The shield is tarnished, the brand is diminished, and a change must be made at the top. But no change is anywhere in sight, something those of us who love pro football will have to suffer through into the seemingly distant future.
Who is Roger Goodell, and just exactly what is it he stands for? The commissioner of the country’s most popular sports league, the National Football League, has disgraced all who came before him. He has compromised all that was built by Pete Rozelle and Paul Tagliabue. But with all the money, his bosses simply do not care. But Goodell’s tenure may be in jeopardy over the Tom Brady decision as one of his staunchest supporters, Patriots owner Robert Kraft, has vowed potentially unprecedented legal action over Goodell’s decision.
New England Patriots quarterback, and in many ways NFL Golden Child Tom Brady, has been suspended for the first four games of the 2015 regular season for his role in under inflated footballs being used in the second half of the 2014 AFC Championship against the Colts. It was a rain-soaked night, and Brady (through two equipment managers) had the dozen footballs to be used by the Patriots throughout the second half slightly underinflated, presumably to improve grip. All of this is according to a report released by special investigator Ted Wells.
I am very conflicted by this story, a feeling shared by many of you as well, I am sure. Brady compromised the integrity of the game, gained an advantage, and then tried to obstruct an investigation by outright lying to the public in interviews before and after the Super Bowl. The Patriots led 17-7 at the half against the Colts, and went on to win 45-7. So did this really cause the Patriots to win? That’s unlikely. New England was going to win anyway. If you saw the game, it was clear the Colts were not ready to go up there and win in January. So did Brady really need this?
Each team brings their own game balls to a game. They prepare them according to league specifications, but also to the quarterback’s preferences. As long as those preferences fall within the rules, there is no problem. The league entrusted the teams starting back in 2006, a rule change championed from the players’ side by Brady himself.
One must look at this through one lens or the other—either through the football implications, or through one of common sense and human decency. If you look purely at the football angle, Brady cheated the game, and the Patriots got to the Super Bowl through an illegal advantage. The game on the field is soiled, throw the book at him, he must go for the year! Or you think of it all in terms of this being circumstantial. They were going to win anyway; things like this have been done for years; we just live in an age now where you can no longer get away with it.
But for me, I cannot get past the irony and the failure of Goodell. Tom Brady, pending appeal, will miss twice as many games for maybe having footballs slightly doctored than Ray Rice was suspended for—knocking his then fiancée’ out in an elevator—something we saw and cannot question. We did not see the deflation occur. What are the priorities of the NFL, anyway? Just what is important to them? Who will stand up as a moral compass of authority to carry this league back to esteem? Roger Goodell must go.