Free at last.
After 544 days, the curtain closed on Deflategate on Friday afternoon when Tom Brady informed us on Facebook that he is done with endless appeals and will accept his four-game suspension at the start of the 2016 Patriot season.
And just like that . . . it’s over.
No more Defend The Wall. No more Free Brady. No more Fanboy Judge Berman clinking glasses with Bob Kraft in the Hamptons. No more nonsense from legal experts insisting that Tom will get a stay from the United States Supreme Court. No more hideous amicus briefs from estimable legal minds who should have known better than to have engaged in this folly.
It’s over. The Patriots’ game plan of “deny, deny, accuse” has blown up in their faces and left them with the most severe sanctions in league history. All over a small equipment violation.
Tom Brady has done everyone a favor by dropping his appeal and accepting his penalty. He cannot possibly be happy, but he has demonstrated yet again that he is a team guy.
Let’s acknowledge once again that this was a minor infraction, never proved by the NFL. But the Patriots dug their own grave by behaving like a guilty party from the jump. The Patriots did everything a guilty man does. They failed to produce the equipment guys after damning texts were found. They suspended said employees and refused to talk about them or make them available. They issued their own version of events, the embarrassing “Wells Report In Context,” then summoned media friends from across the land to slaughter Roger Goodell — an easy errand. Brady destroyed his cellphone when he was suppposed to meet with Ted Wells.
Kraft tried to simultaneously remain in favor with his fellow owners and his fans, but failed on both. He arrived at the Super Bowl, demanding apologies from the league, then went to the owners meetings and meekly said he would accept the loss of two draft picks (one a first-rounder) and a $1 million fine. After sucking up to his fellow owners, he went back to courting favor with his fans, saying he was wrong to put his trust in the league.
It was wildly hypocritical. After siding with Goodell on every issue through the years, promoting the Commissioner’s powers, Kraft suddenly decided the Commish was abusing that power. Within minutes after it ended Friday, Kraft was at it again, issuing a statement holding that the commissioner’s investigaton was flawed and “biased from the start.’’
Nice try, Bob. But when the rubber met the road, you chose to keep your seat at the NFL owners’ big boy table. You chose your ego and power over your fans. Too late now.
The Patriots do not win championships because they tape sideline signals or systematically alter footballs after inspection. They win because they are better and smarter than you.
Along the way, they love to give everybody the finger.
But this creates a league of enemies who will gladly pounce if you give them something to use against you. The Spygate scandal from 2007 gave the Patriots’ zero rope when the Deflategate investigation was launched.
Every team does stuff. But not every team reacts the ways the Patriots react. When Atlanta got caught using artificial noise to impede visiting teams, the Falcons paid the fine and pledged not to do it again. When the Patriots are caught being apparently sloppy with the chain of custody for game-day footballs, they flip the bird and say, “Prove it. You got nothing!! What about the Ideal Gas Law?” That’s why they were overpunished for this relatively small infraction. It was payback. And it was an issue of failure to comply with the investigation.
With so many serious issues impacting our country, Brady buffed his sagging image by not pushing this petty matter in front of the highest court in the land. That said, he was not served well by anyone in this matter.
Brady’s owner repeatedly made things worse. His coach, Bill Belichick, steered clear of the mess, and now gets to take a free look at Brady’s replacement without any risk of losing the AFC East. Brady’s union — a pathetic guild that never takes a stand and then asks the courts to fix its horrible agreements — used Brady to make a weak case and wound up providing more court smackdowns that will be used over and over to allow the Comissioner to run roughshod over everyone. Deflategate goes into the books as a total smackdown for Brady, the Patriots, and the union.
The Patriots would secede from the NFL if they had anywhere elso to go, but they don’t. They will settle for winning another Super Bowl and rubbing everyone’s face in the dirt. Tom Brady is taking his punishment and it’s Scorched Earth Time here in Hatriot Nation. Our long national nightmare is over.
Dan Shaughnessy can be reached at email@example.com