Wouldn't it be nice if NFL games were decided by football players on the field?
I have felt for years like a lone voice in the wind decrying the appalling officiating crews that dot Roger Goodell's landscape.
But I always got the same tired, old cliches in response to my criticism: Only losers complain; good teams overcome bad breaks; officials are human, and they make mistakes And let's face it, good teams do overcome bad breaks and officials are human.
Even coaches, who may lose their job over a zebra's ineptness, spout off that nonsense.
And heck, at least I saw light at the end of the tunnel and I could sleep at night secure in the knowledge that when Goodell's hatchet men screwed up the Super Bowl in front of 90 million people, there would be change.
Well, you can forget that; it's becoming increasingly apparent that the NFL couldn't care less about you, the fan, and its own players.
Now, not only are middle-aged men in striped shirts deciding games, men in pinstriped suits on Park Avenue are determining wins and loses.
Look no further than the current StarCaps scandal to illustrate that point.
New Orleans Saints running back Deuce McAllister as well as defensive linemen Charles Grant and Will Smith are among several players facing four-game suspensions after testing positive for the banned diuretic Bumetanide, which was found in the over-the-counter weight-loss supplement StarCaps.
Others tabbed for suspension include Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jackson and the "Williams Wall" in Minnesota, Pro Bowl defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams.
I know what you are saying: Who cares? Suspend the cheaters.
Problem is, the lawyer for the three Saints players has said the NFL's independent drug administrator acknowledged he knew StarCaps contained the banned diuretic and didn't inform the players.
David Cornwell said in an e-mail to the Associated Press that Dr. John Lombardo testified during an appeal hearing on Tuesday that he learned in late 2006 that StarCaps contained Bumetanide.
According to Cornwell, Lombardo's reason for withholding the information from the NFLPA and therefore its players was that "he feared that a specific warning regarding StarCaps could be used as a defense to alleged violations of the steroid policy that involved weight reduction products other than StarCaps."
The league has of course refused to comment on Cornwell's allegations, citing the confidentially of the hearing.
"Public comments during the process are totally inappropriate," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said. "We will continue to respect the program's required confidentiality until there is a resolution."
You almost have to feel for Aiello, a nice guy whose main job description includes destroying his own credibility on a weekly basis.
If Cornwell's accusations are true and he would be a fool to make up such a thing, think about what Goodell and his minions did.
By failing to disclose the fact Bumetanide was in StarCaps, they have essentially entrapped players and possibly derailed the season for two possible playoff teams, the Saints and Vikings. Perhaps more importantly, they exposed their own players to significant health risks associated with the unintentional ingestion of diuretics.
At the end of the day, I have no illusions that the NFL will come through this potential scandal smelling like a rose. It always does. The league has an interesting, dysfunctional, almost abusive relationship going on with its followers. No matter how badly the NFL treats you, the fan, it knows you are coming back.
It's like a woman trapped with a bullying boyfriend or a child cowering at the hands of a tyrannical father. They know you are hooked; they know you love this game and you aren't going anywhere as a result. So, with billions of dollars flowing in, where's the impetus for change?
The arrogance of Goodell and the league is so astounding that it enables the omnipotent sports giant to contradict things the rest of us see with our own eyes, and make up clandestine behavioral rules that aren't explained to the outside world.
The CIA calls it plausible deniability and the NFL does it better than any covert agent ever could.
Often, the NFL will point to a game in which it admitted a faux pas and trot out Mike Pereira to calmly refer to it while defending the same ineptness in games where it changed the outcome.
It starts simply enough. When a blown call has no impact on the outcome of a game, the NFL gratuitously admits its mistake; however, when a call directly affects a result, the league spins tales taller than the Empire State Building.
When a player like Pacman Jones gets suspended for off-the-field issues, the league has no problem leaking its position. When the circumstances are far more cloudy like the StarCaps scandal, the leagues hides behind the confidentiality clause and refuses to talk about its decision-making.
Can anyone explain to me why Matt Jones, arrested on cocaine charges a few months ago, is playing every Sunday and fat guys trying to lose weight are about to be put on the shelf for a month?
I know Aiello won't.
I know Goodell can, but he chooses not too.
As a member of the media, I have access to endless charts, graphs and tables that conveniently tell me how popular the NFL is and that's the problem.
Until you, the fan, start fighting back and ignoring a league where the outcome is as likely to be determined by these middle-aged men as the players who perform on the field, nothing will change.
Like an addict, the NFL has to admit there is a problem before it can fix it.
It's your job to make them admit their problems and rein in the sports world's only dictator -- Roger Goodell.