Roger Goodell vs. Jabba the Hutt: Who’s the Better Commissioner?
As the National Football League continues to fall under scrutiny for a litany of wrongdoings, ranging from player safety concerns to player-wife-or-girlfriend safety concerns, Roger Goodell’s standing with football fans has become ever more contentious. Many have suggested his direct involvement in the mishandling of the NFL’s many controversies since the beginning of his tenure, and even more believe he is a detriment to the sport.
Taking all this into consideration, I was struck during my most recent viewing of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace1 by Jabba the Hutt’s surehanded management of all goings-on at the annual podracing Boonta Eve Classic, even as Jabba faced many of the same obstacles Goodell has had to navigate through. How have their performances as commissioner varied? Which categories have been strengths of Goodell’s and which have been strengths of Jabba’s? Which commissioner has set their sport on a better trajectory? These are questions I seek to answer in the following examination of the two commissioners.
In terms of methodology, I will rate Goodell and Jabba on a scale of one to ten, one being terrible and ten being excellent, on the following criteria:
- Player safety: How successful is the commissioner in maintaining the safety of his sport’s participants? How does the commissioner respond to players who suffer injuries or death, and how does he push the sport to adapt to prevent injuries or death? What actions does the commissioner take to prevent arbitrary Tusken Raider attacks?
- Player discipline: To what extent does the commissioner punish the sport’s participants for inappropriate behavior toward other participants, coaching/technical staff, and personal acquaintances? How effective are the commissioner’s disciplinary tactics in preventing inappropriate behavior?
- Commercial growth: How has the commissioner increased his sport’s revenues through targeted advertising, corporate partnerships and tax loopholes? How much has the sport’s audience grown under the commissioner’s tenure? Does the sport essentially sell air time to its country’s/planet’s military?
- Personal popularity: Does the commissioner have the support and respect of players and fans? Is he considered a reliable final authority on controversial issues?
- Integrity of sport: To what extent has the commissioner ensured that the integrity of his sport is maintained? Has the commissioner managed to keep the sport fair? Does the commissioner routinely discard evidence of events that may incriminate elements of the sport with a larger economic pull?
- Long-term survival: Have the steps taken by the commissioner set the sport up to survive long-term as a cultural institution?
Goodell gets a few pity points here for at least making it seem as though he gives two-thirds of a shit about player safety. Specifically, he gets at least 1/53 of a perfect score, since he has taken steps to protect quarterbacks. He seems at least cognizant of the sport’s repercussions later in players’ lives. However, most change is driven by outside parties, as Goodell is a greedy prick. Score: 4/10
Jabba the Hutt
Have to give Jabba a solid F on this one. Rather than implement safety regulations or rule changes to reduce the violence of podracing, Jabba seems to encourage the glorification of violence, as his sportscasters and fans celebrate fiery explosions, the death of one podracer whose vehicle explodes before he can even leave the starting gate, and murder at the hands of Tusken Raiders. Power couplings explode, repair droids are abused and discarded with little regard or compassion, and yet Jabba cannot be bothered to do anything more than sit in his luxury box with entourage of powerful yes men and sleep through the race. However, credit Jabba this: He presides over risks which are entirely apparent. He isn’t malevolently ignoring unseen health hazards, just failing to curb the obvious ones. Score: 3/10
This is a notoriously weak category for Goodell. He is known for punishments that fail to maintain any semblance of fairness. Life-threatening illegal hits can go unaccounted for, while small misdemeanors like possession of marijuana may be met with season-long suspensions. Under Roger Goodell, players have not become more undisciplined, and it’s clear that more valuable players are given preferential treatment because they bring in more revenue. Score: 2/10
Jabba the Hutt
Numerous egregious violations of the podracing personal conduct policy are perpetrated in the Boonta Eve Classic alone, seriously undermining Jabba’s perceived willingness or ability to enforce discipline and lawfulness among his players. The famous podracer Sebulba is the most egregious offender, tampering with a number of competitor’s pods and flagrantly flouting the league’s anti-flamethrower policy. That being said, Jabba has no record of showing preferential treatment to podracers, which gives him a leg up in this category. Score: 4/10
The NFL has continued its commercial growth under Goodell. In fact, that might be his greatest strength. He may have disenfranchised millions of St. Louis area football fans in the process, but if his goal was more money — which it obviously was, and still always continue to be — he did achieve it. Shit, this guy got the United States military to pay to perform patriotic ceremonies at the beginning of games. He will lose a mark or two for Jacksonville never selling out their stadium, though. Score: 9/10
Jabba the Hutt
It’s undeniable that the sport of podracing experienced an explosion in revenue and profitability under the direction of the Hutt Clan. The annual Boonta Eve Classic grew to be so popular it took precedence over an entire Intergalactic Holiday, and reseller markets suggest that tickets to the Grand Arena in Mos Espa to view the race could skyrocket to upwards of 5,000 Wupiupi.2 But gate receipts were only one portion of the podracing empire Jabba presided over, with licensing, merchandising, and broadcast rights contributing to a massively profitable enterprise for Jabba and his stakeholders, one that remained shielded from most taxes levied by the Galactic Republic thanks to its status as a nonprofit and the influence of the Confederacy of Independent Systems. And he didn’t have to relocate any races to Coruscant to do it. Score: 9/10
Roger Goodell is very unpopular. Score: 1/10
Jabba the Hutt
Jabba maintains a cadre of powerful friends and acquaintances, and his role as a crime lord and slaveholder have somehow failed to diminish his popularity among the general population on Tatooine. Even Darth Vader has been known to bring gifts to Jabba. The Hutt leader maintains a reputation as one to be feared and respected, but not loved, and that counts for something. Score: 8/10
Integrity of Sport
Goodell has certainly struggled with this facet of being commissioner. He has failed to maintain both the sport’s moral integrity (see: Rice, Ray) and the sport’s traditional integrity, the latter evidenced by the fact that NFL referees are no longer sure what a catch is, and seemingly can’t make it through a week of play without a significant controversy. His idea of promoting player safety is constantly changing the rules to make quarterbacks essentially untouchable (degrading the integrity of the game), but failing to appropriately punish players who purposefully make dirty hits (see: Burfict, Vontaze). Moreover, his handling of the Patriots’ numerous cheating scandals have seriously drawn into question his ability to serve as an unbiased judge of high stakes controversies. Score: 3/10
Jabba the Hutt
While tacitly supporting the illicit gambling that fueled the sport’s rapid growth and popularity, Jabba allowed the integrity of podracing to decay until any sense of parity or fairness had escaped the sport. Human lives are openly bet on the results of fixed races, and even the racers themselves are in on the action. Although Jabba maintains an appeal to the game’s traditions, including the ceremonial biting-off-the-head-of-a-lizard-and-spitting-it-onto-a-gong to start the race, the damage has already been done. What’s worse, the professional ranks of podracing seem to draw their talent from an underpaid (some might say even slave) pipeline of supposedly “amateur” competitors. Score: 3/10
For what must be the first time in the sport’s recent history, people are really starting to wonder if football will be around in 50 years, which is impressive, considering how much commercial power the sport has. This can’t all be pinned on Goodell, but his failure to address player safety and player discipline are speeding up the process. That being said, his focus on commercial growth is at least prolonging the sport’s survival, so he deserves some (reluctant) credit for that. Score: 5/10
Jabba the Hutt
Despite the immense popularity of the sport of podracing in general, and the overwhelming fan turnout for the sport’s culminating championship the Boonta Eve Classic, the seeds of podracing’s demise seem sewn into its very existence, and Jabba appears either willfully ignorant or woefully unaware to address the issue. At the end of the Classic, not only have most of the sport’s top competitors from throughout the Outer Rim perished in competition, but the game’s #1 star Anakin Skywalker has walked away from the dangerous life of racing, selling his podracer for parts and leaving the planet of Tatooine to pursue a less dangerous career as a Jedi. Score: 3/10
Roger Goodell: 24 points out of 60
Jabba the Hutt: 30 points out of 60
Well, there you have it. Looks like the greasy, amorphous piece of evil slime doesn’t quite measure up to Jabba the Hutt as a commissioner.