The nearly 300 page report on the investigation into the New England Patriots’ deflated footballs discovered during the AFC Championship Game was released yesterday. The evidence is circumstantial but compelling.
There are text messages and phone calls between two employees and quarterback Tom Brady that suggest that the balls were deliberately deflated and that Brady had knowledge of the practice. The report also indicates that it can link no other Patriot employees, players, or coaches to the incident.
I say incident because the only thing investigated is the AFC Championship Game but evidence indicates this practice has been going on for some time. In one text message an involved employee refers to himself as the deflator.
He did that BEFORE the beginning of the last football season.
There are stories of communications between Brady and an employee he had no electronic communication with for over 6 months and they began after the allegations were made.
There is unrefuted evidence that Brady signed football items for one of the employees involved and the appearance is that this was compensation for his assistance in deflating the balls.
It is important to note that this is not some witch hunt in which the investigators looked at things and decided these employees were probably involved and probably deflated the balls. The report includes scientific research that involved actual footballs tested in simulated situations to mimic every possible scenario present in the championship game and these tests were conducted by people who know what they are doing.
It is also noted that Brady refused to turn over his text messages or emails for review (I don’t know if I fault him for this even if he did nothing wrong) and that one employee was not allowed back for follow up interviews. This is particularly noteworthy because it was after the discovery of particularly damning evidence. Lawyers for the team set conditions and wanted questions in advance probably because they were aware of the problems presented by the new evidence.
Can they say conclusively that Brady and the employees did these things for certain? No, and absent a confession it is unlikely there is smoking gun evidence (like video of Ray Rice punching his fiancée’) that would put the thing to bed.
However, the circumstantial evidence piles up one piece at a time until one is compelled to conclude that something was amiss. One or two test messages, no big deal. Strings of them, recovered messages that point to shenanigans and lengthy phone calls suddenly taking place along with the evidence of quid pro quo paints a picture of two employees doing something shady for Brady.
They did it (whether he asked them directly or hinted at what he wanted is unknown) and he knew they did it. That much is clear.
His reputation is tarnished. The Patriots, who already have a reputation for cheating, have further damaged their already questionable reputation.
Will anyone get punished?
It is likely the two employees will lose their jobs. The Miami Herald reports that Brady could be suspended up to a season.
Will Patriots fans care? They won’t care much about the two employees but they will care about Brady. They already do not care if he cheated justifying their position by saying they would have won anyway or everyone does it.
This is what happens in a world where winning is placed above everything else.
We teach our children to play fair when they are on the field but when it involves the teams we root for we teach them that it is OK to cheat.
All is fair in love and war.
I guess fans who love football consider their teams at war with the others.
In any event, Brady’s legacy will take a hit and there will be even more suspicion every time he and his team take the field.
It is a shame because he is good enough to win without cheating.
Never surrender, never submit.