So, here we are – about a week away from the NFL’s 2016 draft and football’s been quiet. Well, sort of. There’s been the typical top pick trading, free agent signing and salary cap dancing. And, as with any prolific dynasty, the New England Patriots are getting their fair share of press – but not in a good way. They say that everybody loves a winner, but that’s not really true – especially in the case of Commissioner Roger Goodell.
I can only speculate as to why Roger has taken a personal interest in punishing the Patriots. Maybe it’s his past affiliation with the New York Jets, one of the Patriots top rivals. Or maybe it’s more personal. I know he tried to lay the hammer down for “Spygate” in 2007, claiming that the Patriots did great damage against (wait for it) the New York Jets (for more on cheating in sports, check out http://yourteamcheats.com). And I’m sure that after he “proved that the Patriots are cheaters”and “put an end to it”, he’s not been too happy with their winning ways, taking division titles and a Superbowl along the way. But how the Patriots got to that Superbowl has been a subject of controversy for some time now, known as “Deflategate”.
“Deflategate” began right after the Indianapolis Colts were blown out (again) by the Patriots in the 2015 AFC Championship game. Colts reporter Bob Kravitz broke a story that the Patriots used under-inflated footballs in the game. And so began the NFL investigation. They even hired a “special investigator”, Ted Wells. When Wells finally submitted his “detailed” report, the best he could come up with was “speculation” that the Patriots, and Quarterback Tom Brady, “probably” were involved in ensuring that the game balls used that day were approximately 2 psi under-inflated. Not proof positive mind you, but “pretty sure” (you may call it a gut feeling).
But what Roger was most concerned about, what really stuck in his craw, was that when he demanded that Tom Brady turn over his “personal” cellphone so that his text messages and other data could be reviewed, Tom, not being required to by law (or any other reason), ended up destroying it instead. I was shocked that Roger didn’t spontaneously combust when Tom refused to “obey an order from the high command”. I’m sure that (again, my speculation) the fire being fanned by a number of owners (that are NOT fans of the Patriots) under Roger’s ass didn’t help things. But to blatantly disregard Roger’s authority (notwithstanding the legality of it), right or wrong, I’m sure that’s when the target was drawn on old number twelve.
So, long story short, Patriots owner Bob Kraft agreed to pay a huge fine and accept a loss of draft picks as punishment (Bob agreed to this because he didn’t want the NFL to be damaged any further by the negative publicity this was causing). Then Roger pulled out his trump card – Tom Brady was to be suspended four games for his (speculated) involvement. I swear, if Bob Kraft knew this up front he would have told them all to (fill in your worst thought here). So Brady contested this, took it to court and had the suspension overturned. He played the entire 2016 season all the way to the Championship game.
And Roger filed an appeal with the courts.
Well, today, April 25th, 2016, the court released it’s decision. No one can or has proven that the purposeful deflation of footballs ever occurred. No one can or has proven that Tom Brady either knew or conspired to purposefully deflate footballs. But the court upheld Roger Goodell’s four game suspension of Tom Brady. Why? Because according to the agreement between the NFL Owners and The Players Association, Roger, as Commissioner, has the right to impose any penalty he chooses. End of discussion. And I have to believe there’s been a good bit of backslapping in the backroom between Roger and the aforementioned (speculated) fire-fanning owners.
Now, I’m sure you can tell by the slant of this story that I’m a Patriots fan. And I’ll tell you why – because I firmly believe that Robert Kraft, Bill Bellichick and Tom Brady all have one thing in common – an exceptional level of integrity. Sadly I can’t say the same about Roger Goodell. Roger took something that should have been kept behind closed doors and opened it up to the world. And, despite the negative connotation associated with it, continued to wave it in public until his personal vendetta was settled. For now. Unlike Mr. Kraft who “took one for the team” (NFL), Mr. Goodell needs to be vindicated, no matter what the cost.
Maybe it’s time to bring some integrity back to the NFL. Maybe it’s time Roger Goodell “hung up his spikes”, before something REALLY goes wrong. And maybe this can happen before the season starts. After all, the Commissioner has the final say in penalties, right?