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CBSSports.com National Columnist

Goodell plays us for fools in letter to WSJ

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Roger Goodell gave all of us a glimpse into his negotiating tactics on Tuesday, and it wasn't good. Not for the players or owners. Not for the 2011 NFL season. Most of all, not for Roger Goodell.

Because that letter to the Wall Street Journal? This letter right here? It's ugly, Commissioner. It's ugly and misleading and, in the way that the truth can sometimes be a lie, it's a lie.

Confused? Blame Goodell, who just had nearly 1,100 words published in a major daily newspaper yet didn't clear anything up. All he did was muddy the waters. Instead of lifting the level of discourse in this conversation, Goodell sent it toppling from the gutter, where it already was, to whatever level lies beneath the gutter. Hades, I suppose. That's where Goodell sent these negotiations with his letter to the Wall Street Journal. He sent them to hell.

Have you read it yet? If not, click that link and then come back here, because you can't possibly know how bad things are if you don't know how awful that letter is. What Goodell did in that letter was use the union's words against the union, which isn't necessarily a dirty tactic -- but it is in this case, because he's using the union's words against the union ... when he knows full well that those words aren't realistic in the first place.

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I know, I know. Still confusing. Let's use an analogy that most folks can relate to. Imagine you're at a used-car lot, and not one of those haggle-free car lots but the kind of lot where you go back and forth with the salesman. On this lot, you walk up to a dented 2004 Honda Civic with 87,000 miles, and it's listed at $13,000.

You know that car isn't really going to sell for $13,000. The dealer knows it's not selling for $13,000. That's just a starting point, because there has to be a starting point somewhere. And who knows? Maybe some misguided fool will stumble onto the lot with $13,000 in his pocket and a hankering for a dented 2004 Honda Civic. Crazier things have happened. Point is, that sticker price is a joke, and both sides know it.

Not Goodell. No, if Goodell walked onto that lot looking for a car, he'd take one look at the sticker price and write a scathing letter to the Wall Street Journal, railing about the audacity of a used-car lot that is charging -- not asking, but charging -- $13,000 for a dented 2004 Honda Civic.

That's what Goodell did with that letter to the Journal. He took the players' sticker price -- their pie-in-the-sky starting point -- and presented it to the public as Example A of the union's insane greed.

And let's be honest. If the union really was sticking to all that stuff -- not starting with it; I said "sticking" to it -- the union would be greedy. And the union would be insane. Because the NFL isn't going to operate without a draft, a drug-testing policy, a salary cap, a minimum salary, a minimum team payroll and league-wide standard of benefits. The union might well be seeking some of that, in some form, but the union isn't seeking all of that. Or anything close to all of that. The union doesn't look at Goodell as a misguided fool with $13,000 in his pocket and a hankering for a dented 2004 Honda Civic.

And Goodell knows it. He has to. You don't get where he has gone -- commissioner of the most popular sports league in this country -- by being naïve or stupid or both. And yet Goodell played the naïve, stupid card from the beginning of his letter to the Journal, which warned that the NFL was headed for a brave new world that would "significantly alter professional football as we know it."

When we're not.

You know it. I know it. Most of all, Roger Goodell knows it. He knows it better than anyone. But instead he took the players' opening position -- their wish list, their starting point, their first bargaining position -- and presented it to all of you as the union's line in the sand.

I don't know about you, but that ticks me off. Because Goodell wasn't simply presenting that letter to the Wall Street Journal. He wasn't presenting it only to you -- he was presenting it to me as well. I read it. Nearly swallowed my tongue a few times, but I read it. And when I was done, the following thought occurred to me, and I mean it occurred to me in a split-second:

Roger Goodell must think I'm an idiot.

Then something else occurred to me: This must be how Goodell negotiates with the players, too. He exaggerates, pontificates, plays the martyr. He does all of that, presumably, with the assumption that the other side is populated by idiots.

When they're not. Sorry, we're not. Because if this is how Roger Goodell negotiates, count me as a member of the other side.


Gregg Doyel is a columnist for CBSSports.com. He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.
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