On Thursday, the long-awaited conversation between James Harrison and the NFL regarding PED allegations made in an Al Jazeera America report finally happened. The meeting lasted about 45 minutes, at the Steelers’ training facility.
Harrison — and Green Bay Packers Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers, also named in the report — have claimed the allegations were made up. Another person named, Peyton Manning, has been cleared by the NFL. The man who made the accusations, Charlie Sly, has recanted them.
The NFL had been trying to set up a meeting with the Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker since December (Harrison tried to set conditions, like that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had to be present and that the meeting had to take place at Harrison’s house).
None involved in the meeting have spoken to the media, and, sadly, there were no cameras in the room — but imagine if there had been. Here’s what the conversation could have looked like.
NFL investigator: “Mr. Harrison, thanks so much for making the time to sit down with us.”
[Harrison glares, as light gleams off his shaved head. The interviewer shudders. Harrison’s stare will give him nightmares for the next month.]
Harrison: “I’ve already told you I didn’t use anything. Can we hurry this up? My fourth workout of the day is about to start.”
NFL: “Fourth workout? It’s only 9:30 in the….. Right….
[Harrison drops to the ground and starts doing pushups.]
Harrison: “These are too easy. Maurkice Pouncey isn’t here to sit on my back, so [pointing] you, the tall one, get over here.
“I told you I wouldn’t give you a urine sample unless that crook Goodell was here to hold the cup while I peed in it, and I won’t talk unless he’s here, either.
[When the NFL executive doesn’t come over, he starts doing one-armed pushups.]
“25, 26, 27…1,215…”
[In the back, someone in the NFL entourage who appears to be a PR person stands up and takes off a long blonde wig and rubs off some red lipstick. It’s Goodell.]
[As he pulls off his top, before putting on a white shirt, tie and suitcoat, a tattoo of the NFL shield can be seen over his heart.]
Goodell: “Mr. Harrison.”
[Harrison glares. Goodell shudders.]
“I’m, um, here, um, to, um, show you I’m not a coward. And that, um, these PED allegation are, um, very important to us. Cheating, um, isn’t fair. And you know how much my office likes to be fair.”
[Harrison glares. He gets up, picks up a Dixie cup off the table, hands it to Goodell and starts to unzip his pants. Goodell takes a second to realize what’s going on, then drops the cup and takes a step back.]
“Mr. Harrison, I know we haven’t always gotten along, uh, all that, uh, well, but I’m hoping we can move past this.”
“For the good of the game, I think I, um, have to fine you $100,000. [He mutters to an aide: “We have to pay my salary somehow. I know it takes a lot of fines this small, but…”]
[Goodell’s phone makes a “ka-ching” sound.]
“Sorry for the interruption. I get those every time the owners wire another million dollars into my account.”
[He looks pleased.]
“Does anyone else have anything to say about what the fine should be? [He pauses theatrically and looks around, then laughs.] Just kidding. We all know I’m the commissioner and can do whatever the hell I want.”
[Someone rushes up to Goodell and hands him a huge spreadsheet, which Goodell unfolds.]
“Yes, I know that I just suspended New York Giants kicker Josh Brown for only a game despite a long history of domestic violence allegations, and that will cost him only about $100,000 in salary. Yes, I know I originally suspended Ray Rice for only two games for cold-cocking his wife before my wife told me that I wouldn’t be invited to Thanksgiving dinner if I didn’t get tougher.
[Goodell’s phone goes off. His ringtone is “Achy Breaky Heart” by Billy Ray Cyrus.]
“Oh, it’s just Jerry Jones calling again. Too bad about Romo…
“Anyway, I also know the charges against you were made by an unreliable source, in a publication that has since gone out of business, that he later recanted them, and that the only investigation thus far into one of the players named came up bone dry.
[Goodell’s phone dings. A Google alert says, “Study shows concussions don’t cause brain damage.” It quickly dings again with another Google alert: “The aliens have landed.”]
“I even know the contract with the players says I have to follow strict guidelines in enforcing drug policy, and that I’m making a massive overreach by claiming that I get to apply the clause about ‘conduct detrimental’ to the game.
“But, like I said, I’m the commissioner. I can do whatever the hell I want. I mean, look, I suspended Tom Brady for four games for something science has completely disproved.
[Harrison takes off his shirt, revealing a sleeveless undershirt. He flexes his biceps. He sizes up Goodell’s entourage, walks over to a smaller man, grabs him by the belt and starts doing bicep curls with him.]
Goodell: “OK, um, someone start the, um, recording. The interview will officially, um, begin. Mr. Harrison, did you use PEDs?”
Goodell: “OK, we’re done here.”
Harrison: “What about that additional evidence you claimed to have, beyond what the guy made up that was in the Al Jazeera report?”
Goodell: “Ha! Are you kidding? You of all people know we can just make stuff up. Didn’t you hear? I’m the commissioner, and I can do whatever the hell I want.
“But as long as everyone behaved so well today, I’ve brought us all participation trophies. Take one. Take two, if you want to give one to your son.”
[Goodell’s phone rings again; this time the sound is of cheers. It’s one of his daughters.]
“I hear enough boos.”
[Harrison glares. He gets up, takes a trophy, crushes it in his hand and walks out of the room.]
Image credit: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images