DeflateGate, Part Two: Roger’s Revenge

29 Jul

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This blog originally opined several months ago at the very start of the DeflateGate/Ballghazi nonsense. We were wrong at the time, incorrectly assuming that, “The NFL will likely give the Patriots another token slap on the wrist.”  Looking back, it’s tough to believe underinflated footballs deserves anything more than a slap on the wrist, right?

But fortunately for those of us who like to see Tom Brady and Patriots loyalists squirm, the QB went and ticked off Roger Goodell. A destroyed cellphone and a bunch of obstructing later, and Brady is the recipient of a 4 game suspension.

Good news though: Tom Brady and his Massively Gigantic Ego won’t let this die.

There is very little chance Goodell wanted to punish Tom Brady back in the days following that AFC Championship against the Colts. Brady is a fellow who, given a clean record, would have stood to retire as the greatest QB in NFL history (and that was before earning Super Bowl Ring #4). What Commissioner with sound mind would want to further punch holes in the reputation of such a revered quarterback? Brady is a guy who lends credence to everything the NFL has held dear: a low round draft pick, a fighter, a big-game, model-marrying, Uggs-repping Champion.

But Brady made a big mistake. He placed himself above the exalted Shield of the NFL. And Goodell had to stop it.

In the public eye Brady could have continued his laughing, PR-dancing, and obstructing without a blink of the eye from the Commissioner’s office. His smug attitude towards the entire controversy is galling to his detractors, but nothing that causes irreparable damage.

Privately however, he needed to cooperate with Goodell. When he decided to stonewall behind closed doors to the Ted Wells Investigation, everything changed.

Again, I doubt Goodell wanted to find hard evidence of Brady’s wrongdoing. All he needed was Brady to humble himself in the hierarchy of the National Football League chain of command. And Brady refused.

Why did Brady stonewall? Maybe Brady feels that he and the Patriots have been unjustly singled out. Brady may believe that adjusting the football to a lower PSI is not something that should be punished. Or perhaps Brady is a crusader for personal property rights, steadfastly refusing to hand over a cellphone.

All of these are understandable to an extent, except for one small detail: he’s not the one who gets to decide. Whatever Brady and his agent feel would be a just course of due process, the NFL Players Association rendered that irrelevant in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The power is Goodell’s to punish.

Which brings us back to humility. The National Football League is going to outlive Tom Brady’s football career. Goodell knows that. He also knows that the Patriots are a problem child, who like to challenge authority and the rules whenever they feel they can get away with it. He stands to inherit the legacy of enabling the Tainted Patriots Era, much like Bud Selig will always be remembered as the enabler of the Steroid Era.

Baseball eventually instituted testing and suspensions, but never saw Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, or Sammy Sosa serve an inning of a suspension. Selig oversaw this travesty all while profiting greatly from home run chases that defiled the record books. The Steroid Era has laid waste to years of history all for a momentary monetary gain.

Back to football though. Goodell has struck back in a more pointed fashion than Selig ever did for the Steroid Era offenders. He took a heavy-handed swipe at Brady, that’s for sure.

Yet this isn’t really about the cheating, is it? As much as we want it to be, it’s about the obstruction, defiance, and mocking of the League and Goodell.

Which leads to another interesting question: What is this really about for Goodell? Is it really to preserve the integrity of the NFL, or to try and rewrite his own legacy?

We Bills fans watched Goodell shrug off Spygate, letting the Patriots off in what could be one of the most damaging scandals since the Black Sox. By all reports Goodell enjoys a cozy relation with Robert Kraft, too cozy if you ask many non-Patriot fans out there. Besides this donnybrook with Brady, can you recall another instance where the Commissioner took an anti-Patriots point of view (assuming you consider the Spygate punishment extremely light)? Me neither.

Brady serving a suspension would be fun to mock, if its upheld in court. And no player should believe that they’re above reproach when it comes to following the agreed-upon rules of a sports league.

But when we are talking the integrity of the game, shouldn’t the punishment have come sooner? The evidence was there (underinflated footballs), and the league could have simply fined the Patriots and docked draft picks. Instead, it became a witch hunt and subsequent cover-up.

Whatever the initial goal of delaying the punishment, the ultimate outcome is far from just. Instead it’s the further establishment that both Brady and Goodell are self-serving egomaniacs who will stop at nothing to achieve their ultimate goals: Brady winning Super Bowls, and Goodell gaining power and money.

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