As a Patriots fan, I fully confess my team bias in the oft-invoked but largely fictional “Deflategate” debacle. However, my dedication to home laundry has not blinded my sensibilities, nor supplanted my ability to look at facts and make a judgment call based on them. The pitiful fact of the matter is that the sports media outside of our five-state fan base (Connecticut residents are predominantly NY fans) has willfully and even gleefully exchanged any ability to reason they had for Patriot-hater blindness.
WFAN’s Chris Russo resorted to idiotic bomb-throwing desperation on a Boston sports talk station this week when he stooped to attack Brady’s wife Gisele Bundchen’s appearing in Paris in a burka as symptomatic of the entire family’s dearth of common sense and reason. How this explains reduced football pressure escapes me, but Russo has admitted that while he has opined stridently on the matter for seven months, he has not read ANY of the relevant material about the case, including the Wells Report, which was the exhaustive investigation of the matter. He’s only one example of rampant self-inflicted ignorance among the national sports media, by which they are collectively impugning their professional credentials.
Let’s look at facts, since opinions are valueless in this matter. The facts are that the NFL was given back-channel messages from two different NFL teams (Colts and Ravens) that implied the Patriots were tampering with football pressures, prior to the AFC championship game. The NFL opted not to notify the Patriots that they had received such innuendo or issue any sort of warning, and instead set up a sting operation to catch the supposed perpetrators in flagrante delicto. Footballs were checked at half-time during the AFC game, an action that was the first ever in NFL history. One Colts defensive back who intercepted a Brady pass in the first half was said to have mentioned that the ball “felt funny” and handed it over to his team officials. The player has flatly denied having said anything whatsoever about the ball to anyone. Fact.
After the game, a thumping rout of the Colts, the NFL leaked to respected ESPN sports reporter Chris Mortensen that eleven of twelve Patriot footballs tested at half-time were below the regulation pressure, and that none of a scattered few Colts balls were. This report could ONLY have come from NFL office sources (fact), and the report was misleading and incorrect (fact). The NFL has NEVER retracted nor corrected the report to indicate how many balls actually did measure below the limit and by how much, despite repeated pleas by the Patriots ownership to 1) correct the brand-damaging error, and 2) investigate the source of such leaks in their own ranks. The NFL lied, and then allowed the lie to persist.
Robert Kraft, owner of the Patriots and a leading force in the NFL’s business development, was presented with the misinformation about the balls after the game by the Commissioner when the league knew the information was erroneous, and based on conversations had over those falsities he accepted the heaviest penalty ever issued a team in the history of the league, in the loss of a 1st and 4th round draft pick and a fine of $1 million. Fact.
Much later, after finding out that the commissioner whom he has backed and supported for years figuratively knifed him in the back, Kraft angrily apologized to his fan base for such an egregious misjudgment and misplacement of trust. Fact.
Brady was confronted with the exact same misinformation, at the same time. The league willfully allowed a lie to be floated and not retracted. Fact. Is there then any wonder Brady would want to know what was going on and communicate with the two guys who handle game day preparations? Yet Ted Wells implied that a sudden increase in text communications between Brady, Jastremski and McNally suggested they were co-conspirators.
Walt Anderson, the head referee of the title game and a man with an impeccable record, did NOT follow league procedure for checking ball pressures and documenting them prior to the game. We are left only with his mixed testimony about which of two different ball gauges he used to check what balls, and no written account of the ball pressures. Anderson wants the world to take his good word for it. But no baseline of documented ball pressures prior to the kickoff. Fact.
Brady had actually obtained a copy of the NFL game day procedures (not distributed to players) and had Jastremski bring it to the officials’ attention after a game against the Jets in which a ball approved for play tested at over 16 pounds of pressure. Brady claims it was the only instance in his 15-year career where he was ever aware of actual ball pressure, because it was so far outside the regulation limit as to be obvious. He raised the issue first with the NFL, not the other way around. Fact.
The Wells Report, which Roger Goodell referred to several times as “independent” and therefore believable, was EDITED before release by NFL general counsel (lawyer) Jeff Pash. After which “editing” (I doubt he was checking punctuation), Goodell rendered his “objective” decision and suspended Tom Brady for four games and fined him 1.8 million dollars. Fact. If this happened to you over speculation and circumstantial evidence, you would be mad enough to kill someone. Fact.
The NFL, in the person of Commissioner Goodell, lied several times on the record about what Tom Brady actually said regarding his cell phone and other aspects of the investigation. He parsed and augmented statements that Brady made to twist them into implications of questionable or guilty conduct, in order to cause Brady to appear to have said and done things he did not. Fact. This same “unbiased” Commissioner also sits as judge, jury and executioner on league matters relating to player conduct. Fact.
It is a fact that the NFL offices have leaked like an old pirate ship throughout this process and the ones involving other players, displaying a distressing and unprofessional absence of discretion or fairness where a player or team’s public image (brand) is concerned. Their flat denial of leaks only makes it more apparent to anyone with a brain (sports media-types excluded).
It is a fact that Tom Brady was under no obligation to surrender his cell phone. Ted Wells told him he didn’t need to (fact). Brady offered records of all the texts to the Wells commission (fact). But can anyone fault him for not wanting to surrender his personal communication records and contact lists to a seething bunch of scaly attorneys at the tainted league offices who were clearly dedicated to finding problems there? Brady and his wife are globally public people trying to preserve some shred of privacy, and rightfully so. His distrust of the NFL office’s record for discretion was validated when a private text exchange about the color of his pool cover was leaked to the national media by the league office, proving his caution was well-founded. Fact.
The Wells Report contains NO RECORD of any testimony from the two team employees at the center of all the controversy, James McNally and John Jastremski. One has to assume that they were each asked directly by Wells whether Brady instructed, compelled or enticed them to doctor the game ball pressures. Yet there is nothing in the report about such a question or their responses. Fact.
Most recently, since the lawsuit against the NFL, they have offered Tom Brady a poison pill negotiation; admit guilt and take a fine but no suspension. To accept this lawyer’s gambit in order to start the season with his team, Brady would be forced to perjure himself, as it goes against sworn statements that are the grounds for his lawsuit. Some “solution”.
Please bear in mind that all of this steaming pile of horse manure over football air pressures has led to the highest attempts by the league ever to penalize and slander a successful team and hall-of-fame player for what constitutes an equipment violation (if it ever even happened). Federal Judge Richard Berman has asked repeatedly where the actual evidence is of deflation of footballs, and any actual evidence linking Brady or the team to this. There is NO hard evidence of the kind that stands up in anything other than a kangaroo court. Fact.
Tom Brady refused to prostrate himself before Roger Goodell and the league’s shark-pack attorneys, and allow them unfettered access into his private life. Goodell saw that as an affront to his omnipotence in the league, and resolved himself to bring Brady, and by extension the Patriots, to their knees before him. He imposed his penalty on Brady for “failure to cooperate” with the investigation and that it constituted “conduct detrimental” to the league. But Ted Wells, in his written report, STATES that Brady was completely cooperative. Fact.
So this isn’t really about football pressures in a game won by a 42-point margin. It’s about power, arrogance, lies and misbehavior. Only it isn’t on the Patriots’ side of the field.
Judge Berman is about to show whose conduct IS actually detrimental to the game of pro football, Commissioner Goodell. You are going to smell like the load of fertilizer you are when this is reviewed by adults. Fact.