You’re suspended four games!
Like hell I am! I will appeal!
We, the court, find this suspension is unjust! Overturned! You’re free to play!
Horseshit! We will appeal the appeal!
Your appeal has been heard and we’ve concluded you were right all along. The suspension is back on!
That’s what you think! I shall appeal the appeal of the appeal!
And so goes the single greatest farce in American sports history, otherwise known as Deflategate, the NFL’s three-year remake of “Sex, Lies, and Videotape” starring Tom Brady, two inconspicuous clubhouse attendants and commissioner Roger Goodell in the pursuit of truth, justice and legally-inflated footballs.
It doesn’t matter whose side you’re on, nor does it matter whether or not the Patriots are guilty for taking the air out of footballs prior to the 2014 AFC championship game or whether or not Goodell’s original punishment (four-game suspension for Brady, a $1 million team fine and the loss of two draft picks) overstepped boundaries. We can all agree this has gone on far too long. When you consider the fact this story broke in January of 2015 following a 2014 playoff game, we’re now entering the third season in which Deflategate is part of the newscycle, and both Brady and the NFL share the blame for that.
This story probably should’ve died long before the NFL handed down its original suspension. Some would argue Brady could’ve been a little more cooperative on his end and agreed to a plea bargain of sorts, perhaps a two-game suspension instead of four in exchange for some admission of guilt, but Brady and the Patriots refused to budge and ultimately got what they wanted all along in September when Judge Richard Berman overturned the suspension, allowing Brady to play the entire 2015 season.
Anyone with a working knowledge of the league’s collective bargaining agreement should’ve known this was eventually going to come to a head – again – once the league filed its own appeal. Berman’s ruling hinged on this insane idea that Goodell had no right to play God when dishing out suspensions. Wrong. Goodell does have that right and it’s all because the players union gave him absolute power during the most recent CBA negotiations in 2011. Goodell is judge, jury, execution, warden, and whatever other authoritative title you can think of.
The fact Berman was even in a position to overrule the commissioner of the NFL, the protector of the shield himself, is exactly why the real-life judicial system should stay out of the sports world. Sports operate in their own parallel universe devoid of common sense and everyday human decency. What puts you behind bars or in the unemployment line in the real world elicits nothing more than a monetary fine or stern warning in sports. It’s the same reason the Supreme Court should’ve never been involved in Major League Baseball’s steroid witch hunt. They didn’t ask Paul Tagliabue to judge the O.J. Simpson trail, so there’s no reason a judge with no working knowledge of the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement should’ve been allowed to settle a common sports beef.
But that’s only part of the problem. In the end, no matter which side you’re on, it’s clear this has evolved from an argument on fairness and ethics to an old-fashioned show of gamesmanship between the league commissioner and the sport’s brightest star. Goodell’s intentions have been questioned throughout this process, and rightfully so, but it’s hard to argue that both sides aren’t acting on sheer principal at this point, as if they so desperately want the last word just to rub it in the loser’s face.
Think about it. Is New England’s season over before it starts because Brady might miss the first four games, three of which are at home, where the Patriots almost always win?
Likewise, if Goodell showed a little compassion and decided to be the bigger man and offer an olive branch by slicing Brady’s suspension in half, does the NFL lose fans, revenue and drawing power from pissed off consumers who wanted to see the Patriots squirm for a change?
No and no.
It’s almost as if both sides have forgotten what they’re fighting for. Even the most staunch anti-Brady curmudgeons have adopted a “who cares?” attitude by now. There have been too many hands in the cookie jar from Day 1, starting with Ted Wells and his Wells Report and continuing earlier late last year with Judge Berman, who should’ve never been involved from the get-go. This is an NFL issue and it should’ve remained in the hands of football people, but this is what happens when real boundaries aren’t defined or when it’s not made perfectly clear who wields the power for the greater good of the league.
Most of don’t care what happens at this point. Just make a decision and stick with it.
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