Overinflated Story Rocks On - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Overinflated Story Rocks On

The most overinflated story in sports is back for a summer re-run. Those understandably weary of stories about whether or not the Republican Party can keep Donald Trump from being its starting quarterback in November can now refresh themselves with stories about whether or not Roger Goodell can or should oblige New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to ride the pine for the first four games of the upcoming NFL season.

Informed TAS readers know the over-hyped story of how Brady and his Patriots beat the Indianapolis Colts in the 2015 AFC title game 45-7, not on the strength of being a better football team, but because somehow Brady conspired to underinflate the footballs. Leave aside the obvious, which is that Brady’s Patriots would have beaten the overmatched Colts even if obliged to use volley balls during the game.

In an exhausting if not exhaustive investigation, the NFL turned up some circumstantial evidence against Brady, but hardly enough to convict anyone of shoplifting in court, let alone of stealing a championship football game. On the basis of this border-line case, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell decided to change the contours of the following year’s NFL season by suspending Brady for its first four games, a punishment an appeals court overturned, concluding it was Goodell not playing fair. The NFL appealed this, which led to this week’s decision at the next appeal level that Goodell had indeed played fair and could suspend Brady, which he did. Leading Brady to say he would appeal the latest decision.

Whew. This one may generate more re-runs than Law and Order and Antiques Roadshow put together.

OK, I’m four-square for sports leagues dealing with their own discipline matters rather than courts. But if the integrity of the NFL game is what Goodell, as he claims, is concerned about, it’s easy enough to ensure that no team can cheat by altering the inflation of game footballs. And the league has instituted new rules turning the handling of footballs over to game officials rather than allowing the teams to have control over them, which was the insane arrangement before what has come to be known as Deflategate. This having been done, it’s a puzzle as to why Goodell still insists on casting Brady into outer darkness for four games. That footballs are often referred to as pigskins is no reason for the NFL’s chief poohbah to be pig-headed.

The NFL is an $8 billion industry, and its product is its teams, especially its stars, one of the brightest of which is Brady. So it’s more than curious that Goodell would want to keep one of his best and brightest off the field on the basis of a weak case of cheating against him, and in the name of a problem that has been solved for the future. If integrity of the game is not what is in fact motivating our Roger, what is?

It’s really hard not to conclude that Goodell is catering to a group of NFL owners who control his plush and operatically compensated job, and who don’t like Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft, coach Bill Belichick, and Brady. They don’t like these worthies and the team because the Patriots have over the years been caught in episodes of misdemeanor cheating, the equivalent of stealing signs in baseball. (Defense is not excusing these infractions — just refusing to exaggerate them.) But mostly they don’t like the Patriots because they are a really good football team that prepares hard, plays hard, and wins A LOT.

If Goodell is interested in the integrity of the NFL, he could advance this cause by demonstrating a little integrity of his own, not to mention judgement. I know, it’s easy enough for me to say when I don’t have a plush job on the line. But it’s time for Goodell to quit catering to owners whose teams can’t deal with the Patriots on the field and who want to get at them in other ways. It’s time for him to announce that the problem of improperly inflated footballs in NFL games has been solved. It’s time for him to rescind the Brady suspension, and bring this long-running and dreary story to an end.

NFL team owners not named Robert Kraft will just have to find another way to deal with Kraft’s team — on the league’s football fields. Not in the NFL’s Park Avenue offices.

Larry Thornberry
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Larry Thornberry is a writer in Tampa.
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