(For the record, I never thought I’d get so much milage out of a photo I took over 5
years ago. Thanks a lot, Tommy.)
Two things immediately came to mind yesterday when I saw the news that the findings from Ted Wells’ investigation into the New England Patriots using deflated footballs in the AFC Championship game were released:
Finally. (It’s been over 100 days.)
How long until I hear someone respond to the findings with, “everyone does it.” (Two hours, and for the record it was my beloved husband.)
You can read all 243 pages of the Wells report here, but the gist of the report is that footballs used by the Patriots were improperly deflated. Most heavily implicated are a Patriots locker room attendant, John McNally, and a team equipment assistant, John Jastremski. While there is no direct evidence that Tom Brady had a hand in the decision to deflate the footballs, the report states that, “It is more probably than not that Brady was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities of McNally and Jastremski involving the release of air from Patriots game balls.” Brady denies any wrong doing, but at the same time he refused to hand over cell phone records, text messages or emails with any connection to the incident.
Brady’s refusal to cooperate with the investigation feels like the equivalent of me asking the kids if they got into the candy stash. No one’s handing over any wrappers, but I can see the chocolate all over their faces. I might not have proof, but it’s “reasonable to infer” that they “most likely” had something to do with the missing Twix bars.
I also get the sense that Brady, like his coach and mentor Bill Belichick, will gladly throw anyone under the bus to protect himself and his image. I highly doubt that any team employees are screwing around with game balls without their quarterback’s knowledge, especially when that quarterback is one of the best that’s ever played. So sorry, Tom. Definitive proof or not, my mom instinct, finely honed over twelve years of my kids’ trying to pull one over on me, says “liar, liar, pants on fire.”
Now, I’ve already tried to bend Roger Goodell’s ear once regarding this matter, and have yet to hear back. So I don’t harbor any hopes that he’s paying attention to me this time around. Still, as he contemplates what to do about Brady and his pesky balls, I’ll be happy to share what happens when my kids get themselves in trouble. I try to make the punishment fit the crime, and I hope to use the incident as a teachable moment. I can’t help but imagine Tom slinking into the Commissioner’s office and Goodell slamming his fist on the desk. “Dammit, Tommy! This is why we can’t have nice things!”
I wouldn’t ground a kid for year or cancel a birthday for some deflated candy wrappers, so I think it’s ridiculous to call for Tom Brady’s head, or demand the the Patriots hand over the Lombardi. It’s not the worst offense ever committed in the history of the game. I don’t need the league to asses an overly harsh penalty. But just as I wouldn’t let my kids off the hook for side-stepping the rules, the NFL shouldn’t let the Patriots move on without discipline either. Similarly, if this wasn’t the first time I’d caught my kids with their hand in the candy jar? You can bet I’d come down just a little harder. The Patriots have been warned before, and they should’ve known better.
In the end, we as fans deserve better. Tom Brady’s teammates deserve better. This nonsense puts a cloud over a team that in a myriad of other ways, worked hard and earned their way to the championship with effort, desire, and damn good football. They’re an excellent team, and one that could win a championship regardless of underinflated footballs. There isn’t a player in the league that doesn’t have an intense desire to win and compete at the highest level. If they didn’t, they’d never have made it this far. But I feel the same as I did last January. The NFL has to draw a line in the sand. It will not condone cheating and no advantage, regardless of how insignificant it might seem, is more important than the integrity of the game.
As for those who will continue to roll their eyes at the attention paid to the psi’s of a few footballs, pointing out that everyone does it? That’s a complete cop-out, and an easy way to say there’s no way we as humans can ever do better, either on the football field, at school, or in the workplace. If the NFL makes a statement here, and is willing to discipline its golden boy and the face of a franchise, then you bet everyone from Peyton Manning to the very last guy on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers depth chart gets the message. Cheating, no matter how inconsequential it appears or how many of us do it, isn’t tolerated here.
Just like my kids and the candy jar, you can bet I’ll be watching the NFL’s next move closely.