By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — These days in the internet era, nothing really ever “ends.” Something may come to a natural conclusion, but nothing is ever forgotten and nothing ever dies.

As it relates to the Patriots, you still hear plenty on an almost-daily basis about Spygate. You still hear complaints about the Tuck Rule. And you’ll certainly be hearing about “DeflateGate” for a long, long time. That’s just the way things work.

Alas “DeflateGate,” as it came to foolishly be known, is just about 100 percent technically over. The Patriots still will be without their fourth-round pick in next year’s draft, but for all intents and purposes, Tom Brady’s return to the football field this weekend symbolizes the finish line of this saga that never needed to happen.

So with most of the drama now in the past, we can take stock in the winners and losers of the “scandal” we all came to know and love.

WINNER: Roger Goodell
You may remember him as the man who used to be the commissioner of the National Football League. I say that in the past tense because … have you seen the guy lately? Perhaps he still is the commissioner, but he’s apparently gone into hiding. Where is he? Tucked away in his office on 345 Park Avenue? What’s he even doing in there?

In any event, Roger Goodell won and won big. He won because two-thirds of the panel for the Second Circuit Court of Appeals cared not for any facts of the case but instead focused on an ambiguous passage in the collective-bargaining agreement, one that left itself open to interpretation but was ultimately determined by two judges to give the commissioner total and absolute power. It was an even bigger victory than Goodell could have hoped for in his wildest dreams.

He’s a double winner because when it comes time to hammer out the next CBA with the NFLPA, he can fight them tooth-and-nail on the one issue of commissioner discipline, knowing he really doesn’t need and it ultimately won’t matter from a league perspective. A concession in that department is one fewer concession they need to make somewhere else, or it could more likely lead to the NFL making a tit-for-tat request to get the union to agree to something it doesn’t want. The early forecast is another loss for the players at the bargaining table.

There’s no denying that the whole situation was a major win for Roger. Somehow, the man always wins.

LOSER: Roger Goodell
Of course, with every yin, there is a yang. And in Roger’s case, the world now knows how deceitful he can be. He has no problem lying, just as he has no issue perpetuating those same lies until he believes they’re truth. Whether it was the testimony of Brady which he warped in order to make him appear guilty, or if it was the sudden change of course to the NFL’s mandated program of measuring the PSI of footballs in 2015, or if it was the tacit admission that the investigation trumpeted as “independent” was never actually remotely independent at all, or if it was his laughable claim that he is available to the media every single day of his job, Goodell was guilty of lying at darn near every turn of this messed-up case.

It’s ironic because he started the whole crusade so that he might be able to earn back some of the credibility he lost while lying about what he knew regarding Ray Rice’s actions inside of an elevator. Instead of a reclamation, he only ended up damaging his reputation even more.

Even though the potential manipulation of the PSI of footballs isn’t quite as egregious an offense as domestic violence, people paid closer attention to this fiasco. In doing so, they learned a lot about the commissioner that they might not have known previously. It all could have been avoided if Goodell had just properly led from the get-go, but he let his ego get the best of him.

LOSER: Tom Brady
Sorry, Tom, but this is the rare moment in your life where you’ve lost (and Eli Manning isn’t involved).

It’s not really his fault. Even if he was the devious mastermind behind this elaborate “scheme” to stick a needle into footballs for a couple of seconds — a scheme so complex, so elaborate, so geniusly evil that it required text messages and phone calls to low-ranking team employees over a span of years — the fact is that there was zero precedent and thus zero expectation that the footballs less hard would have resulted in any punishment, let alone a four-game suspension.

(Also, if a referee can jack them up well above the all-important PSI range the way that Bill Leavy did in October 2014, a player might rightfully believe that such behavior is wrong and that correcting such misbehavior should be allowed. But I digress.)

Nevertheless, the facts have been damned in this case from the very start, so they continue to matter very little in the ever-important court of public opinion. (It’s time to retire that phrase. But I continue to digress.) And so, even though it takes a real football pinhead to believe that o.2 PSI has anything to do with greatness in the sport, the fact remains that there are many pinheads out there. So the “cheater” stuff will not ever fully go away.

Tom will be fine, though. Don’t lose too much sleep over this. He’s going to be OK. Give a rewatch to that weird-as-heck mattress commercial. Does that look like a guy who’s turning gray?

WINNER: Tom Brady
“What is this sorcery?!” you may ask. But yes, Tom has also won this thing. Because for as pinheaded as the pinheads may be, they can’t even point to any statistics or win-loss records or anything of actual substance to say that inflation levels had anything to do with Tom Brady’s success.

For one, with footballs guarded like Fort Knox in Super Bowl XLIX, he earned MVP honors against a historically great defense. In that game, he set a Super Bowl record for completions en route to throwing four touchdowns. Then in 2015, when his footballs were under the microscope every week, he threw for 661 more yards, three more touchdowns and two fewer interceptions than he did in 2014, the year of all of his supposed nefarious ball-deflation scheming.

It’s almost like the guy is good at football. Huh. Whoever could have known?!

And on top of all of that, he maintained a pretty positive public profile in terms of never bad-mouthing the league or Goodell, despite a wealth of reasons to feel the need to let it rip. Brady might have been the only one who managed to rise above so much of the silliness that was on display for nearly two full years. He even did the impossible by earning some sympathy (some, not an overwhelming about, but some) from some fans who normally despise the Patriots.

LOSER: Ryan Grigson And The Indianapolis Colts
Rather than try to learn how to build a winning football team, Colts GM Ryan Grigson tried to bust the Patriots for cheating! Those cheaters! Classless, dirty, rotten cheaters.

Well. The Patriots rolled the Colts that night in the AFC Championship Game. Including that game and the postseason, the Patriots have gone 18-6 for a .750 winning percentage, outscoring opponents by 217 points. The Colts? Wellllllll, they’ve gone 9-12 for a .429 winning percentage, and they’ve been outscored by 130 points.

The Colts stink. Starting DeflateGate as a means to “level the playing field” (all while shamelessly kissing the butt of league executives) makes them look like such pathetic losers. (That statement was made with all due respect to the team’s AFC Finalist banner, a glorious swatch of fabric which waves high and mighty above that bad, bad football team.)

WINNER: Jimmy Garoppolo
Nobody ever roots for the player above him on the depth chart to get injured or miss games, but at the same time, nobody ever really complains about a great opportunity. And though Garoppolo’s opportunity was cut short thanks to a shoulder sprain, the kid did light it up a bit in his six quarters of action. In a quarterback-starved league, Garoppolo’s four touchdowns and zero interceptions on 71.2 percent passing likely means he’ll be a starting quarterback by 2018 at the latest. If Matt Flynn can make a boatload of cash based off a tiny sample size, then why can’t Garoppolo?

Seems like a nice young man. Has a good arm. Works hard. Smiles a lot. Looks like Aladdin. Good for him.

LOSER: Mark Brunell
The dude cried on TV because he didn’t believe what Tom Brady said in a press conference.

I’ll state that again: The dude cried on TV. Because he didn’t believe Tom Brady’s answers at a press conference when Brady was forced to answer questions about false information that had been reported by Brunell’s employer. What a world.

LOSER: Science
Many, many brilliant people have dedicated their lives to science. Unfortunately as we witnessed over the past two years, all of their efforts, progress and results can just be ignored and dismissed by a man in a suit who possesses a bachelor’s degree in economics. (That man also pretends to be a lawyer, too. He can do it all***!)

***Technically, he can’t actually do anything. But he tries.

Sure, the entire scientific community (except for those scientists being paid a handsome fee by the NFL to conduct “research”) might be able to agree on one thing. But if ol’ Rog says your science is baloney, then your science is baloney. It’s as simple as that.

Sorry, science. But we’ve had enough of your attitude.

WINNER: Hindsight Champions Who Are Hyperly Critical Of The NFLPA
Obviously, the union didn’t do a bang-up job with the last CBA. But that has very little to do with Article 46 or the implicit powers left for the commissioner. Frankly, there were too many Monday Morning Quarterbacks saying the union got what it deserved with the Second Circuit’s ruling, because they gave this power to Goodell.

These people are losers. There’s something in humanity called good faith. And good faith involves one party in a contract bargaining situation to believe with reasonable certainty that the other side’s leader won’t go to great lengths to eschew the rules not only of the contract but of common decency in order to try to save his own reputation. These folks must have known back in 2010 that Goodell would launch a multi-million dollar investigation into something that could’ve been explained by opening a high school textbook. These people know everything and are perfect.

Alas, even though these people are lying when they pretend like they would’ve known back in 2010 just how deceitful and power-mad Goodell would become, they do technically get to gloat about it these days. Captain Hindsight is a winner.

WINNER: Paul Clement
For much of the “DeflateGate” soap opera, Jeffrey Kessler appeared to be the lawyer who would end up looking the best. But Paul Clement proved to be unbeatable that day in the Second Circuit. Sure, he may have manipulated the truth a bit, but the scoreboard when the clock struck zero showed “Clement: 1, Kessler: 0.”

Clement has proven to be a pretty worthwhile investment for the NFL, and he probably earned himself a whole lot of money from this. So that’s nice.

WINNER: The Buffalo Bills
Hey, you saw the game Sunday. The argument could be made that nobody benefited more than the Bills, who picked up just their second ever victory at Gillette Stadium, despite playing there every year since it opened in 2002. Their other win came in Week 17 of the 2014 season, when the Patriots rested everybody important and had no incentive to win. But those wins will probably be remembered much more fondly in Buffalo than they probably should, and for that, the Bills are (for the first time in a long time) winners.

LOSER: Humans
Seriously. Be better, humans. Be better. Be smarter. Be more aware. Open your dang eyes a little bit. Stop falling into traps. Stop being suckers for a bazillion-dollar corporation that won’t be happy until it owns a part of your soul.

That may be a bit strong, but the thing nobody can admit with “DeflateGate” is that the people not only got exactly what they deserved, but they also got exactly what they wanted. True, they wanted to complain about the incessant coverage and remark upon how little this issue mattered in the world, but they also couldn’t get enough. Every single bit of coverage was devoured like a stray piece of Halloween candy found in the middle of November. If people didn’t demand wall-to-wall coverage, then there wouldn’t have been wall-to-wall coverage. Yet because of the insatiable audience, the coverage kept coming — ignoring much more damaging stories to the league’s credibility, from its treatment of concussions to its failures in domestic violence and everything in between.

But no, for the first time in all of your lives, you all suddenly cared about air pressure. Air pressure. Air pressure? Really. Air pressure. Get out of here. You never cared about air pressure. You loved the juice of a “scandal” and Tom Brady and Bill Belichick and Bill Freaking Nye The Freaking Science Guy, but you never took two seconds to step away and say, “Oh yeah, wait. This is all so very, very stupid.”

Go run a lap, everybody. You’ve been bad.

And now, the NFL picks that nobody wants but will get anyway:

SAN FRANCISCO (+3) over Arizona
INDIANAPOLIS (-4.5) over Chicago
Washington (+4.5) over BALTIMORE
PITTSBURGH (-7) over New York Jets
MIAMI (-3.5) over Tennessee
New England (-11) over CLEVELAND
MINNESOTA (-6.5) over Houston
Philadelphia (-3) over DETROIT
DENVER (-5.5) over Atlanta
OAKLAND (-3.5) over San Diego
LOS ANGELES (-2.5) over Buffalo
DALLAS (pick ’em) over Cincinnati
GREEN BAY (-7.5) over New York Giants
CAROLINA (-7) over Tampa Bay

Last week’s record: Hey, don’t worry about it, OK?
Regular-season record: Not very good and we’ll revisit it when the time is right, OK?

You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

Comments (2)
  1. hammerhead says:

    Colts were clearly winners, despite the fact the Wells report found 3 out of the 4 balls used by the colts were under-inflated there was no penalties or fines

  2. lizzzy321 says:

    Michael likes to wrap things up. A real analyst. Hopefully, the Deflategate discussion is wrapping up too. Or, will we still be talking about it the entire season and post season?

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