Chris McCosky: Roger Goodell misses chance to heal old wound for Lions fans

Chris McCosky

Allen Park— In all honesty, it probably wasn’t a fair question.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell spent 30 minutes answering questions from Lions season ticket holders via teleconference on Thursday. He’s either trying to reassure fans that there will be football in 2011, or trying to brace them for the opposite reality — it was tough to tell with all his talk about time being short.

Anyway, there was the commish, up to his neck in labor relations stress for the past five months, and one of the first questions he received was about the non-catch ruling against Calvin Johnson and the Lions in Week 1 last season.

“When you make bad calls,” a season-ticket holder wanted to know, “what are you going to do about it?”

Goodell took a deep breath. He probably knew that Lions fans would still be bitter about that call, but he couldn’t have thought he’d have to address it in this forum, during a lockout.

Are you kidding me?

Maybe he was caught off guard a bit — give him a slight pass for that — but he totally blew the answer. He missed a golden opportunity to heal a wound and to assuage a feeling around here that the Lions are the league’s favorite floor mat.

At the very least, he could have been empathetic. Even if he believes the rule is just and the call was right, he could have said it was tough way to start a season and praise the team for the resiliency it showed in winning its final four games.

He would have been better served by simply saying that the competition committee upheld that ruling and this wasn’t the right time or place to discuss it.

Instead, he served up the same batch of verbal slop the league spewed back in September. He explained the three elements of a catch — secure and control of the ball, maintaining control of the ball once two feet or another body part hits the ground and “you have to make sure you control the ball long enough after the first two elements have occurred.”

I am sure a collective “Ugh” went out through every person listening to the teleconference. Control the ball long enough — could that be any more vague or subjective? There isn’t a 6-year-old on the planet who would look at that play and say Johnson dropped the ball. But you get a bunch of officials together and fill their heads with vague guidelines and they can no longer recognize one of the most basic elements of the game — a catch.

Let’s be consistent

Fox 2’s Dan Miller, who hosted the teleconference, gave Goodell a chance to ease the fans’ pain by asking a leading follow-up question — trying to get him to acknowledge why the fans are bitter — but he was rejected.

“What people want is consistency and any time there is judgment, that’s sometimes when you get the inconsistency,” Goodell said. “If you are a fan of one team you look at it from one perspective. If you are a fan of another team you look at it from another perspective. You want to make it as black and white as possible and be as consistent as possible.”

Good grief. The Lions looked at it like they got robbed. The Bears looked at it like they got a gift. And as far as the rule being black and white and consistent, it is absolutely neither.

But that is beside the point here.

If it was Goodell’s intent to foster some goodwill with Lions fans, he blew it. He said a lot of interesting things during those 30 minutes, but the only thing most fans will take out of it is how he stubbornly refused to acknowledge that a mistake was made, one that cost the fans around here a good deal of anguish.

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