I debated whether to even address today’s decision by Tom Brady to end his appeal. As I’ve stated before, history will shame us all for having sunken so much energy, anger and debate into this mindless soap opera. It was our era’s ultimate sports junk food. It was easily consumed, fed our appetite for the scandalous, pumped us with a sugar-high, and ultimately left us crashed on empty calories, feeling sick and overfed.
Today is a chance to ask what was actually accomplished through this three-ring circus. What was it exactly that everyone was fighting for? And was the fight worth it? The battle may continue to rage for the NFLPA as it fights against Roger Goodell’s power. This will be a huge sticking point in the next CBA negotiations several years from now. But fans and media don’t truly care about bargaining chips. A select few were interested in this process because of labor implications. We don’t care how the sausage is made, we just expect Oktoberfest every Sunday afternoon.
The final scorecard? There were no winners in DeflateGate, only losers.
The Patriots lost. The NFL has declared New England cheated (at very least circumvented the rules). The quarterback will lose four games. The franchise lost yet another first round pick. The Pats are stained with culpability in two infractions within a decade. The organization made clumsy attempts to defend itself. Robert Kraft initially accepted the punishment. Then didn’t. Then found no support in ownership circles. Then signed up for SquareSpace to create a website to debate the Ideal Gas Law. Deflating footballs and stubbornly ignoring calls to quit videotaping the sideline didn’t create the dynasty. But it will now drip from the undercarriage in the museum. You’re best excuse is The Deflator was a fat guy? Brady smashed his phone conveniently. It was all unnecessary gamesmanship.
The commissioner lost. In an overzealous effort to prove his toughness, and to reassert his control after the Ray Rice debacle, he got his pound of flesh. But few fans, if any, feel like Goodell is a better commissioner than he was 18 months ago. Goodell should’ve fined the Patriots and moved on. Instead he doled out 5-10 years in prison for a second speeding violation. Even the most vocal Patriot hater should admit the league came off looking foolish for its incessant manhunt. Goodell’s approval rating continues to dwindle.
The league lost. This is how the most profitable sports entity in this hemisphere is run? An eye-for-eye joust in courts and through the media? One of the most successful franchises in NFL history has been drug through the mud, giving more ammo for anti-Pats sentiment, creating more questions surrounding their run. However. the Pats have proven these violations aren’t why they’ve won. Post-SpyGate the Pats went to three more Super Bowls and continued to be an elite franchise. The Pats won Super Bowl 49 and went to last year’s AFC title game with properly inflated footballs. The investigation was ham-fisted, the explanation flimsy, the protocol sloppy. Do we look at the NFL as a stealth, smooth-running operation or Mahoney and Tackleberry in Police Academy 7?
The media lost. How many high-ranking NFL insiders were left apologizing for shoddy reporting? Peter King and Chris Mortensen’s integrity came into question. Supposedly unbiased media took sides. An entity that exists to represent the fans dug in its heels and went to battle against them. You could tell whose sources were in the league office and whose were in Foxboro by what side media took. Talkers flamed hot takes without reading the full report, refusing to do any research. Our approval rating fell.
The fans, most importantly, lost. Emotion instead of logic fueled both sides. Patriots fans had more reason to inflame senseless paranoia and their persecution complex. They began sounding less reasonable and more like the homeless guy talking to himself at the base of the off-ramp. Anti-Pats fans used this to scrub away any recognition four Lombardi trophies deserved. They began sounding like the younger brother that insists his older brother cheats to win, when in fact he’s just taller and stronger and smarter.
In the end, we all lost. It’s a sickening, exhausting, fattening feeling, like an 18-month binge on candy and fast food. Which is exactly what DeflateGate was.
D.A. hosts 6-10pm ET on the CBS Sports Radio Network. He has hosted The D.A. Show (aka “The Mothership”) in Boston, Miami, Kansas City and Ft. Myers, FL. You can often catch him on the NFL Network’s series “Top 10.” D.A. graduated from Syracuse University in ’01, and began looking for ways to make a sports radio show into a quirky 1970’s sci-fi television series. Follow D.A. on Twitter and check out the show’s Facebook page. D.A. lives in NYC, and is a native of Warwick, NY.