she said without stopping, either typing or smiling.  “I saw you come in, please the commissioner is in a meeting that is running long so why don’t you take a seat and he will be with you shortly.  Is there anything we can get you while you wait?”

“Some water would be great actually.”  Before even turning around I got a polite tap on my shoulder from another woman.  She too was wearing a nice white dress suit and red lipstick, albeit her hair was more chestnut or whatever color it is that is closer to brown rather than red, yet still had red in it.  What color is that; mauve? Any way her hair was more brownish rather than reddish is my point.  What was I talking about again?

Anyway this new woman led me to a series of steel chairs that were lined up in a row.  Obviously I was not the only writer Goodell asked to meet with as about half the seats were filled by some of the best sportswriters in the country and of course Skip Bayless, who I found out just shows up every Thursday with or without an invitation.  Despite the size of the room and the number of people occupying it there was hardly any talking.  Everyone was immersed in their work; be it typing, reading memos or even picking up trash the only sounds were that of the elevator music and the low humming of the lights, which after a while became quite soothing. 

After what I gauged to be a half an hour, it was tough to tell time due to the lights; I had just polished off my bottle of water when immediately the woman from before with the hair told me it was time for my hearing.    Although I’d gotten that exact message numerous times from various court appointed attorneys they had managed to say it with a less ominous tone.  I stood and proceeded to follow her.  I must have been a lot more nervous then I realized as my legs felt wobbly and jello-ish. 

As she led me towards the end of the hall towards the elevators my attempts to make small talk fell on deaf ears.  She took power strides making it difficult to keep up with, despite the fact that she was on 4 inch heels.  When we got to the elevators she turned suddenly and said “You’ll be going to the top floor.  Don’t worry about pressing any buttons the elevator knows where you’re going.  He’ll be waiting for.  Good luck.”  All of this was said in a cheery monotone voice, her eyes staring directly at mine and her lips never uncurling from the tight smile plastered onto her face.  As I boarded the elevator she kept staring at me until the doors closed with a thud.  The elevator ascended the forty odd floors without a sound.  At the penthouse floor the doors opened behind me and it took me a while for me to realize to turn around.

When I did I saw the elevator opened directly into Goodell’s large office.  While the main floor had been egg shell white, Goodell’s office was decorated with what can only be described as African Safari chic.  
Mounted heads adorned the walls and torches burned in all four corners.  The carpet was like the receptionist crimson lips and the ceiling was just one long mirror. 

In front of a large window overlooking downtown Manhattan, Roger Goodell was seated behind his large Mahogany desk.  At least I think it was mahogany, I have no idea what wood desks are made of, but it looked like the second girls hair.  What color was that, puce?  What color is puce?  Why am I so obsessed with colors all of sudden?  And what is this burning sensation on my left side?  Am I having a stroke?

“Ah Mr. Kaplan, thank you so much for coming!” Roger said as he stood and moved around his (indigo?) table. 

“My pleasure.  Thank you for having me Mr. Goodell.  But please call me Aaron.” I responded, I must be nervous my throat felt like it was closing up.

We shook hands and he led me back across the room.

“Ok great.  Please have a seat.” He said pointing to an ottoman.

“Thank you.”  I said as I slipped off and fell onto the floor.  Jeez I’m just off right now. 

As I sat back into the ‘chair’ I took out my pen and paper.  From where I was seated I could barely see over the assorted desk equipment, computer, files, a 12 inch bronze (copper?) statue of Goodell himself dressed as  a Greek God and a giant LED lamp that was positioned to shine right into my face.

“Well again thank you for inviting me out to speak with you.” I started in a curiously deep baritone voice “My readers would love to know more about you and the way you do business.”

“That’s why you’re here.  With your help we can turn around the public perception of me.”  The clouds outside the office started hypnotically swirling.

“As I’m sure you know I’ve been fairly critical of you in the past.  Does that bother you at all?”  I croaked

“No, no.  What I’m trying to do is bring in journalists, not just those that agree with me.  I’m trying to educate you and show you my way of doing things.  I’m 100% sure by the end of the day you’ll have a completely changed your mind about me.”  A fever ran down my spine once he finished speaking and I could feel myself start sweating profusely.

“Well I don’t know.” I stammered  “I think some of the moves you have been made range from bullying all the way through intimidation and collusion.  I think in any other industry you would be getting sued out the ass for illegal maneuverings.”

“Is that right” Goodell smirked “The way I see it I’m creating balance and order.  Under my reign players’ salaries are in check, parity has never been better; player movement is at an all-time high.  I think it is you who is the delusional one.”  I don’t know how he said that while his whole body was morphing into a snake, or not a snake rather some sort of sea creature.  What color was he, was it periwinkle? What does periwinkle taste like?

“I think what you’ve done recently with stories like Bountygate or fining the Cowboys and Redskins was wrong and, and, and wait what?”  My voice sounded alien coming out.  My throat felt like at least a half a bag of marshmallows were stuffed into my esophagus.  The whole room was spinning  out of control and coming in and out of focus.

“What’s wrong Aaron? You don’t look so good.” The half serpent man said crawling his way towards me.  
“It looks like you need a doctor.” It hissed.

“I’m fine.” I started before collapsing onto the floor

I awoke several hours (days?) later.  I was no longer in Roger Goodell’s spacious office but rather in some dank basement.  Gone were the white walls and elevator music.  Taking their place were stone walls and dripping pipes.

“He’s finally coming back” A large fuzzy blob boomed

“Well what are you waiting for you idiot.” Came a second voice, this one from an equally large lump but my eyes still weren’t used to the lack of light.  Suddenly I was shaken violently by a pair of the largest hands I had ever seen.

“Holy shit I’m up! I’m UP!” I screamed, the paws that had once been pounding let go.  They were immediately replaced with a burst of freezing cold water soaking me from head to toe.  I tried to struggle against the cold but realized my arms and legs were strapped down to the chair immobilizing me.  I also noticed that I was completely naked and because of the water suffering from tremendous shrinkage. 

“That’s enough.” Someone said.  It took several more minutes but my eyes finally adjusted to my new surroundings.  Standing over me was Ndamukong Suh and James Harrison.  They were standing over me menacingly both holding now empty oak buckets, or maybe they were pine, damn I really have to learn more about wood coloring.  When I peered closer I could see they were both wearing bright silver helmets with red, blue and green lights flashing.  Coming between the two behemoths appeared Roger Goodell.  He looked down at me with a mixed expression of contempt and pity, much the same as my last girlfriend.   

“James, Ndamukong leave me with him.”  When he spoke a bright red light shown on both the helmets and the two Pro Bowlers scampered from the room much like a dog who wanders to close to an electric fence.
“Well, well, well Mr. Kaplan.  So glad you could join us today.”

“Look man I’m so sorry, for everything!  I promise I will never write a negative word about you again!  I swear!”

“Oh I know you won’t Mr. Kaplan.  I told you that by the end of the day you would be singing a different tune.  I’m thinking it will be more like falsetto.”  He snapped his fingers and instantly Ndamukong and James reappeared this time brandishing what looked like a box with some wire hanging from it.  They set to work attaching two a series of cables to what was now obviously a car battery and the other end to… well you know where.

 It was my penis if you didn’t know.

“Do you know how long I had Gene Upshaw in that chair earlier last summer?  I must admit he lasted a lot longer than anyone we’ve ever had down here before.  And now he’s just like the rest of them.  You say you don’t like my stances on Bountygate or the 2010 salary cap issue.  Well who are you to stop me.  The Players Union, All 32 NFL owners even Stephen A. Smith have all become just mere pawns in my game.  And all that is left between me is you and your kind.” He spat as he literally spat on me. 

“I swear to God I will never…”


“YES, YES I…Wait is that Batman?”

Goodell glared at me and nodded over to Harrison who flipped a switch that sent a wave of severe pain and I instantly turned into a slightly more masculine version of Luke Skywalker during final showdown with the Emperor when he’s getting the force lightning.  

“PLEASE STOP!” I wailed.  Goodell looked over and nodded again at the neutered linebacker who mercifully turned off the machine.

“That was only 20% Mr. Kaplan.  James over there was able to get to 70% before seeing the light.  At 85% you’ll die.  So let me ask you again what is your opinion on the way I handled both Jerry Jones and Dan Snyder?”

“It was absolutely the right thing to do.” I sobbed

“LIAR!  JAMES AGAIN!”  This time the pain came on like waves each one more painful than the last. 

“Now let me ask you again; What do you really think!”

“Collusion” I whispered.  It was really hard to talk with two electrodes attached to one’s nads.

“Now that wasn’t so hard was it?”  Again a third blast of pain but blissfully I let myself go and lost consciousness.

When I awoke again gone were the buckets, gone were the defensive MVP’s and gone was Roger Goodell.   All that lay before me was a large bank of 30 or so televisions. My arms and legs were still bolted to the chair but for now I had peace. 

Moments, days, years passed until two men in lab coats came in and ran the routine doctor tests, they checked my pulse, heart rate, one of them even cupped my balls, but that seemed more for his benefit than for mine.  Next they strapped my head to a harness and hooked my eyeballs in way so I couldn’t blink or close them.  Afterwards they gave me even more drugs and left the room. 

Goodell entered shortly afterward and started laughing manically.  “Mr. Kaplan, I must admit you’re doing far better than most of the others.  Hell Skip Bayless instantly took to his conditioning.  I barely had to do anything other than give him a magazine of Tim Tebow shirtless and he was mine for the molding.  But you…” he said as he waved his finger side to side much like Dikembe Mutumbo. “You are proving yourself to be a real thorn in my side.  Did I ever tell you what my favorite movie is?”

I shook my head ‘no’ or shook my head as best I could, but sensing my predicament I felt pretty confident I knew what the answer was going to be.

“It’s “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.”   But in a close second is “A Clockwork Orange” and as you can see the movie has how we shall say this… inspired me.”  From his pocket he produced a universal remote which turned on the televisions which all displayed images of brutal NFL hits spliced with images of the Holocaust, Nanking and My Little Pony episodes 

“You’ve also written about my hypocrisy towards player safety.  That while I spout how important it is to make sure everyone is safe, yet am trying to extend the season to 18 games and have a very loose steroid policy.  Well I can assure you, if I want an 18 game schedule, I’ll get an 18 game schedule.”  He pressed the remote again and Jock Jams started pumping through the speakers. 

As the drugs took their effect I struggled in vain to turn away from the horrible monitors.  I don’t know how that bastard got a hold of my personalized Jock Jams CD/sex mix tape but that was an unforgivable sin.  Every Joe Theiman hit looked more and more gruesome, each time Willis Mcgahee almost lost a knee cap made my stomach turn over in knots.  And every time Rarity Pony took AppleJack Ponies saddle made me want to slit my wrists. 

After my Aversion therapy things started getting weird.  It was common place for this to be my morning followed by this in the afternoon.  And if I had been good this was my reward.  Strangely enough Goodell really did have that gown from Braveheart, but the red rose symbol was replaced with the NFL emblem.  This went on until time collapsed inward onto itself.

Then one day all of it stopped. 

“Hey get up.” It was Ndamukong Suh.  He was looking down at me and stomping on my arm trying to get my attention. “Get up man it’s time to get out of here.  You’re cured; you can go back out amongst society.”

I almost wept with joy, but I was in too much pain so I simply peed myself instead.  “How long have I been here?”

“Like 5 hours.  You’ve got to go though, Roger needs the room to reprogram Mike and Mike and the whole morning team.”  He handed me my extra pair of underwear and led me back up to the lobby. “Trust me man, you’ll thank Roger for this.  Once you give in life becomes instantly better.  Just look at me.”  I did.  Although his flashing helmet was still on a large ear to ear smile was frozen against his face. 

He led me up to the white walled lobby where the same secretary was still typing except now her hair was a nice aqua blonde.  She didn’t notice me as we walked back but I could see she too was smiling.  In fact everyone in the lobby was still smiling, and I suspected they always were.  Why shouldn’t they smile?  The elevator music was soothing; the temperature controlled hallway was comfortable even the pristine uncluttered walls were relaxing.  A giant weight felt lifted off my shoulders.  I had never felt as comfortable in all my life as I did walking arm an arm with this defensive tackle. 

After taking the bus back home I turned on Sportscenter.  The main story of the day was the yearlong suspension of Sean Payton.  Once Stu Scott and Adam Schefter broke down the ramifications they went out to a live press conference of Roger Goodell.  Behind him were Mike and Mike smiling proudly to be standing next to such a great, visionary leader.  As he started to talk a low distant humming reverberated in my head and I had a wonderful sensation of stepping into a perfect bath. 

I smiled.

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