It is disturbing to see how sports fans are willing to turn a blind eye to wrongdoing when it suits their particular whims.
The most recent example is the outcry among National Football League fans, players and even the media in response to the so-called “DeflateGate” scandal involving the New England Patriots and future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady.
After a 3 1/2-month investigation, a report from Ted Wells commissioned by the league determined that it was “more probable than not” the Patriots violated NFL rules and that Brady “was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities” of the fact game balls were deflated for use in a 45-7 AFC Championship game victory over the Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
Brady on Monday was suspended for the first four games of the 2015-2016 season, while the Patriots were fined $1 million and stripped of a first-round draft pick in 2016 and a fourth-round selection in 2017.
Patriot Nation is up in arms.
It is undeniable that the NFL has demonstrated a profound lack of consistency in dealing with serious criminal acts by players, including the infamous incident in which Ray Rice was shown on video knocking out his fiancee with a punch.
Sad though that — and the ensuing punishment levied by the NFL — might be, it does not absolve Brady and the Patriots of their transgressions.
The implication is that Brady asked team employees to prepare the footballs by reducing the amount of air in them to a level he preferred — one that was below the league-mandated minimum.
Coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots swore up and down that there had been no wrongdoing. Brady smirked in front of the TV cameras, saying he would never cheat.
Belichick later held court to offer a theory about the effects of atmospheric conditions, one that blamed the reduced air pressure on the difference between the inside and outside temperatures, along with the atmospheric pressure change caused by the weather.
Patriots fans guzzled that Kool-Aid, but it didn’t quench the NFL’s thirst for the truth.
Apparently, removing or adding air to NFL game balls is something other quarterbacks have admitted doing. And maybe it doesn’t make a huge difference in how a ball is thrown, caught or kicked.
It’s still against the rules.
Many argue that there was no proof that the balls were deflated or that Brady was the person who asked that air be let out. However, other than doing one press conference, Brady reportedly refused to cooperate with the investigation.
He declined to provide electronic communication evidence requested by investigators and was, along with the team employees, found not to have been candid when questioned about their actions in regard to tampering with the footballs.
No, there was no “proof” that Brady or the Patriots deflated the balls. No video. No willing eyewitnesses. No confessions.
But just as in the criminal justice system, there was ample circumstantial evidence. Footballs don’t magically lose air for no reason, especially when the other team’s balls were largely fine. If they did, Brady, Belichick and the Patriots would have been tripping over themselves to answer questions and try to clear their names.
Once the word was out, the NFL was compelled to at least try to get to the bottom of “DeflateGate.” Yes, the investigation took too long, but fans would have been equally disgusted with a knee-jerk reaction.
Ultimately, the NFL cited “conduct detrimental to the integrity and public confidence” of the game in levying its penalties. And even though the league ought to take a serious look at its procedures in dealing with those who break the law and/or NFL rules, they got this one right.
Smiling Tom Brady thought he was smarter than everyone else by having air let out of the balls to improve his grip. Then he got his hand caught in the proverbial cookie jar.
He’s a great quarterback, but despite his status is not beyond reproach when his actions break the rules and make himself, his team and the NFL look bad.
Maybe losing the best quarterback in the game, $1 million and two draft picks will finally convince the Patriots to stop pushing the envelope or trying to find ways to circumvent the break rules. But I doubt it.