BOSTON (CBS) — So, here we all are again. DeflateGate, Day 108. We have officially reached DEFCON 1.
Or perhaps we’ve blown right past it.
Woody Paige wants Tom Brady suspended for a full year. Gregg Doyel calls for eight games. Ron Borges says that Brady might not be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Some guy in Orlando likens Brady to Barry Bonds and Lance Armstrong. Shannon Sharpe called for Bill Belichick to be suspended for a year and for the Patriots to lose two first-round draft picks. And all of this was only the tip of the iceberg in The Land of Hot Takes™.
On the other side of the spectrum, Patriots supporters are loudly voicing their issues with the Wells report. Some are dismissing it out of hand, saying the whole investigation was a sham and a witch hunt. Others are pointing out that the scientific consulting firm, Exponent, hired to run tests on football deflation has a dubious history of providing the desired results for the people paying for the research. Still more are calling it a smear job, or biased, or a bag job/sting operation from the get-go.
Essentially, most everyone is getting out of the Wells report exactly what they want.
For much of the country, that means accepting the second-page conclusion that “it is more probable than not that Tom Brady (the quarterback for the Patriots) was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities of McNally and Jastremski involving the release of air from Patriots game balls.”
Boom. For many people, that right there was all they needed to know. Tom Brady: Cheater.
It’s what they had hoped to see in the Wells report, and so right there, at page 2, they needed to read no further. (That’s assuming they actually read the report itself, which is not necessarily the safest bet.)
In some respects, they’re right. It’s clear, based on the text message exchanges between John Jastremski and Jim McNally, that Brady was involved in some way in delivering a message to those two knuckleheads that he likes his footballs to be inflated at the lowest PSI level allowed by the league (12.5 PSI). When Jastremski talks to McNally (the self-proclaimed “Deflator”) about “getting them done,” it’s hard to concoct any theory where “them” does not refer to footballs, or where “getting them done” means anything except manipulating the footballs.
Like the report says, it is more than likely that Jastremski and McNally were involved in a process to lower the inflation levels of the balls. And it is likely that McNally took the footballs into the bathroom and stuck a needle into them. The fact that he told NFL security the night of the game that he did not stop into the bathroom, only to later be proven a liar by surveillance video, and the fact that he claimed to have used a urinal when the bathroom in question does not even have a urinal speaks to that likelihood.
That part of the Wells report should not really be questioned. If you don’t believe that part of it, then you’re choosing to ignore events that are very, very likely.
Yet on the flip side of that coin, to only consider that portion of the report would be to ignore significant chunks of related information.
For starters, there is the fact that Bill Leavy or a member of his officiating crew jacked up the Patriots’ footballs to 16 PSI for the team’s Thursday night game against the Jets in Week 7.
“I checked some of the balls this morn… The refs f—-d us,” Jastremski texted to McNally in October. “A few of then were at almost 16.”
So, this is a clear instance where balls well outside the NFL-mandated PSI range of 12.5-13.5 were used in a game. Yet there was no NFL-sanctioned investigation into what happened, and there was no mass outrage as to the failure of the officiating crew to adhere to the rules set forth by the league with regard to preparation of game balls. Just like when Phil Simms outed Aaron Rodgers for trying to sneak overinflated footballs past NFL game officials, and just like when three of four Colts footballs were found to be underinflated coming out of halftime in January, the overinflation of footballs in Week 7 did not bring about legions of voices — fans, media, owners, players, coaches, etc. — talking about “the integrity of the game.”
Nor should there have been, because prior to Jan. 18, 2015, not one person on this planet cared one iota about the air pressure of footballs.
One might think that pointing out the overinflated footballs in Week 7 would work to slow down the wild DeflateGate freight train, which is teetering from going completely off the rails. After all, it speaks to the relatively lax regulation of PSI in game balls, and the seeming lack of care from the league on the matter. Alas, it is generally glossed over or not known at all.
Likewise, it would not take an experienced attorney to find holes in the report from Wells. It’s a report that refers to referee Walt Anderson as its most credible witness, yet it also points out about a half-dozen instances where Anderson forgot certain events from that night.
“Although Anderson’s best recollection is that he used the Logo Gauge, he said that it is certainly possible that he used the Non-Logo Gauge.”
“He does not remember whether he began with the Patriots or the Colts game balls on the day of the AFC Championship Game.”
“At some point on Sunday morning, Anderson also had a brief conversation with Alberto Riveron. Without explaining the concerns raised by the Colts in detail, Riveron mentioned that concerns had been raised about the game balls, and that Anderson should be sure to follow proper pre-game procedures.”
“Riveron recalls that Anderson responded that he had things covered and may have mentioned that he had already discussed the issue with [Dean] Blandino.”
“Anderson does not appear to have highlighted the concerns raised about the game balls during the crew meeting, although he believes that the issue may have been mentioned casually.”
Anderson,despite the advanced notice from Riveron, also lost the footballs prior to the game.
“[Clete] Blakeman recalls that although Anderson is usually calm and composed leading up to a game, Anderson was visibly concerned and uncharacteristically used an expletive when the game balls could not be located.”
The story of McNally deflating the footballs in the bathroom is plausible, but Wells refuses to acknowledge the potential for inaccuracies with Anderson’s statements. At the same time, it’s a report that surmises that statements made by Brady, McNally and Jastremski are outright lies.
Again, you can either digest that or ignore it. Whichever works best for you.
The national response to this investigation, interestingly enough, certainly contrasted with most of the country’s response to the Mueller report, which was released in January. That report, also sponsored by Roger Goodell, determined that there was no evidence of anyone in the NFL seeing video footage of Ray Rice knocking his wife unconscious prior to TMZ publicizing the video. That conclusion was reached despite the existence of a voicemail which included the voice of an NFL employee saying, “You’re right — it’s terrible,” after being told about the contents of the video.
As soon as the report was released, the public response was simple: The NFL paid for an investigation that would clear the NFL from any wrongdoing. When Goodell spoke in New York, the national response was the same: Goodell is a liar.
“Mueller report no victory for Goodell” – ESPN
“Robert Mueller Is The World’s Worst Person In Sports” — Keith Olbermann
“NFL didn’t need Mueller Report or smoking gun video to do obvious in Rice case – yet it failed” — Yahoo
“44 Lies Roger Goodell Told In His Press Conference Today” — Deadspin
After four full months of seeing the NFL and Roger Goodell mishandle the Ray Rice assault and ensuing punishment, the public had already dug in its heels and made up its collective mind: Goodell lied, and he failed to do his job properly. Nothing in that 96-page report from Mueller was going to change any minds.
And that’s the exact situation you have now. Outside of people who take joy in seeing the Patriots win football games, there aren’t too many people out there who were hoping to see Golden Boy Tom Brady come out of “DeflateGate” without some blood on his hands. Too many football fans in too many cities have seen their favorite teams lose to Brady and the Patriots over the years, and the list of those who feel aggrieved continues to grow each and every day. That’s not meant to be a facacta claim; it’s just simple math. Twelve wins per year, four Super Bowls, unprecedented success for a decade-and-a-half — people are bound to want to pick apart the Patriots and find explanations for how they’ve been able to do it. If no other team can win with such regularity for such a long stretch of time, surely there must be something nefarious taking place behind the scenes in Foxboro.
That’s why in the minutes following the release of the report, the reactions came long before anyone could have possibly read the entire report. Suspend him. Ban him. This guy’s a cheater.
For millions of folks who care, the CliffsNotes version of “Brady knew” was all the info that was necessary. For millions of Patriots fans, the lack of definitive evidence was all they needed to dismiss the entire operation.
Like most things in this world, the reality lies somewhere in the middle. It seems likely that Patriots employees manipulated the footballs. It’s hard to say definitively how much Brady knew about that activity. He might have known; he might have simply told the equipment managers to make sure the balls were at 12.5 PSI.
The only people who really know that information are Brady, Jastremski and McNally.
Everybody else is just pretending.