Waiting for Goodell
September, 19, 2012
By Jeff MacGregor | ESPN.com
In which we return yet again to the work of Samuel Beckett in the interest of clarifying American football.
A country road. A tree.
ESTRAGON: Nothing to be done.
VLADIMIR: I'm beginning to come around to that. All my life I've believed, but not now.
Torsten Blackwood/AFP/Getty ImagesRoger Rees (Vladimir), left, and Sir Ian McKellen (Estragon) star in "Waiting for Godot."
They sit a long time in silence.
ESTRAGON: Believed in what?
VLADIMIR: Which what?
ESTRAGON: In what did you once believe?
VLADIMIR: The NFL.
ESTRAGON: In football?
VLADIMIR: Not just football. NFL football. The Shield. It was a symbol.
ESTRAGON: A cymbal?
VLADIMIR: A symbol of quality. It was unquestionable.
ESTRAGON: And now?
VLADIMIR: I question. I dispute. I eluct.
ESTRAGON: What was once indubitable is now dubitable.
VLADIMIR: The whole apparatus is in doubt.
ESTRAGON: Replacement officials?
ESTRAGON: The very same! Like a skinned knee!
VLADIMIR: It's tragedy masquerading as comedy.
ESTRAGON: Comedy rebranded as tragedy.
VLADIMIR: It's a leaguewide lockout.
ESTRAGON: Union-busting cahoots! The league is in league with The League.
VLADIMIR: The league isn't the players. The league is the owners.
ESTRAGON: Maybe the league left its wallet in its other pants, because the league needs to scrounge a few dollars.
VLADIMIR: Very few.
ESTRAGON: So the league is using bargain officials from other leagues.
VLADIMIR: From the Lingerie League.
ESTRAGON: Safety first! Who would know better the risks and rules governing high speed helmet-to-helmet contact and potential brain injury than a back judge from the Lingerie Football League?
VLADIMIR: And at an attractive discount.
ESTRAGON: So except for the absurd incompetence, it's been a win-win-win right down the line.
VLADIMIR: He'll have to explain it all to us when he gets here.
ESTRAGON: Who will?
ESTRAGON: We're waiting for Goodell?
VLADIMIR: Yes. He can explain it.
ESTRAGON: Of course he can. Maybe. But can he make good on it?
VLADIMIR: In his defense, you can't be half a gangster.
ESTRAGON: Or even half a Gangnam.
VLADIMIR: Those nickels and dimes add up.
ESTRAGON: Too true.
VLADIMIR: Especially in Las Vegas.
ESTRAGON: Where they gamble on football?
VLADIMIR: Professional American football is the most beloved and lucrative random numbers generator in human history.
Both rise, look up into the lights and hold their hats over their hearts for a very long time. Their eyes well with tears. They sit again, exhausted.
ESTRAGON: But it has to be on the up-and-up.
VLADIMIR: On the level.
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesPeyton Manning and Matt Ryan take the show on the road as Vladimir and Estragon in "Waiting for Goodell."
ESTRAGON: On the square.
VLADIMIR: Or it might as well not be football at all.
ESTRAGON: Like operetta, or the New York Jets.
VLADIMIR: Or anything else you can't reliably bet upon.
ESTRAGON: Because the league sells physical marvels and unbelievable feats of nonfiction.
VLADIMIR: And if people can't believe them
ESTRAGON: Real trouble.
VLADIMIR: It's a question of epistemology
ESTRAGON: And the betting lines.
VLADIMIR: Exactly. Goodell has to fix it because all of a sudden it looks fixed.
The sky darkens.
ESTRAGON: Will he never get here?
VLADIMIR: I'm not entirely convinced he ever left.
ESTRAGON: True. He's everywhere.
VLADIMIR: And nowhere.
ESTRAGON: He'd want us to remember.
VLADIMIR: Remember that it's slow-motion violence set to music?
ESTRAGON: The very thing. Sentimentalized carnage. The Shield is a cymbal of integrity, after all. And your assurance of highest quality action.
They sit a long time in silence.
VLADIMIR: Still. It's not a strike.
ESTRAGON: It's a lockout.
VLADIMIR: Time to shake off the dust. Shall we go?
ESTRAGON: Yes, let's go.
They do not move.