Overblown - geddit? Deflategate, overblown? Ok, I beg forgiveness for that particular play on words, but I couldn't resist. As it happens, many people think the NFL *have* overdone it with their heavy punishment, so let's look at what happened, the punishment, and the reaction.
Deflategate, as it became known, is all about the New England Patriots using balls that were under inflated below the pressure allowed in the rules. Tom Brady is known to prefer using balls at the bottom end of the pressure window, as it helps his grip and throw.
Nothing wrong with that, but it all came to head in Jan 2015 in the Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts had already voiced concerns about the ball pressure, and after a Brady pass was intercepted by the Patriots sideline, they examined it and found it to be below the legal pressure.
They informed the league, the officials checked the balls, and it was confirmed they were indeed below the allowed minimum. The Patriots won that game, then went on to a dramatic win in the Superbowl, Brady's 4th.
An investigation was launched into whether someone in the Patriots organisation had deliberately lowered the pressure, after the officials' pre game check.
After the investigation, a 243 page report was published, and the NFL have issued Brady's punishment. He's been banned for 4 games, and the team has been fined $1 million, plus the loss of a first round draft pick next year, and a 4th round draft pick in 2017.
They wrote to Brady, saying his actions were detrimental to the integrity of the game.
Here's the problem many people have with the punishment though...
When the NFL say his actions have damaged the integrity of the game, what actions exactly are they talking about?
Although two other Patriot employees who handled the balls in the critical time windows, John Jastremski and James McNally, have been suspended indefinitely, there is no evidence in the report that Brady knew about the deflation, let alone instigated it. The NFL just say it's 'more probable than not that Tom Brady was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities.'
Oh come on, could they *be* more vague!?
No evidence, just a belief based on assumption. In my opinion, the decision must have also been influenced by previous transgressions by the Patriots. Back in 2007 there was 'spy gate', when the Patriots and coach Bill Belichick were heavily punished for filming opponents' play calls to gain an advantage.
Belichick said back then that the NFL is big boy professional sport, and if there's an advantage to be gained, it must be done.
That attitude won him and the team no favours, so it seems inevitable that the spygate affair has affected this latest decision, although the NFL accepts neither the ownership or Belichick knew about the latest ball pressure incident.
Another influence, is the lack of co-operation from Brady in the investigation. He refused to hand over his phone, and took part as little as he could get away with. The question is then asked - why? If he was innocent, would he not participate fully to clear his name?
As it is, his legacy as a legend in the sport will be tarnished by this verdict, which is basically calling him a 'cheat.' I know I'd want that cleared if it were me.
He's set to appeal, maybe then he'll hand over his phone and will be cleared. That remains to be seen, but until that happens, the debate will rage - the punishment may fit the crime, but is it fitting if it's not based on any *actual* evidence?
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