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The Reincarnation of Kenesaw Landis

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Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis was Commissioner of Major League Baseball way back in the day, and was as hard-line in meting out punishment, most famously the 1919 Chicago Black Sox scandal, depicted in the movie, "Eight Men Out". Today, current MLB Commissioner Allan "Bud" Selig is the antithesis of Landis, softer than a bag of marshmallows and slower to act than snails & turtles combined.

In this day and age, however, the spirit of Landis has re-emerged, but in football, embodied in current NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Consider what has happened recently. The Pittsburgh Steelers, 14 months removed from their 6th Super Bowl victory, traded MVP Santonio Holmes to the New York Jets for draft picks after Holmes had gotten himself in trouble with the law. The ink had barely been dry on news of the trade when Goodell announced that Holmes would miss the first 4 games of the 2010 season for violating the personal conduct policy enforced by the league. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been accused twice in the last year of sexual assault in two different places by two different women, and while no charges have formally been filed, but Goodell took action anyway, slapping Roethlisberger with a 6 game ban. Steelers management's immediate response was to announce that they would listen to trade offers for their star QB. So far, no takers. The Jets obtained Holmes before his suspension was announced. With Roethlisberger's suspension already made public the day before the draft, teams aren't willing to take a chance, knowing they won't have him for the first month and a half of the season.

On Friday, Goodell announced that he would revisit the Roethlisberger case and add to the suspension if it comes out that there are other violations. Conversely, when he meted out the ban on Wednesday, Goodell stated that if Roethlisberger maintained good behavior, the ban would be reduced to 4 games. You can bet that there are some amateur camera jocks looking for a quick payday willing to stick it to Roethlisberger if at all possible just because they're not Steeler fans. To that end, Roethlisberger would be well served to stay away from strangers with camera phones.

When the ban was announced Wednesday, the discussion on ESPN's "Around the Horn" centered on whether or not the Steelers would actually be a playoff team without Roethlisberger. Please. Pittsburgh brings back Byron Leftwich as an insurance policy, competing with Charlie Batch and Dennis Dixon for the starter pro tempore job in camp this summer. Holmes is gone, and so is running back Willie Parker. Depending on how well the Steelers fare in the draft, it might not be a problem after all.

Before last season, the Cincinnati Bengals were the AFC North's answer to "America's Most Wanted" with all their legal hassles, but who'd think to associate the Steelers with such issues? That's why they've traded Holmes and are shopping Roethlisberger. The team has an image to protect. Too bad Holmes & Roethlisberger fractured the perception of that image, almost irrevocably. Star athletes today think they're above scrutiny. Goodell is teaching them as sternly as possible that the perception needs to change, and that because of their profession, they have to be held accountable on and off the field. To that end, more power to him.
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