Seriously, Who Cares That Roger Goodell Is Skipping the AFC Championship Game?

The paranoia is getting old, Patriots fans.

Roger Goodell

Photo via AP

Arguably the worst consequence of the 18-month, Kafka-esque saga known as Deflategate was neither the lost draft pick nor Tom Brady’s absence through the first four games of the regular season, but a prevailing sense of mouth-foaming paranoia that convinced the blesséd sons and daughters of Patriots Nation, that somehow, the entire Universe is aligned against them.

(It is not.)

The latest manifestation of this derangement follows NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s decision to attend the NFC Championship between the Green Bay Packers and Atlanta Falcons in A-Town, rather than the AFC Championship between the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots in Foxboro.

The snake-charmers of the Pats media snapped back to mid-Deflategate form, peddling this narrative with snark so thick you could spread it on a stack of pancakes, that of course Goodell is avoiding Gillette Stadium because he’s afraid, because he harbors a grudge like some curmudgeonly college dean in a slacker movie—take your pick.

Of course, these optics are as undesirable as they were completely avoidable. Goodell has already made stops in Atlanta, Seattle, and Kansas this postseason, but he hasn’t visited Gillette since ESPN’s Chris Mortensen first incorrectly reported that 11 of the Patriots’ 12 game balls were underinflated in the 2015 AFC Championship game. He should be there Sunday night—that he won’t is hardly the end of the world.

What kind of revenge fantasy do fans have in mind if he did make the slow slog down Route 1 for a Patriots game? It’s as if fans expect to see Brady, bell in hand, leading a naked Goodell through the concourse for his walk of atonement as a cascade of overpriced Bud Light and raspy recitations of the Ideal Gas Law rain down upon the $34 Million-Dollar Sadsack.

The truth is, if Goodell were attendance, he would be safely and quite comfortably ensconced in his luxury box. He would enter and leave virtually unseen, interacting solely with those of a comparable tax bracket. At most, Patriots fans watching at home might get a five-second shot of Goodell, while Phil Simms gushes about the strength of his leadership.

And if he did show up, would that mean he’s ready to govern the league’s 32 teams judiciously? And would all be forgiven? Of course not, in both cases. So why does your sworn enemy’s attendance mean so much to you?

The Patriots will win the Super Bowl this year. The sooner their fans find it within themselves to move past this bizarre, unrelenting need for validation from a paternalistic authority figure, the sweeter that win will be.