JOHN RIORDAN: A stain on the Tom Brady legacy

Tom Brady

In among the rubble and whirlwind of hot and bothered sports talk radio that blitzed through Monday evening’s rush hour, one bit of perspective on the heavy sanctioning of Super Bowl winning quarterback Tom Brady rang true.

The Chicago White Sox messed with baseball in 1919. Throwing the World Series was a lot more serious than tampering with footballs but the ultimate effect was compromising the integrity of the game.

Had it not been for Babe Ruth hitting home runs as the 1920s progressed, baseball may never have got back off its knees as much as it did.

The NFL came down hard on the New England Patriots veteran after last week’s findings on his role in the so-called Deflategate scandal in which staff at the club were found to have taken air out of official footballs, more than probably at the behest of Brady himself.

On the record with his preference for a slightly deader football, text messages sent from the phones of the two employees at the very centre of the storm seemed damning enough.

That Brady refused to comply with the investigation by Ted Wells - who produced a 243-page report in spite of the quarterback’s lack of cooperation - was almost the ultimate transgression in the eyes of the NFL.

And no matter how curmudgeonly it might make me sound and even if it might be the case that Brady not handing over evidence as requested is nowhere near as serious as the prevalence of steroids in the game or the plight of domestic violence which dominated the headlines in 2014, the simple fact is that a key player in a title winning team doctored the most important object on the field to favour his own chances of winning.

Always damned when they do and damned when they don’t, it cannot be doubted that the NFL thought through every angle before dropping the hammer on Monday evening.

The good old “game of inches” cliche probably doesn’t even apply to the ultimate advantage created by a little less air in the pigskin.

But there was a staring contest between the commissioner of the NFL, Roger Goodell, and one of the most powerful teams residing under their profitable umbrella - the governing body simply could not be seen to shy away from the challenge to their authority.

Barring any appeal, Brady will miss the first four games of next season which amounts to a quarter of their campaign. It’s certainly a significant chunk of games and an absence which could feasibly make the run-in towards the play-offs more complicated than it ought to be.

Most notably, the Super Bowl winning quarterback will not be there for the season opening Thursday night game which is reserved for the Super Bowl winning team. So if ever there was a danger of your product being publicly besmirched, prime time television will bring in enough eyeballs and tut-tutting to fill their quota for 2015.

Whereas normally that would be a case of cutting off your nose to spite your face, it’ll be a convenient way for the NFL top brass to flex their muscles a little more and show how their zero tolerance approach has improved since Ray Rice was laughably suspended two games for levelling his wife in Atlantic City.

Of course it didn’t help that the Patriots have form when it comes to pushing the boundaries to gain an edge. This is the second time in eight seasons that the league has come down hard on their transgressions after they were caught in 2007 videotaping opposing coaches’ play calls.

The question naturally turns to legacy and how Brady and his team will be remembered for an era that delivered four Super Bowls.

“We earned everything we got and achieved as a team, and I am proud of that and so are our fans,” Brady said last Thursday evening after the report was released.

The shady nature of these transgressions will probably fade with time. It may turn out to be nothing more than fodder for the back-and-forth of NFL fans and observers.

But it has been quite the week for Boston sport scene golden boys and a tense one for the boss men who came down hard on their prize assets.

The Brady news came at the tail end of a media storm which could only engulf a select few non-athletes.

ESPN have been doing well out of Boston native Bill Simmons as long as Brady has been powering up the Patriots machine. It was announced Friday that Simmons’ contract won’t be renewed at the media giant because he was a little too forthright as resident enfant terrible.

When the dust settles for both of these sacrificial lambs, they should be just fine. Meanwhile, the siege mentality in Boston will turn up another notch, keeping the rest of us suitably entertained.


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