Everyone knows NFL commissioner Roger Goodell grew up the privileged son of a senator. Sometimes, though, a magazine writer profiling The Ginger Hammer is in need of an anecdote that shows an example of Rog meting out justice in the years before he controlled a billion-dollar entertainment property. After all, surely even pampered rich kids have some amount of life experience.
To obtain such an anecdote for Goodell, there appears only one possible route – checking in with Tim Foil, the owner of the bar where Roger Goodell worked while in college. Do you need Roger Goodell to appear concerned about racial strife? Domestic violence? Income disparity? Ethics in journalism? Tim’s your guy! He has a wealth of stories about how Goodell once dealt with a relevant situation as a bartender.
This week, GQ has a long feature detailing Goodell’s season from hell. The writer, Gabriel Sherman (who has also written a biography on Roger Ailes), closes out the piece with a scene of him asking Goodell a question at a December press conference. As the Rog answers him, Sherman recalls being told a story from the days when Goodell was pure of heart and swift of purpose:
As he spoke, I thought back to a story that his friend Tim Foil, the former owner of the bar where Goodell worked during college, told me. One evening, a bull of a man barreled through the front door looking for his wife. “She’d come down to the bar to get away from him. She was a regular,” Foil said. “He was probably six two, 240 pounds—a typical mean guy when he was drinking.” Goodell was working behind the bar, watching the grim scene unfold. The man walked over and started hitting his wife. Goodell didn’t hesitate. “Roger got between ’em, broke ’em up, and told him to calm down,” Foil remembered. As Goodell escorted the man outside, he said, “You’re in my establishment right now, and I’m in charge.”
If only that Roger Goodell were in charge now.
Yes, Goodell was once a righteous establishment protector. Were he only still that way…
But where have we heard from Tim Foil before?
Back in 2011, months before the NFL locked out the players and the referees as part of a dispute over a new CBA, professional Goodell sycophant Peter King wrote a lengthy profile on the commissioner that began with another profile in courage from Foil.
Thirty years ago at the Landmark, a bar just off the campus of Washington & Jefferson College in southwestern Pennsylvania, tension occasionally simmered between townies and college kids. Sometimes it was racial. One evening a black student walked in, sat at a corner table and ordered a beer. At the bar was a white townie who’d had a lot to drink. He ordered the black kid to scram. The bartender, a 21-year-old W&J senior, stepped from the behind the bar and stood between the two men.
The townie opened his coat to reveal a revolver. “I want him out!” he said, putting his hand on the gun. “I don’t care — I’ll shoot you too!”
“He can stay,” said Roger Goodell, the bartender. “He’s allowed to have a drink.”
Time stopped in the crowded bar. “Let’s just go outside,” Goodell said to the townie, and they did. Goodell walked the patron down the street and out of the Landmark for the night.
Tim Foil, one of the bar’s owners, wasn’t there that night but had seen such incidents before. “You never know,” Foil said. “Guns, too much alcohol. Bad things happen sometimes.”
I suppose it’s possible all these incidents actually happened, though I’m also willing to believe the already kind of fake sounding Tim Foil will act as a character witness for Roger Goodell when the media comes calling. “Who’s pissed off at him this time? The ladies? Well, let me tell you about the time he saved a woman from an abusive husband then delivered a baby in the middle of the bar.”
If anything, perhaps the next time Roger Goodell screws up royally, the magazine writer who draws the assignment of exploring Goodell’s character will at least find someone else with a telling story from his past.