Some phrases stick forever and that was the case in March 1994 when Boston Herald sports columnist Joe Fitzgerald called late Maine Superior Court Judge Robert L. Browne a “clam-shucking judge” when Browne overruled Hockey East’s decision to exclude the University of Maine men’s hockey team from the conference tourney over an eligibility challenge against a Maine player.
Maine hockey fans cheered Browne’s decision and were repelled by Fitzgerald’s column.
At the time, I felt Maine hockey fans, because of their support and love of the program, could not objectively understand that the program had problems and that Fitzgerald, although going too far in his description of a respected jurist, was providing a perspective from the other side of the story.
A similar scenario is now underway with the release of the NFL’s report on Deflategate Wednesday that found the “Patriots probably deliberately deflated the footballs to gain an advantage in the AFC title game in January, and quarterback Tom Brady was ‘at least generally aware’ of the scheme,” according to a Reuters story.
Patriots fans are ripping the report and challenging its credibility. One thing they may want to consider, however, is how would they be reacting if another team, a rival, was involved in a similar situation as the Patriots? For them, I offer some perspective from other sports columnists who have written about the report.
Yes, on purpose, I have selected newspaper columns which cover teams that are rivals of the Patriots either through their AFC East affiliation or due to past big games.
“A legacy of greatness for possibly the greatest quarterback who ever lived is now sullied with the unseemly revelations included in attorney Ted Wells’ long-awaited report on the Patriots’ use of deflated footballs during the AFC title game. The report casts a pall on Brady’s reputation that even four championships, including the one he earned a little over three months ago, can’t quite fully erase. …”
“… The NFL may still level severe punishment on the organization in the form of a fine and/or the removal of one or more draft picks. But the real target of the league’s disciplinary decision should be the quarterback. Brady needs to be suspended. Unfortunately for the 37-year-old, a former sixth-round pick who grew into the most accomplished passer of our time, no punishment can ever undo the damage to his legacy.”
“I’d suggest a public reprimand, a dismissal of the two equipment guys involved, an assurance of safeguards against it happening again, a club fine of around $100,000 and forfeiture of a substantial but not first-round draft pick — maybe a second or third rounder. I’d not suspend Brady, not even for one game, based on ‘more probable than not. …’”
“… The Wells Report findings simply are not conclusive enough to bring the hammer down on New England. However they are conclusive enough to be just the latest embarrassment for [commissioner Roger] Goodell’s black-eyed NFL.”
“More than probably, the Colts got cheated in the AFC Championship Game. Cheated out of the Super Bowl? More than probably not. The Colts weren’t going to beat the Patriots on Jan. 18 at Foxborough, not with the Patriots playing the game with legal footballs — which they were not — or even with New England quarterback Tom Brady slinging around the field a foot-long pastrami.
“The point here is not that the Colts deserved to play in the Super Bowl. The point is more basic than that: The Colts deserved better. Any team opposite the Patriots that day or some other day — what, you think this was a one-time occurrence? — deserved better than to play on a field that was tilted illegally toward New England.
“That it happened at all is ridiculous. That it happened to your team? The one you invested all those hopes, all that emotion? That’s an outrage. And that’s what NFL commissioner Roger Goodell needs to tap into — your outrage, your hurt — when he decides how hard to punish the Patriots for it.”
“Well, with NFL’s release of the Wells Report investigation, which reads like a mash-up of a Stephen Hawking book and the ‘Goodfellas’ movie script, how can anybody with a brain believe in Brady’s honesty or integrity?
“The sound you hear is a needle being stuck in the pristine image of America’s most popular quarterback. …”
“… Brady is the proud owner of four Super Bowl rings. Nobody can take that away from him. The empirical data clearly suggest Brady is a more accomplished quarterback than Peyton Manning.
“But which quarterback would you rather have as a role model for your kids or as your neighbor?
“Manning wins. Brady loses.”
“But here’s the downer. After all the tsk-tsking and moralizing, after any gleeful celebrating, one important fact remains unchanged: The Patriots are still champions of Super Bowl XLIX.
“No investigation, no matter how damaging, is going to change that. Brady’s legacy may be tainted, Bill Belichick’s dynasty may be surrounded by new questions, and owner Robert Kraft’s indignant denials may now be thrown in his face.
“But this particular score will burn in the record books for eternity: Patriots 28, Seahawks 24.
“What continues to boggle the mind is that all this was so unnecessary. The Patriots were demonstrably superior to the Indianapolis Colts, as their 45-7 victory in the AFC title game attests. Most of the damage was done in the second half, when the footballs were, by NFL accounts, inflated to regulation standards. Brady went 12-of-14 passing for 131 yards and two touchdowns in the second half.”