No matter the venue, if Roger Goodell is appearing before a crowd of NFL fans, he’s going to be booed.

This has been true for most of the decade-plus he’s served as commissioner of the NFL, and even more so in recent years. It will likely continue until well after he holds the position. It’s fair to assume that Goodell is going to be loathed for life.

Usually when booed, Goodell has done his best to be stoic and pretend like it wasn’t happening, which has been a fine metaphor for the overall humorlessness of the NFL during his reign. The 2017 NFL Draft, however, saw him take a slightly different tack. Goodell was frequently egging on the Philly crowd when they showered him with scorn on the dais.

Perhaps it’s a little safer for Goodell to mess with Philly fans than others because they have a reputation, which is sometimes overblown to the point of cheap caricature, of being overly negative and mean. Fans across the country expect Eagles fans to be rude, so why not play into that for the purpose of compelling television?

It wasn’t just the commissioner. During the broadcast of the second round on Friday, Dallas Cowboys great Drew Pearson got into the act by provoking the Philly crowd.

“All right. How ‘bout dem Cowboys!” he said. “I want to thank the Eagle fans for allowing me to have a career in the NFL. Thank you.

“I am honored as an undrafted free agent to be selected to make the Cowboys’ second-round draft pick … and on behalf of the five-time World Champion Dallas Cowboys, Hall of Fame owner Jerry Jones, Gene Jones and the Jones family, coach Jason Garrett, all the Cowboys players that played before me, that played with me and played after me.”

Unsurprisingly, this was not met with the friendliest of reactions by Eagles fans in attendance. Had Pearson decided to do that on his own, few would have been surprised, as trolling your rival even decades after your playing days can be quite delightful.

Yet apparently it wasn’t even Pearson’s idea. On Monday, Drew Pearson told Pro Football Talk that he was urged by Goodell to rile up the fans in attendance with his pick.

How a commissioner deals with booing during the draft is a minor issue, though it shows a belated sophistication on Goodell’s part that might actually serve him well in the future. Having a sense of humor about himself isn’t going to undo administrative decisions that anger fans, but it makes him a slightly tougher target to ridicule. And it’s a harmless talking point for a league often beset by controversy.

What’s more, one of Goodell’s main functions is to be the punching bag for the public in lieu of the owners or other league executives. By playfully encouraging that rancor, or getting fans to boo a retired player having some fun with divisional rivalries, he’s taking the focus off, say, the fact that the Raiders spent their first-round pick on a player who was just accused of rape, or the fact that several players with incidents of violence against women were taken in later rounds.

Goodell and the owners would rather the commissioner spend 24 hours straight getting booed before anyone talks about the fact that Jacksonville’s general manager responded to questions about the team drafting Dede Westbrook, a player twice arrested on domestic violence charges, with this quote:

“I think we all have been accused of things, not all of us, but many of us have been accused of things.”

By channeling all the outrage to Goodell, it makes it easy for the league to deal with that hate if it were ever to become too intense. If the NFL ever fires Goodell, some fans would likely believe significant changes were coming to the league when the next commissioner would likely represent all but only the most superficial policies as Goodell.

Besides, the boos are coming regardless. Goodell might as well try to finesse his way through them rather than glower and have it look like the hate is getting to him.

About Mike Tunison

Mike Tunison is a freelance writer, former editor of Kissing Suzy Kolber, and author of The Football Fan's Manifesto. He has no outrageous food takes though is interested in a bite of what you have there. Looks good.