Looking for a leader

Every day brings a troubling new headline.

Ray Rice begat Adrian Peterson begat Jonathan Dwyer. Musn't forget Greg Hardy and Ray McDonald. NFL players facing charges of beating their wives, girlfriends, children - or both, in Dwyer's case. 

The bad news is everywhere.

The commissioner is invisible.

Even if Roger Goodell didn't see the video of Rice punching his now-wife until the rest of us did, his nearly complete silence and lack of action since then continue to be inexcusable. Yes, Goodell suspended Rice indefinitely, but only after Baltimore terminated his contract. And that knee-jerk, months-too-late action may be overturned, because heinous though Rice's actions were, he'd already been "punished" - to use the term loosely - for them once, with a laughable two-game suspension. 

The announcement of the indefinite suspension came on September 8, and that's just about all we've heard from the commissioner since, save for the feeble protests that no one really knew what went on in that elevator until the evidence was sprawled out in front of them like Janay Palmer Rice's body. Some snippets of what he has said - and probably shouldn't have - have been collected by the good folks at Deadspin.

I have my issues with Barack Obama. I feel let down and lied to by a lot of the President's backpedaling and actions - or lack thereof - since he rode a wave of optimism and promised change to the White House in 2008. But I'll tell you this: It still makes me feel better, if only fleetingly, to hear the man speak. 

I couldn't tell you right now what Goodell's voice sounds like.

His multimillion-dollar product has a serious problem, and the man is nowhere to be found.

He's admitted he got Rice's original two-game suspension wrong, and announced a tougher league-wide policy to deal with domestic violence - notably, a six-game suspension for a first arrest. But that policy's enforcement seems a bit arbitrary. McDonald, arrested last month and accused of assaulting his pregnant girlfriend, still suits up on Sundays in San Francisco. Hardy, found guilty of choking his then-girlfriend and threatening to kill her, has taken a voluntary leave with pay from the Carolina Panthers - after playing in the season opener. Peterson, accused of abusing his 4-year-old son, had rejoined the Minnesota Vikings, until the outcry from the public and - here are some key words - NFL sponsors led to his placement on an exempt list, which also amounts to a paid vacation. 

(It's a damn shame that gay dude has been such a distraction, huh?)

Team owners have addressed their various situations, and family members have spoken out. 

The commissioner has been silent. 

The expansive dog-and-pony show that the NFL Draft has devolved into would indicate that Goodell is better at these things than this. Put on a grave expression and inject concern into your voice and face the football nation, including the female fans who comprise an estimated 45 percent of it. Say how you're troubled by this rash of violence. Say how you're still working out how to best deal with it. Say you're an idiot and you're sorry. Say something.

The problem with setting yourself up as a moral arbitrator is that, when morals come into question, people are going to expect you to do something about it. 

No one asked Goodell to appoint himself judge and jury of the personal conduct of athletes who play a game to entertain the beer-drenched masses, but since he did, he doesn't get to just vanish when that job gets hairy. If nothing else, he needs to take the podium one last time to admit this was all a bad idea, that he seriously overstepped his boundaries, and that he's going to go shove his head back up his ass now, for good.

Of course it's fundamentally more important that a seriously screwed-up criminal justice system learns to deal with domestic violence with more force and consistency than how a game reacts to it, but that doesn't make the game's reaction insignificant.

In the midst of all of this, I'm going to a football game on Sunday. Because tickets were cheap and it will be fun for my family and because I still love the game. Maybe not in the way I used to, when Art Monk was god and I believed Joe Gibbs listened to my daddy through the television set. But football is in my DNA, and I'm pissed that people seem to be lining up these days to make me ashamed of that. 

Do something about it, Goodell. In between fining players for uniform violations and inappropriate language and polishing up next month's pink cleats, try to find a way to make me believe that love is any way justified. I don't really need to hear anything from you, and I probably wouldn't believe anything you said, but in this case, you really can fault the effort.