Roger Goodell’s Excellent Over-Reaction - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Roger Goodell’s Excellent Over-Reaction

Long ago, when I was a member of the defense team, I learned that U.S. Navy showers have only three settings: (1) too hot, (2), too cold, and (3) off. I thought of this when I read of the NFL’s draconian punishment of Tom Brady and the New England Patriots over a non-event we have learned to call Ball-Gate.

It seems that when there’s a controversy involving the NFL or its teams or players, the league’s eventual reaction (almost always after lengthy dithering) has only two settings: (1) under-react, or (2) over-react. Suspending Brady for a quarter of the season and taking two drafts picks and a million bucks from the Patriots is a clear example of (2). (A couple of stable boys were also cast into outer darkness.) 

Based on the various turmoils of the last year or so, alert observers are entitled to wonder if the enormously rich NFL, with rooms full of extravagantly paid officials, could put together a two-car funeral.

The findings of the NFL’s months-long “investigation” over whether Brady and/or the Patriots cheated by deflating footballs to their advantage in the AFC title game are beyond laughable. The report, by attorney Ted Wells, is full of gauzy language such as that Brady was “at least generally aware” that footballs would be deflated to suit. He would have to say stuff like this in the absence of any evidence that Brady was specifically aware. If Wells as a prosecutor had brought evidence like this to court, the judge would not only have thrown it out, but likely would have ordered Wells hanged (or at least deflated). 

It’s variously reported that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was compensated at an operatic $123 million over his first seven years as head of the league, including more than $44 million for the fiscal year ending in March of 2013. For this the best we come up with is “at least generally aware”? Is Goodell even generally aware how lame this is?

High school football coaches, who tender the game for, well, a good deal less than $44 million a year, will tell you that if officials who handle the football between every play of the game can’t tell the difference between a properly and an improperly inflated football, then there is no difference. Period. Paragraph.

And what to do if an official finds an improperly inflated football should be easy enough to divine, especially for those who have ever watched a baseball game. You just toss it out of play and bring in a properly inflated ball. End of problem. No six-month investigation needed. You don’t even need an officials’ time-out to do this.

This isn’t the end of this opera buffa. Patriots’ officials and Brady’s agent have claimed, with some reason, that the punishment is well out of proportion to the crime that we don’t even know took place. They’ll have their day, and the punishment may well be adjusted. So the sports talk shows, probably the only beneficiaries of this silliness, will dine out on this for a while longer, filling their endless hours of air time with more Ball-Gate.

I take it back. Perhaps there are others who benefit from all this. It’s on television almost wall-to-wall. So at least it takes our minds off of ISIS and Hillary Clinton for a bit.

Larry Thornberry
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Larry Thornberry is a writer in Tampa.
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