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Fall football aftertaste not always sweet

Last Sunday’s NFL Hall of Fame game is — or was supposed to be before it was canceled due to unplayable field conditions — the unofficial opening day of the 2016 National Football League season. Sure, it’s a somewhat meaningless game between two teams littered with soon-to-be practice squad or ex-NFL players, but it’s also the first sign that fall and our football fix are undeniably on the way.

However, in spite of its popularity, the game and its return means further discussion regarding not the bright side of America’s sports mistress, but rather the back-alley conversation revolving around the dark side of the NFL game.

I enjoy football. In fact, my favorite sport to watch. But while quenching my fanatic thirst, it can at times leave an undesirable aftertaste.

NFL owners are villainous. At every turn they represent the dark side of big business, and they do so beneath the cloak of a highly compensated patsy.

Roger Goodell has spent the better part of the last couple years bungling decisions involving domestic violence, performance-enhancing drugs, concussions and — of course — deflated footballs. But while he does and seemingly happily takes that heat, he’s really just the front-man for a bunch of greedy old men behind the curtain of anonymity.

On the record, as NFL commissioner, Goodell’s job is to act in the best interests of the league. He’s to protect the game from both inside and outside influences and grow it in terms of popularity and, of course, money. But off the record, he’s the fall guy for the 32 billionaires looking to amass their next billion.

He, and they, say they care about their players, but that care only comes in the wake of a lawsuit revolving around the effects of repeated head trauma. They say they abhor domestic violence and will condemn offenders associated with their league, but only respond in the aftermath of undeniable video evidence and ensuing public outrage. And they say there’s no place for drugs in “their” game, but they institute a predictably beatable system on the heels of the Major League Baseball scandal that opened the public’s eyes to a growing epidemic.

Those are not the actions of a league that genuinely cares, but responses connected to concern for their bottom line.

I’m not a sports purist. I get the reality of a good and bad side to nearly everything, but while realities exist to those with their eyes open, rationalizations only fool those with their eyes wide shut.

Enjoy the NFL, but don’t be its fool. It’s better without the aftertaste.