Roger Goodell will go down as one of the great commissioners, in any sport, of all time. His detractors complain that old-time tough-guy football players will shake their heads at Goodell's heavy justice.
What will the heads of the old-time tough-guy football players feel like when they finish shaking them? And how many of them have enjoined the law suit that contends the NFL didn't do enough to prevent head injuries?
We know much more about head trauma and concussions than we did even five years ago, and the more we learn the more we shudder -- at least those of us who see football players as human beings, not as human projectiles on our TV screen.
Knowledge works only when its applied, and Goodell is applying it. His tactics might appear heavy handed, but he had a culture to change, and to do it he was willing to be the bad guy. Players know now that even if their instincts tell them to lead with their head, they have to control those instincts.
I've stuck up for co-workers simply because they're co-workers, and I didn't like people from the outside criticizing them. Football players stick up for football players even if they put a bounty on other football player, pledging money to take them out of a game.
There are rules, and if you treat them as if they don't exist Goodell will make you pay. Goodell suspended New Orleans' middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who was an unofficial player rep for the bounty culture, for a season, and also suspended three other players as much as half a season.
These were other players the Saints were going after.
Instead of going after Goodell, the Union ought to thank him.
He'll make football a safer sport for them without eliminating the thrills that make it so wildly popular.