That hissing sound you hear is the air coming out of Tom Brady’s career.
The New England Patriots quarterback is a four-time Super Bowl champion and three-time MVP, the owner of dozens of NFL and franchise records. He’s also a cheater. We’re paraphrasing the findings of a four-month investigation commissioned by the NFL to determine how the footballs used by the Patriots in this year’s AFC title game ended up so grippably, catchably underinflated.
The 243-page report says it’s “more probable than not” that two team equipment handlers deliberately and regularly let some air out of the balls, and that Brady was “at least generally aware” of it. That’s all legalese, but what it means is that the evidence met the league’s burden of proof that a rule violation had occurred.
The rest of us are free to speak in plain English. What the investigation found was a triangle of cheaters illegally tampering with the balls to give the Patriots a competitive advantage.
In text messages turned over to investigators, locker room attendant Jim McNally and equipment assistant John Jastremski discuss the routine for doctoring the balls. McNally even refers to himself as “the Deflator.”
We’ll go out on a limb here and predict that McNally and Jastremski will be looking for another line of work.
What about Brady ? There are calls to suspend him, fine him, take away the MVP trophy, bar him from the Pro Football Hall of Fame, drive flaming-hot ball-inflating needles under his fingernails. There are also people, plenty of them, who say “more probable than not” isn’t probable enough and the NFL should leave Tom Terrific alone. We don’t think so.
Brady chose his words carefully in the days after the controversy broke: “I didn’t alter the ball in any way,” he said. But he wouldn’t turn over his cellphone records to investigators. Failure to cooperate in an investigation is considered “conduct detrimental to the League” under NFL policy. That alone subjects the player and team to discipline.
The truth is that many Americans have a dishearteningly high tolerance for cheating in professional sports. We dismiss the evidence. We make excuses. What’s the big deal about letting a little air out of a football?
One of the most important things we can teach our children is that there is a steep price to pay for cheating.
That goes for Tom Brady too.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE