According to more than a few of the talking heads, Roger Goodell is set to deliver his decision on Tom Brady's appeal today. And as we're all aware at this point, if Goodell doesn't overturn the suspension completely, Brady is going to sue. He is going to take this nonsense all the way to court if he has to. We're all hoping that won't be the case, but in my opinion it's a likelihood; for Goodell to completely overturn the suspension would make him look absolutely foolish, and in a league year that saw Ray Rice, Greg Hardy, Adrian Peterson, and a team down in Washington send the NFL into complete disarray, that Goodell couldn't even get a simple decision involving the air pressure in footballs right will make him even more of a laughing stock than he already is. So most of us are expecting something along the lines of one or two games, followed by a trip to federal court. I would absolutely love to be wrong, would love for this article to have been a huge waste of time, but I just don't think that's the reality.
And should that be the case, I'm sure there are going to be plenty of folks out there who will take the stance that Brady should just suck it up, take his lumps, and move on. The argument will be that anything more at this point will just be drawing out an already too-long process, more court time will prove a distraction, and that by suing Brady weakens the entire Patriots organization and hurts their chances at a Super Bowl repeat. Furthermore, other than the social media idiots, nobody really cares about DeflateGate anymore, nobody mentions it unless they are desperate for some pageviews, and the general shift in annoyance and blame has more or less shifted away from the Patriots and onto the NFL. Of course, there are always going to be the "whiny, arrogant, delusional Pats fans" crowd, but they're always going to be there no matter what's going on in the news. For the most part, DeflateGate is over. So I can certainly see where the people who think that Tommy B should just take his one game and be done with it are coming from.
There are also those who think that, by drawing the process out and continuing it further, Brady is being selfish. His efforts to clear his name and exonerate himself completely only takes into account his own views, his own reputation, and what's best for him. Only the most blind of Patriots haters feel that Brady's career and accomplishments are now nullified because of DeflateGate, and so anything further beyond this point is too self-serving. He should let his play on the field do the talking and silence his critics that way. It's time to let this go.
To be honest, there is an argument to be made here as well. One game is nothing in the grand scheme of things, and the Patriots will be so fired up to open the 2015 season that it might not even matter. It makes sense to just sit out one measly game and then come back Week 2 to absolutely light the league on fire and shut everyone up by throwing another 50 TD passes this year. Sure, you're going to have the usual detractors, but who cares? You're Tom Brady, dammit...why not just take your suspension and move on?
I'll tell you why.
Tom Brady has earned this.
He has earned the right to only worry about himself, his good name, and his legacy for once. He has earned the right to do whatever he wants, however he wants to do it, for as long as he wants to do it. He has earned the right to be selfish for a change.
Brady has been one of the most selfless players to ever play the game. He has consistently played for well under market value, given up personal gain in order to help the team, and done whatever he has to do in order to give the Patriots the best chance to win. He has helped turn the NFL into a global brand. He is involved in myriad charities, has never had any trouble with the law, has been nothing but friendly and forthright with the media, even those who make their living bashing the Patriots, and is more or less the exemplar of what a true professional athlete should be. He has been a Straight-A student for 15 years now and will go down in history as one of the greatest players of all time. He now finds himself in a situation where his reputation and good name are in jeopardy, all over a poorly run investigation into a rule that absolutely nobody cared about until January 2015. And while I have said from the very beginning of this whole thing that I have absolutely no idea if Brady is guilty or not, a view I still stand by, I also know that Brady believes he is innocent in this and is going to do whatever he has to do in order to prove that innocence.
And that is absolutely fine by me.
If it does end up being a distraction, if it does in fact affect Brady's on-field performance, if the Patriots as a franchise do somehow suffer this season because of an ongoing, lengthy court process, then so be it. If Brady ends up having to serve his suspension in December or January instead of September, so be it. Even if this appeal were to somehow inexplicably translate into Brady missing the entire season and the Patriots going 0-16, Brady has earned that right. I certainly wouldn't be happy about it, and it would be a shame to waste one of the last few years Brady has left, but what he has accomplished so far in his career and what he has done for both the New England Patriots and the entire region as a whole more than warrants our unwavering support for whatever he wants to do - even if it does in fact hurt the team. He can take this as far as he wants to take it, and everyone who has been reaping the rewards of what he has done in his tenure as a New England Patriots should 100% support that.
Knowing Brady, he'll never, under any circumstances, allow it to get to that point. But if it does, and if he finally, for the first time, decides to put his own interests first, then he damn well better have an absolute army in his corner supporting his decision. After all he's done for us, it's the least that we could do.