Becoming secretary of state granted John Kerry a job he aspired to all his life. But anyone who covered the State Department while Condoleezza Rice was at the helm knows that the Russia expert, student of military strategy, concert pianist, and exercise fanatic has always had a different dream job in mind.
The football helmets and signed footballs in her offices – whether at the White House while she was national security adviser to George W. Bush, or at Foggy Bottom – said it all: Condi aspired to one day becoming National Football League commissioner.
She said so herself, in a 2002 interview with The New York Times, but then later, repeatedly, this reporter recalls, as one questioner after another asked a Secretary Rice nearing the end of her State Department tenure what she wanted to do with the rest of her life.
For the State Department press corps, those comments were filed and forgotten – until now. Could it be that, with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s days looking numbered in the wake of the Ray Rice scandal, the girl from Alabama (and, one might add, Cleveland Browns fan) is about to see her dream come true?
The drumbeat for Commish Condi is certainly building. Arizona Sen. John McCain hinted at the idea of Condi to the NFL’s rescue as he discussed the (Ray) Rice domestic violence scandal this week. No less an authority than actor Rob Lowe tweeted that the NFL “should give the job of commissioner to Dr. Condi Rice. Today.” Media outlets are swooning at the prospect.
The idea has a lot to recommend it. And not just because a known and widely respected national leader has said for years that she’d like the job.
Let’s be frank. The NFL is on the ropes because it is seen as having responded woefully and inadequately to a problem whose poster child is by now an African-American woman. Who hasn’t seen the elevator video of an African-American woman being punched and knocked out cold by a prominent NFL player (who happened to be her fiancé at the time, now her husband)?
How better to begin to address the scandal of NFL hesitancy toward and obfuscation of as serious a problem as domestic violence – and to commence the repair of the league’s tarnished image – than to name a smart, strong African-American woman to put the NFL’s house in order?
Some might say that smart and strong are a good start but aren’t enough, and that “woman” and “African-American” could make the choice of Condi as commissioner at this moment look desperate and even gimmicky.
But here’s the icing on the cake, the cherry on top, the whatever you want to call it, that is at the root of the groundswell of support for this idea: In addition to all those other qualifications to her credit, Condi Rice loves the game of football.
It’s a love instilled in her by her father, a football player himself who, though he’d wanted a boy, shared his love of the game with his only daughter; a man who rooted for the Browns because they were one of the first teams to integrate and embrace African-Americans.
That seems like the kind of love the NFL sorely needs.