Thursday, May 07, 2015

NFL Punishing Success And Promoting Parity Still

Originally published May 7, this piece has been updated on June 12, on June 19, and again on July 29:

The new Ted Wells report on "Deflategate" is out and as with his hit job in favor of Jonathan Martin, the more one reads it the less credible it gets.   The first response came from Brady's agent Don Yee, and initial reaction suggests Brady will not accept whatever punishment Roger Goodell may hand down.

Given Roger Goodell and Ted Wells' history, he shouldn't.

The Wells report's conclusion uses the term "more probable than not," lawyerspeak for tacit admission that the case he was trying to make is not supported by evidence.   This is in keeping with Wells' approach to his attack on Richie Incognito at the behest of Jonathan Martin, further illustrated by Wells' disregard of what referee Walt Anderson said about how the gauge he used for measuring football PSI showed no evidence of tampering.   Yee notes Wells all but ignored Brady's testimony to him, which was an issue earlier in the investigation where there was media speculation about whether investigators even spoke with Brady.  There is also the angle where the league ostensibly is angry because Brady didn't turn over his cellphone to investigators - something Stephen Gostkowski also did, and which the league had no right to ask them to do to begin with. 

And the premise of the investigation - illegal tampering with footballs during a game, this despite the physical impossibility of such (a fact nowhere credibly disputed in the Wells report), to go with the forgotten January 2007 NFL rule change that allows quarterbacks to customize their footballs - is slipshod to start with.   The only real evidence the piece has is text messaging between two ball attendants; nowhere does the piece show any rule was broken by anyone, and it basically takes ordinary football-customizing - universal in the game - and presents it as a conspiracy.

It's been in keeping with Roger Goodell's maliciously ignorant approach to the game over which he lords (further reflected in a grossly inaccurate letter from NFL VP David Gardi to the Patriots on January 19).   Spygate happened because Bill Belichick showed up Goodell on what his own rulebook says, and Goodell reacted as a thin-skinned bully fearing for his legitimacy to hold his job as commissioner would do - he reacted violently and got his pound of flesh.   He reacted this way again against the New Orleans Saints in Bountygate, treating a legitimate player practice - side bets for clean hits - as an assassination program, in the process ignoring more questionable hits at that time by the Tennessee Titans, which at least earned some public protest as opposed to the wholly manufactured crisis hitting the Saints.   Here Saints players fought back - and won; even so Goodell got a pound of flesh by smearing and suspending coach Sean Payton. 

That the entire controversy is about punishing success and promoting parity - as Spygate was - shows in that the report not only shows Goodell's never-ending insincerity and amateurism, it is basically a gift to the Indianapolis Colts, who made the first protest and have reacted as losers do - self-servingly moralizing about a team they can't beat, and basically haven't since the 1970 merger. New England's history with the Colts has been wholly one-sided since the Colts moved to Indianapolis, and it's been best illustrated whenever Patriot-Colt playoff meetings sandwich between meetings with tougher opponents - 2003 famously saw co-MVPs Steve McNair's Titans and Peyton Manning's Colts come to Foxboro for the playoffs after rip-roaring regular-season games; McNair played like an MVP coming up a dropped Drew Bennett catch short, while Manning played like Ryan Leaf and got embarrassed. 2014 then saw it again as John Harbaugh's Baltimore Ravens fought it out and lost 35-31, while the Colts were summarily dismissed 45-7.

The Wells report's credibility started deteriorating as soon as it admitted Bill Belichick and Bob Kraft were not guilty of anything - that should have set skepticism going right away to what it did conclude.   But it's about punishing success - other teams don't want to define success up, as the Patriots have done.   They want to define it down and use Goodell and Wells as their hatchet men.

POSTSCRIPT: The league handed down a four-game suspension for Brady, and fined the Patriots $1 million and two draft picks, this despite officially exonerating the team and coach Bill Belichick.  Troy Vincent, the NFL's executive VP, said in his official letter, that Brady did not cooperate with investigators, a fact already refuted by writer Jerry Thornton.   There is also the issue of NFL Officiating VP Dean Blandino, who lied about his knowledge of the scandal.

AEI - which debunked the Bountygate smear against the Saints - has provided a lengthy analysis supporting Brady. Sally Jenkins in May first refuted the league's argument about Brady's cellphone - which further discredits Goodell's unctuous verbiage about Brady "destroying" his phone and then shows how the AEI analysis further paints Roger Goodell to be a liar. Further proving the league to be frauds is what Ted Wells told Brady about his cellphone - "Keep the give me documents that are responsive to this investigation." In short Goodell's position on Brady's cellphone is a crock and as such the NFLPA has appealed Brady's suspension.

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