“I have never used steroids. Period.”
– Rafael Palmeiro
“As long as I live, I will deny it.”
– Lance Armstrong
“Never knowingly did I take performance enhancing drugs.”
– Marion Jones
“I would never do anything to break the rules.”
– Tom Brady, Jan. 22, 2015
“I don’t have, really any reaction [to a report finding: ‘it is more probable than not that Tom Brady was at least generally aware’ that the footballs he used during the game were under-inflated].
It’s only been 30 hours and I haven’t had much time to digest it.”
– Tom Brady, May 7, 2015
Sports interviewer Jim Gray asked, “Are you that slow a reader?”
My reaction: It’s been more than 24-hours since the release of an investigative report into allegations of misconduct, and you haven’t had the time “to digest” something that could seriously impact your reputation and career?
As The New York Times reported (May 6), “The results of an investigation released Wednesday stated that ‘it is more probable than not’ that New England Patriots personnel intentionally deflated footballs to gain an advantage in the A.F.C. championship game last season, and that Tom Brady, the Super Bowl’s most valuable player, was probably aware of it.”
Take a look at that last part: “… Super Bowl’s most valuable player…”
If Brady is considered one of the best quarterbacks the game has ever seen, then professional football indeed has a serious cultural problem when HE is involved in a cheating scandal. Remember, this incident follows “Spygate,” the 2007 cheating scandal that embroiled the Patriots under Coach Bill Belichick when he was found guilty of videotaping the New York Jets during a practice game. Belichick was fined $500,000, the largest in NFL history, and the Patriots had to pay $250,000 and give up a first-round draft pick.
Now comes “Deflate-gate.”
Immediately after the scandal broke, the Patriots claimed that “weather conditions” affected the footballs – 11 out of 12 were found to be under-inflated. The Patriots must’ve suffered punishing weather conditions on their side of the field, because referees determined that the balls used by the opposing Baltimore Colts had no under-inflated balls.
While the score was a lopsided 45-7, the central point remains that key individuals on the Patriots conspired to cheat from the beginning.
Nonetheless, for the NFL, larger, more important issues remain as New York Times’ columnist Bill Rhoden points out (May 21).
“Here is a league that deceived players and withheld information about long-term health risks involved in playing the game. The N.F.L. still has not come clean with an admission about just how stark the physical realities of the game are.
“Here is a league whose commissioner could watch a woman being dragged out of an elevator by a player and initially react by issuing a fine and a very modest two-game suspension. It was only after a full video account of what happened became available to the public that an embarrassed N.F.L was forced into doing what it initially should have done and punishing the player more harshly.
“Of course, by then it was too late; an arbitrator ruled that the double punishment was arbitrary and overturned it.
“You can argue that in comparison with head injuries on the field and domestic violence off it, the deflating of footballs — if indeed it happened — is a minor issue, maybe even a somewhat silly one. Yet even cheating on this level is just more evidence of the continuing erosion of the N.F.L.’s soul — and of ours, too, for being such enthusiastic consumers of this tarnished product.”
And Rhoden is just as pessimistic about the penalty phase for this recent incident.
“A fine levied against the Patriots and Coach Bill Belichick? Money is not an impediment. Belichick was fined $500,000 in the Spygate case, and the Patriots had to pay $250,000 and forfeit a first-round draft pick. But if the new allegations prove true, less than a decade later, that route apparently didn’t make much of a dent.
“If Goodell wants to make a forceful statement, he should suspend Belichick for the Super Bowl. If he doesn’t, Belichick wins. But more likely, the N.F.L. will turn to its familiar playbook, go for the wallets again and call it a day.”
I agree with the money argument.
These teams generate billions in revenue. Considering Belichick’s track record, even a fine of a million amounts to the cost of doing business. That makes Rhoden’s penalty of suspending Belichick from the Super Bowl more meaningful, and hopefully, one that would be a serious wake-up call for owner Robert Kraft: Do you really want to continue with a coach who continues to damage the reputation of your team?
As for Tom Brady, Rhoden makes this sad observation. “The worst thing about it is that a guy that’s on top of the world, who seems to have everything — a great family, a legacy, the Super Bowl, still feels so much pressure and the need to cheat,”
So, what should the penalty be for the star quarterback? “I’ll tell you what it should be,” Rhoden said on CBS This Morning (May 7). “They should suspend him for at least half the season.”
When Rhoden was asked if he thought Brady was the only quarterback who has manipulated game balls, he said, “No.”
And many fans would be content to continue using the “everybody does it” defense.
However, that’s the culture that most fans will continue to feed with their support until one day, when they finally get sick and tired enough, stand up and say “No more!”
“My kids admire these players. No more!” “I pay a lot of money for season tickets to watch these games, only to find out that they cheated? No more!”