For the most part, I have kept relatively quiet about DeflateGate over the past week. I already made my statement that I believed this whole thing as just a ploy by the league to keep them relevant during the dead time in the NFL, that the Wells Report didn't appear to really prove anything, and that's really all there is to it. And since I didn't read the report (and don't plan to), I don't really have any ground to stand on in terms of taking any definitive stance on it. I will say that the few media sources I actually trust, Boston-based and otherwise, have been nothing but negative towards the findings and the way they were presented, but even with that I don't think I have any authority to comment on a report I haven't read. I know that this is 2015, and simply spouting off an uneducated opinion is more or less the norm and being right isn't nearly as important as being first, but that's just not how I personally choose to do things. So, because of that, I'm going to continue to remain more or less silent on the issue as to whether or not Tommy B is guilty - because honestly, I don't know.
And honestly, nobody knows.
What I will say, however, is that I'm pretty upset over this situation, and it's for reasons I never really suspected.
It's not so much the suspension. It will get reduced to two games at the most, Tommy B will come back pissed, and the Patriots will leave a trail of mangled, twisted bodies in their wake on their way to another AFC Championship Game.
It's not so much the draft picks. Belichick doesn't need draft picks to win games. He doesn't need anything. Plus, the Pats will be picking low again next year, so it isn't that big a deal.
It's not so much the fine. $1 million is a lot, but it's chump change to anyone in the NFL.
What has me upset about DeflateGate isn't even so much that it happened to the Patriots, to be honest; yeah, I'm a homer and a proud Brady apologist, and you never want to see your team put through the ringer like this. But before I'm a Patriots fan, I'm a football fan. I'm a fan of the NFL. And the NFL has steadily and unflinchingly become a complete joke right before my eyes, which is absolutely heartbreaking.
Roger Goodell has botched every single major decision he has ever had to make. To my immediate recollection, there hasn't been a single action he has taken that I have even remotely agreed with. In fact, the league as a whole has gotten significantly worse with each passing year with him at the helm. There was both was a referee strike and player lockout during his tenure. He has been commissioner for scandal after scandal, controversy after controversy, and yet he marches on unencumbered because he has made the league profitable. He has sacrificed the quality of the game and the purity of the sport to increase his bottom line, and he knows that no matter what he does, we're all going to keep watching. And that's what has me upset. Something that I enjoy, something that I love, something that I consider -for better or worse - one of my life's real passions, is withering away right before my eyes, and there's nothing I can do about it.
That I mention how I have been enjoying the NFL less and less by the year isn't news at this point; I'm on record saying it several times. But with this decision, seemingly made long before any conclusions were drawn, I start to wonder if there is any kind of limit to what the league won't do in order to protect itself. I'm starting to ask myself what will have to happen in order for me to stop tuning in each and every week. I can't in good conscience say that the Brady verdict is what puts me over the top when I have, in the past, overlooked so much else in the name of entertainment. Rape. Murder. Dogfighting. Drug abuse. Drug Trafficking. Child abuse. Domestic violence. Fraud. Corruption. The list goes on.
You can call me dramatic if you want. You can tell me to get off my high horse and stop preaching. You can say that I wouldn't be saying any of this if it was a different scenario. And to a degree, you would be right; I know it takes a fair amount of my credibility away that I write this piece now, in the wake of a punishment meted out to my favorite team. But I'm genuinely concerned that it's just a matter of time before I simply stop watching this sport. I'm genuinely concerned that one of my all-time favorite things will soon be just a pleasant memory. And I'm genuinely concerned that a precedent has now been set that, if unchecked, will become extremely dangerous. It isn't happening today, it won't be happening tomorrow, and I stand behind my beloved Patriots as proudly now as I ever have, but if nonsense like this continues, it won't be too long before I've simply had enough. And if you're a fan of the NFL at all, even if the thought of the Patriots getting punished like this makes you squeal with glee, then you should be concerned about how this is all going down as well.
Maybe Tom Brady is guilty. Maybe he isn't. I have no clue. Apparently nobody has any clue. But that doesn't matter because the NFL simply does whatever it wants whenever it wants and sees no reason for consistency or integrity in any capacity. That isn't how a good business is run. That isn't what the NFL should be.
If this keeps up, it won't be too long before I simply don't care anymore.
And that's the worst punishment I can think of.