Deflategate Fallout: A Balanced View From A Fan
I will defend Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and Robert Kraft in the face of the haters and those who want to deflate the legacy of a great organization. The New England Patriots have proven that it is possible to dominate in a league where parity, a level playing field, and free agency have become status quo.
They are a dynasty. They have won consistently for a decade and a half, including seven Super Bowl appearances (Drew Bledsoe led the team to one in addition to Brady's six), winning four of those under Kraft and Belichick.
The Patriots also have violated league rules, and despite my feelings about some of those assinine rules, it happens, and teams need to be held accountable to uphold the integrity of the game.
It is my belief that "the integrity of the game" is a loosely defined idea that may or may not be accurately reflected in the rules passed each year, especially under the reign of Roger Goodell. Does it reflect on the "integrity" of football for receivers to wear special gloves (as opposed to stick um) to more easily catch the ball? That may affect outcomes just as much as inflation levels and PEDs.
But to the issue at hand, how much does PSI affect throwing and catching? Opinions seem to vary. Brady likes the balls a bit softer, but Aaron Rogers likes them a bit harder. Personal preference makes this a tricky question. Perhaps Mr. Rogers is just as guilty of tampering?
It seems that the league office has opened a can of worms with this ruling; sure, the bigger issue has been pinpointed in that Brady and the Patriots were less than forthcoming and withheld information that could either have exonerated or accused them of specific wrongdoing.
We may never know the whole truth. But what we do know is that Brady's preference became a mission to circumvent protocol at some point in the process of regulating game ball pressure. But the Wells report seems to deflect any doubt as to the true culprit in favor of lambasting those who did not cooperate to the satisfaction of the investigation.
Whether or not sufficient and specifically, damning evidence actually existed, the punishment appears to be more of a "let's make an example" than simply handing down a sentence. And those who still maintain that this offense is equal to domestic abuse and drug abuse are holding a double standard.
The Patriots should not be punished for the failure of the investigation to find the evidence they "needed", only for any clear violation (with intent) of the rules. Again, the suspension and draft picks appear to be the commissioner trying to flex his muscles and affect "the playing field", rather than enforce the rule book.
Remember that in the Ray Rice fiasco, the Ravens were never held accountable for anything related to the case. Both the Ravens and the NFL got away with denying any prior knowledge of the video tape. But it seems that the Patriots and Brady have been denied the same privilege in Deflategate. That is a double standard.
It is entirely possible that Brady may have requested some slight deflation of footballs, never considering that they would be deflated beyond the legal limit. The Patriots surely could be held harmless as well. And if officials can't accurately attest to the level of inflation of ALL footballs in the game, then the point becomes moot.
It is not possible to establish motive or collusion; but Tom Brady's lack of cooperation should certainly be questioned, as far as that takes us. Is that far enough to doubt his integrity, especially back to his original Super Bowl titles?
Tom was never REQUIRED to surrender his phone. The rest is just too circumstantial to bring down the hammer. Too many veteran QBs have testified that doctoring of footballs is common practice and shows no tendency toward cheating to gain a competitive advantage. Every athlete seeks a competitive advantage, normally within the rules of play.
Brady should have admitted the latter, that he asks his equipment assistants to favor his preference with the footballs. He should have made some phone records available to Ted Wells with a reasonable explanation of his preferences.
But he chose to exercise his right to privacy and has received ridicule for doing so.
If we look at the complete history of cheating in the NFL, the Patriots do not deserve the reputation they have been given as the worst offenders... far from it. Many teams have been, and continue to be, egregious rule-breakers by comparison, BY FAR!
So why have the Patriots been hammered in this case? It would seem that the best are always the target for the rest. They have made it a habit to be at the top, and that brings the crosshairs to bear.
But that does not make the punishment fit the crime (if there was one). Go ahead and fine the team and the player, but don't try to destroy and humiliate them. The rules (with sentencing guidelines) are there for a reason. This is not the time to grandstand for public approval.
If anything, Mr. Goodell is placing himself above the game of football and the rules he claims to love so much. I have never claimed to be a fan of Goodell; this only shows me that he loves himself too much. He cares about his power more than a fair game. The Commish may have pleased a lot of football fans, but he did so at the expense of the very integrity he preaches.
This is not integrity; it is travesty. The length of the investigation is evidence enough that the league only cared to save face, not to see justice done. Justice would have been summed-up in 50 pages, not 243 (and a month... tops).
When lawyers want to pull wool over our eyes, they do it with wordiness and manipulation. If the actions of Brady and the Patriots violates a rule, then that is all we need to know. Follow through with the proper ruling and punishment and be done with it.
It is obvious from recent history that Goodell and the NFL do not know how to do that.