By Matthew Ajaj
It all started following the AFC Championship Game on Sunday, Jan. 18. The New England Patriots gave the Indianapolis Colts a 45-7 drubbing at Gillette Stadium, earning the Pats a one-way ticket to Super Bowl XLIX. In the two weeks predating the big game, however, reports began to surface that the footballs provided and used by the Patriots for the AFC Championship Game had been underinflated. Under the minimum pounds per square inch requirement, these footballs would allegedly give Patriots players (most notably, the quarterback) a better grip and handle on the ball in the cold January weather. All eyes turned to Tom Brady, the Patriots superstar QB and (now) four-time Super Bowl champion. What would follow became a stalwart, media-infused presence on television screens for the next seven months: ‘Deflategate.’
A football fan either loves or hates Tom Brady — there is no in between. New England fans have every reason to adore their precious ‘Tommy Boy.’ A sixth round pick in 2000, Brady would take over the QB helm the following year and never looked back. He has since guided the Patriots to four Super Bowl victories. A precision passer with a rocket for an arm and an affinity for limiting turnovers, Brady represents everything a fan could want in their quarterback (well, with the exception of speed as he runs like a dairy cow with a lame leg). As for those outside of Massachusetts, Brady is largely disliked. He is a reasonably attractive individual with a supermodel wife and a tendency for winning a lot. People are jealous of Tom Terrific. The more self-secure crowd can accept Brady’s alpha male-like qualities and appreciate his unbridled passion for winning. No one on the field wants to win football games more than Tom Brady, giving him major appeal among the most passionate football fans.
Nonetheless, the vocal haters seemed to outweigh the supporters, as most fans were not willing to let Brady get away with his suspected scandal. After an NFL-sanctioned investigation, Commissioner Roger Goodell found what he believed to be enough evidence to slam Brady with a brutal four-game suspension. Goodell attempted to justify his reasoning by claiming that Brady’s tampering was cheating the game and equivalent to a player using performing-enhancing drugs (a four-game suspension). This utterly nonsensical reasoning was enough for Brady to take the case to federal court and, sure enough, Judge Richard Berman nullified his suspension on Wednesday, Sept. 3. Berman’s reasoning for the nullification was based on the NFL’s investigation methods and irrational punishment — not whether Brady was guilty of deflating the balls or not. The Pats superstar will now take the field for week one against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The NFL has already appealed this decision, but it does not seem likely that this new arc in the case will be settled this season.
So, after over seven months of incessant, obnoxious media coverage, Deflategate has come to an end (well, for now at least). “SportsCenter” will have to talk about actual sports now and Goodell can slump down in his office chair, defeated. With this profound ordeal now largely in the past, what will be the legacy of Deflategate? It is important that we distance Brady from this senseless saga. Was Brady involved in the deflation of these footballs? Probably. However, the NFL rulebook failed to properly address this situation. Along with former players’ indictments that this practice was common and relatively harmless, it is reasonable to conclude that this ‘scandal’ was hardly that big of a deal. When Brady is up for the Hall of Fame ballot, Deflategate should be the farthest thing from voters’ minds. Tom Brady is one of, if not the greatest player to ever step on a football field. Deflategate was just a media moneymaker and another Goodell gaffe — nothing more, nothing less.