In what was probably the most anticipated media event since Bill Clinton addressed the Monica Lewinsky rumors, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady took to the podium today to give their take on You Know What. In addition to the usual sports networks and local affiliates that always cover these things, the media room was packed to the gills with additional reporters, national broadcasts, and gossip columnists. People were clamoring for space, jockeying for position, and firing out question after question like a bunch of angry citizens storming the mayor's office.
And in a nutshell, the press conferences went as follows: Belichick stated that everything seemed fine to him, he didn't hear a thing about it until the morning after the Colts game, he was shocked at the news, and you should ask Brady about the footballs, as that isn't something he deals with. That's everything he knows. Once Belichick's presser was over, the general consensus was that he just threw his quarterback under the bus. It was likely a planned event and carefully coordinated, but there was no masking that Belichick was putting this one on Tommy B, as he could come out, say he deflated the balls a bit, plead ignorance, flash that smile, accept his fine, and all would be forgiven.
But then Brady took the podium, and he didn't plead ignorance in the way everyone was hoping. He said that his balls were perfect (heh), he handed them back to the equipment manager, and he has absolutely no clue what happened to them after that. He didn't feel any difference in any of the balls used during the game because he was focused far more on reading the defense and trying to play the game than he was worried about how the ball felt. He had absolutely no idea what happened to the balls after he picked them out, and there really wasn't much more for him to say about it.
Once Brady's presser was over, the general consensus was that he wasn't telling the truth. It was believed by many that Tom Brady was lying up there, that it doesn't make any sense how he couldn't tell the difference between one football and another, and that he had something to hide. Hall of Famer and quarterback extraordinaire Mark Brunell practically broke down in tears expressing how Brady had just betrayed his trust. Belichick had deflected, Brady had lied, and DeflateGate rolls on.
There are plenty of people out there who dislike Tom Brady. And if you're a Patriots fan, you have likely had to defend Tommy B from any number of accusations. He's a prettyboy. He's a metrosexual. He's overrated. He's a system QB. He would be nothing without Belichick. He's a diva. He whines to the refs too much. He gets the benefit of too many calls. I could go on all day.
But one thing that nobody has ever said about Brady - EVER, at any point - is that he is deceitful and dishonest. Nobody has ever challenged his character, questioned his morals, disparaged his honesty, or accused him of fraudulence. He has never come across as anything other than a genuine, hard working guy who loves the game of football and just wants to play until he just can't sling it anymore. The media love talking to him, no reporter has ever reported a bad experience with him, his teammates love him, he has never had a single off-field issue, and he is one of the faces of the NFL. He is a media darling through and through, so beloved that it's almost nauseating even for those of us who love Tommy B.
So for those same members of the media that think so highly of Brady, that have always respected his candor and honesty, who always found him to be a breath of fresh air after having to deal with his cactus of a coach just prior, to suddenly come out and accuse him of lying is an absolute disgrace. It represents a marked low point for journalistic integrity in an era where you no longer even have to be right in order to break a story, just so long as you break it first. The speed with which reporters, analysts, and other members of the media, many of whom have been having wonderful experiences with Tommy B FOR THE PAST 15 YEARS, are turning on him is enough to make me want to just walk away from the game altogether. Brady stood up there for over half an hour this afternoon and received an appalling barrage of questioning and borderline personal attacks that edged on slander from people to whom he has never, at any point in his career, been anything but pleasant, forthright, and genuine. And even as they berated him, bullied him, pushed him, and tried to force an answer, he kept his cool, smiled when he could, and told what I believe to be the truth.
And why did this happen? Why are reporters so quick to turn on Brady despite his perfect track record? The answer to that is as simple as it is embarrassing: he didn't provide them with the answer that they wanted. He didn't fall on his sword, admit to deflating the footballs to the way he liked them while pleading ignorance or shrugging his shoulders, and offer any kind of apology. That's what they wanted to hear, and that isn't what they got. Instead they got a man with an untarnished history of honesty telling them that he has no idea what happened and everything seemed fine in his eyes, and since his story didn't mesh with theirs they all sprinted to their laptops to exclaim that his narrative doesn't hold any water. They have zero grounds to do so, but when it comes to this story, we are well past the point of being able to separate speculation from fact, and so any and all journalistic accountability has officially gone out the window.
Neither Brady nor Belichick would be wise to lie here. One of the reasons that Bountygate became such a major issue (remember Bountygate? That scandal where the Saints coaching staff incentivized their players to cause others serious injury? That scandal that happened two years ago that nobody talks about or cares about anymore?) was because that Sean Payton lied about how involved he was in the process. Getting caught in a lie is far worse in the eyes of Rodger Goodell than just owning up to your mistakes once you get caught and accepting your punishment. So if Belichick and Brady are lying, they are taking a massive gamble and inviting a far worse punishment than anything they would have received if they had just owned up to it today. And that Brady stood at the podium for over half an hour, significantly longer than he was required to do, fielding question after question about whether or not he's a cheater and how is he going to explain to the kids that look up to him that their hero is a fraud and the like, leads me to believe that he has absolutely nothing to hide. Belichick might not have earned that right, but Brady certainly has. And if you're unwilling to give it to him simply because it doesn't align with the endgame that you already formulated in your head the moment this story broke, then shame on you.
If you don't want to give Bill Belichick the benefit of the doubt when he says that he has no idea about any of this and you need to ask Tom (although oddly, most people seem to think he was telling the truth there), then I certainly won't begrudge you that opinion. Belichick has never been media friendly, and his track record in regards to answering questions is spotty at best. But to come after Brady, who has never been anything but an exemplar of personal conduct and behavior in a National Football League that is populated by rapists, murderers, drug dealers, wife beaters, thugs, degenerates, and criminals, simply because the answer he provided didn't adhere to the storyline that you had already created in your head before he even took the podium is beyond embarrassing.
Perhaps what most disgusts me about all this is how the NFL is just allowing it to happen. They have yet to step in in any capacity and address/correct any of the 10 or so "truths" circulating around the national landscape right now. They didn't even reach out to Brady when this first broke to ask him what was going on, which is completely inexcusable. The bottom line is that nobody knows anything besides the fact that some balls weren't inflated properly, there is nothing but conjecture at this point, and yet there has been no movement from the league. They have decided that they would rather permanently damage the image and legacy of a man who has helped to generate them countless millions of dollars so that this league can get wider media coverage than simply come out and provide any kind of insight that could properly shed some light on this absurd, inane matter and either absolve the Patriots of everything or enforce the punishment that they 100% deserve. In a league year marred by historic incompetence and a complete disregard for anyone but themselves, I suppose none of us should be surprised with how utterly pathetic the NFL's handling of this investigation has been.
I know I'm a Patriots homer. I know I'm a Brady apologist. And I know I will always take Tommy B's side no matter what. But I also know that Brady has a decade and a half of perfect attendance in regards to how he handles scrutiny and chicanery in press conferences, so I think he's earned my - and all of our - trust at this point.
I often joke on this blog by referring to myself as a wannabe sportswriter, but after what I saw today, you won't be hearing that joke from me any more. I never want to associate myself with any of what I heard and saw today. I was raised better than that. Honesty and integrity is important to me. I may not be as knowledgeable as a lot of these professionals, and I may not have the writing ability that they do, but I'm damn proud of the work I produce here on Pats Pulpit. I stand behind everything that I say. And I would never do anything so despicable as purposely set out to permanently tarnish the good name of someone who had never been anything but a model citizen to me and my chosen profession.
If it turns out that Tom Brady wasn't telling the truth here, then we all have every right to call him out and expose him for the liar that he is. But until then, maybe we should let his track record speak for itself.