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The NFL is now weighing sanctions against Tom Brady, following the completion of its “Deflate-gate” investigation and the issuance of a long report. It’s a perfect, lighter-than-air cheating scandal for fans to ponder during the long off-season.
Per the rules, a proper NFL game football “shall be made up of an inflated (12.5 to 13.5 pounds per square inch) urethane bladder enclosed in a pebble grained, leather case (natural tan color) without corrugations of any kind.” Brady’s New England Patriots were caught using balls which later tested out as low as a relatively Charmin-soft 10.5 psi. That is one soft urethane bladder!
So in an NFL where players recently have been up to things like homicide, spousal/girlfriend abuse, and excessive parental discipline, here comes the league going after its best quarterback, maybe ever, for getting locker room attendants to test the lower limits of ball-inflation requirements before the AFC Championship game with the Indianapolis Colts.
The accused “deflators” are Jim McNally, the Official Locker Room attendant for the Patriots, and John Jastremski, an equipment assistant for the team. Video evidence suggests McNally may have secretly deflated the balls in a rest room in the stadium tunnel after they had passed inspection. There are also text messages between McNally and Jastremski about the tips/incentives (autographed memorabilia) allegedly sought from Brady for letting air out of the game balls. In one preseason text, McNally refers to himself as “the deflator” and (jokingly?) quips a threat to rat out the operation to ESPN. The whole sordid affair makes you wish Larry Gelbart were still alive to turn it into an HBO movie. (Any casting suggestions for McNally and Jastremski? Josh Gad and Zach Galifianakis?)
The NFL couldn’t prove definitively that Brady asked that balls be illegally under-inflated. He just let his preferences be well known, wink-wink, nudge-nudge. The Colts, routed in the game 45-7, complained, and the media took it from there.
Is this enough to pin a suspension on Brady? After all, the Paul, Weiss law firm “Deflategate” report is 243 pages long, so the league has got to do something. It was a championship game and they did break the rules. Should the Patriots lose a future first-round draft pick? What’s fair here? And how did this scandal get so big?
Is there possibly a bit of envy at play, and a chance to taint the legacy of Brady and four time Super Bowl-winning Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick? The coach was cleared in this investigation, but has been known to test the limits of rules on other occasions. The media don’t exactly shower him with love, perhaps because his surly press conference demeanor evokes Richard Nixon on a bad day, in a sweaty hoodie.
If you were on the NFL jury, how would you sentence Tom Brady? Time served? Community service; say autographing a thousand footballs for poor kids in Roxbury? Just remember, if you sentence him to missing four Patriots’ games next season as some have suggested, he’ll be spending those Sunday afternoons with his supermodel wife Gisele Bundchen. A sterner punishment might be sending him to work in an icy stadium, and making sure he gets snapped nothing but winter-hard 13.5-psi footballs all season long.