Deflategate. Your favorite monolithic force isn’t going away anytime soon. Some of you, however, think it should, but for the wrong reasons. You think that Brady is toast. That there’s nothing left for him to fight for, and that it’s time to accept his four game time out and move on. I realize I’m not talking to the Brady fan club here, but rather to the legions of football fans outside of New England, who can think of nothing better than praising the fact that the cheater is finally taking his medicine. That said, I’ve heard enough of you on the radio here recently who share this ludicrous view.
Brady has proclaimed his innocence at every turn. He’s insisted he never told anyone to break the rules. And he testified under oath in front of the Emperor, pardon me, the Commissioner that he had no knowledge, nor any inclusion in, any scheme to deflate footballs in the 2015 AFC Championship game.
A three judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Judge Richard Berman’s decision from last summer and re-instated Brady’s four game suspension imposed by the league. His options are now limited and the odds are long, but has anything in this case gone according to plan? Hardly.
Let’s make one thing extraordinarily clear. If this is how Brady truly feels, he should fight as long as he possibly can. There’s no gray area here. It’s a black and white issue. The reality is that outside of New England, he is guilty. Period. So why would he cave? How does that help him? Does it really give him the closure that some think it will? The answer is absolutely not. If anything, I believe that accepting his presumed fate will eat at Brady for far longer than the four game suspension would. He wouldn’t be able to live with the fact that he allowed himself to be punished for something he says he didn’t do. If he takes this to the mat and loses, so be it. At least he’ll go down on his own terms.
I’m not going to bore you with the tired argument of whether he did it or not. We’ve all had enough of that, but I do believe he told Jastremski and McNally that he likes the footballs on the softer side, and if he had said that from day one, it might have paved the way for a quick resolution that would never have allowed this mess to escalate into the national drama that has unfolded over the past year plus. However, he didn’t have all the information back then. All he knew, was what we knew, that 11 of 12 footballs were 2 PSI below the league mandated limit. And that information was a lie, leaked by the league to shape the course of public opinion and making it impossible for the Patriots to change the narrative from being branded as cheaters, to having been cheated out of a fair hearing. But let’s say 11 of 12 never came out. Don’t you honestly believe that Brady would’ve been much more defiant in his own defense? I do. He laughed off the initial report, then 24 hours is later is told that all but one of the footballs he used in the game were under inflated. Clearly, he was stunned by that, everyone was. There wasn’t one person in New England, or anywhere else, that didn’t think something fishy went on after that report was leaked. Therefore, it’s not surprising that his performance on that fateful Wednesday was one of the poorest of his career.
So fast forward through that first press conference, through Kraft’s demand for an apology, through Ted Wells, the arbitration hearing, Judge Berman, etc etc and we still arrive at the same place. Brady maintains his innocence.
I was privileged to be on a panel at UMass Lowell a few months back talking about this very subject. Michael McCann, Ben Volin among others took part, and I’ll say again what I said at that event. Brady has a permanent scar on his back from the fallout of Deflategate. He will never be able to convince the masses that he is completely innocent. This has nothing to do with his legacy or his Hall of Fame credentials, or the fact that he’s arguably the greatest quarterback of all time. His legacy is intact. His reputation is not. There are some who will always think he cheated. Cheated the game, cheated his team, cheated the league and therefore he should be punished.
Any rational thinking person knows this whole thing was, and continues to be, a sham. A complete waste of time and money. But there were 31 billionaires that needed their pound of flesh from Robert Kraft and his team, and they damn well got it. The largest fine in the history of the league, to go along with the sullied reputation of one of the greatest players of all time. Tom Brady may be as guilty as the Patriot haters think he is or he could simply be a pawn in the much larger game of gotcha that the league has been playing with the team. I think it’s the latter. We all know he cares deeply about his reputation, and that’s why he’ll fight this to the end. To think otherwise is foolish.