Tom Brady May Hurt His Own Legacy By Trying So Hard To Protect It
It was revealed on Tuesday that Roger Goodell has decided to uphold his four-game suspension of Tom Brady for his role in intentionally deflating game balls.
If you were hoping that this saga would be over anytime soon then you should be sorely disappointed because after all of the controversy, we are no nearer a definitive conclusion to DeflateGate than we were seven months ago. Despite the constant barrage of "new" information - varying reports on the science of PSI, the Ted Wells investigation, press conferences from Brady, Bill Belichick and Roger Goodell, constant media musings, players speaking their minds and various discussions surrounding the legal parameters of retrieving cell phone records - we are approaching August and almost nothing has changed.
The only new information that Tuesday brought was the revelation that instead of just refusing to offer up his cell phone, Brady destroyed it; and Roger Goodell upheld his own suspension ruling. So basically Brady is sticking to his guns and and Goodell is doing the same. Good to know but not exactly illuminating. Now the general consensus by every reporter and analyst with a lick of inside information is saying that this is far from over.
At the end of the day both the NFL's reputation for doling out justice according to their own league rules has been left in question, as has Brady's honesty and forthrightness throughout this process. Whether this suspension actually takes effect at the beginning of the season or is delayed by injunction is almost becoming irrelevant. What's more important is the fact that the people who have been given the opportunity to handle this the right way have fallen immensely short of doing so; including Tom Brady.
Of course, the fact that this has become the fiasco that it has become begins solely with Goodell and the NFL. They had the power to treat this situation in a way that was appropriate and fair by following the same standards they had set for sanctioning teams for manipulation of equipment in the past. They had a chance to honor their league and their players and their fans by waiting until after the Super Bowl to address the deflated balls from the first half of the AFC Championship game, (while still ensuring that all of the correct protocol was followed for the big game itself.) They had the chance to make an example of the Patriots with a punishment that was consistent with the crime. They failed categorically at doing the right thing and chose not to do any of it.
For whatever reason - and there are many theories as to what it may be - the commissioner took exceptional and unprecedented action in his attempts to not just impose sanctions on the Patriots but to expose on the most microcosmic level the extent to which Brady was involved. Like a surly father looking to assert his dominance he demanded that the Patriots and Brady lie down and accept his thoroughly over-the-top investigation of their organization. Once they challenged him it stopped being about fairly and accurately protecting league rules; it became very much about power.
Roger Goodell simply set himself up to become the bad guy. All Tom Brady had to do was let him.
All Brady had to do was show humility. He could have said that it was his understanding through his experience in the league that the quarterback was allowed to have his equipment team get the balls to his preferred standards, and that he apologized for any way in which the breaking of that rule could have affected the integrity of the NFL. It is almost universally agreed upon that any action Brady took to manipulate the game balls would not have been enough to affect the outcome of a game. There is an argument to be made that it could count as performance-enhancing, but in general, the unwritten rules about quarterbacks and their game balls was hazy and vague at best.
If just any mediocre to decent quarterback were 1 or 2 PSI away from being the most successful quarterback of all time there would have been a lot more parity in the NFL for the last fifteen years. He's not some maniacal sports villain. He's a quarterback who broke a rule that many quarterbacks have circumvented for years now, and he was going up against a man and a league that already have a dubious reputation. Goodell and the NFL clearly overstepped by even allowing the story to spin out of control in the first place. So many critics of Brady's behavior now were originally willing to give him the benefit of the doubt; even if he had admitted to misconduct.
So why did he allow this to devolve into what it has now become? Why did he hand over his ability to control the situation? Why has he gone on record in public saying he never knowingly did something outside the scope of the rules? Why did he destroy his phone?
Without a subpoena in a legal proceeding, the NFL can't just start rifling through your phone records. He could have literally stood and dangled his phone over Goodell's head and he wouldn't have been able to do anything about it without taking him to court. There are a lot of people who understand Brady's unwillingness to have his private life violated by a commissioner whose moral integrity is questionable at best. Most of those people though are not willing to extend that type of understanding when someone destroys a piece of evidence that supposedly contains nothing incriminating.
The fact of the matter is that the vast majority of media and NFL fans outside of internet trolls and a few bellyaching team owners would rather offer their forgiveness for Tom Brady's minor infraction than to Goodell and his blatant power play. Goodell is not some beloved, gracious pillar of league righteousness. He has not been particularly trustworthy or principled in his role as commissioner. All Brady had to do was be better than that; to rise above this circus act poorly disguised as justice. If not for himself and his team and his peace of mind, he should have done that for the fans. Instead he is fast becoming part of the problem.
Brady has decided to take a hard line to protect his legacy and his reputation rather than relieve his team and his fans of this charade, and it might end up being the biggest mistake of his career.
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