On Tuesday, June 16th, the New York Times reported that the FBI was investigating the St. Louis Cardinals for hacking the Houston Astros. The news cycle apparently forgot to pick up the story because once the calendar turned to the weekend, the story was a thing of the past.
Since the following Saturday, June 20th, the World Wide Leader has posted a mere two articles covering the story: One is a game preview that mentions the hacking in passing in the article summary, and the other is an article about the Cardinals firing their Scouting Director. Both articles were from the Associated Press as opposed to written by ESPN's talent.
On Saturday, July 11th, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that the Cowboys and Broncos were under investigation by the NFL Players Association for colluding to drive down the price points for their franchise tagged wide receivers. As of Monday morning, Schefter's initial report is the only article on ESPN, and it's not on the front page. That was this weekend.
Since that June 20th date, there have been thirty articles mentioning DeflateGate with authors ranging from Mike Reiss and Jackie MacMullan to Ashley Fox and Chris Mortensen to Grantland's Charles Pierce.
It's frustrating for Patriots fans because it's clear that the New England Patriots have been targeted throughout this whole process.
This isn't about the Patriots in the headlines because they're a winning franchise- the Cardinals have won two World Series in the past decade- or because they have a history of cheating- the Broncos have been in trouble for manipulating the salary cap- or because they're a popular team- the Cowboys have the stake to the NFL's Most Popular Team crown.
It's because it's the Patriots and Bill Belichick and it's an easy narrative to write about, and an easy non-concussion, non-domestic violence villain for the NFL to paint.
During the investigation, the NFL's Troy Vincent and Roger Goodell have been overwhelmingly tone deaf to reason in their issuing of penalties and for the league's selective correction of misinformation.
At its core, the league's investigation failed time and time again to reach any standards of quality, and lacked any of the integrity that the Shield loves to talk about. Whether it was the league electing to investigate their own false leaks behind closed doors while also failing to correct them, or using a slanted hit piece of a report as the cornerstone for punishment, the truth never had a chance to breathe.
The NFL has been holding up their finger to the winds the entire time- and it's not hard to see those responsible for most of the huffing and puffing.
So as Goodell and the NFL might conclude with the Tom Brady appeal this week, know that this investigation and coverage has never been about fairness. Ted Wells was supposed to use evidence to show that the Patriots were more probably guilty than not; instead, he crossed his fingers and hoped that what he uncovered could more probably than not be considered evidence.
The only right choice for Goodell would be to announce that the Wells Report was inconclusive- as there are zero respected outlets that support the conclusions based on the information presented- and that Brady will be fined $50,000 for not cooperating and turning over his phone. He should also state that the Patriots penalty for $1 million and their first round draft pick will be revoked.
He should also apologize to Robert Kraft for the leaks and not correcting them, for withholding the correct information on the football pressures from the Patriots until the end of March, and for the distractions the league created during Super Bowl week.
Instead, he'll likely reduce Brady's suspension to one or two games. And Brady should take the NFL to court.
On a lighter note, my Broncos fan of a coworker sent me the absolutely best punishment that the NFL could hand down to the Patriots:
Goodell should have made Belichick drive (and wash) Rob Gronkowski's party bus next offseason.
Honestly, that's an amazing idea. I'd watch that television show. I'd donate to that charity. We need to make this happen. Gronk throws a party and Belichick is the chauffeur. If you imagine this happening as a 90s commercial, with Gronk wearing a jean jacket and Belichick looking dourly at the camera, then you'd want this to happen, too.
The /r/NFL subreddit asked for slogans for each team. Here's the best for the Patriots:
The New England Patriots: Champions, by any means necessary
The New England Patriots: Belichick Yourself, before you Beliwreck Yourself
The New England Patriots: Winning under pressure
The New England Patriots: It is what it is
The New England Patriots: Yeah, that's probably allowed
I actually thought these were hilarious. In the comments section, post what your slogan would be for the Patriots 2015 season.