Today is a good day for football fans everywhere.
I know it doesn't feel like it for a lot (okay, most) folks out there. But I promise you, today is a win for the sport that we all love so much. And if you're a fan of professional football, if you want to keep this game as intact as it's going to be, then you're starting to realize what a huge win this was.
You don't have to like Tom Brady or the Patriots. You don't have to agree with any of what has gone down over the past few months. You can still think Tommy B is a cheater and spend every waking minute for the rest of your life making sure that everyone within typing distance knows that. All of that is completely fine and well within your right as a football fan. But you should be happy that Judge Berman ruled the way that he did.
Because if he hadn't, your team wouldn't have been safe. Nobody would have been.
I have yet to meet a single person, Pats fan or otherwise, who thinks that the NFL did a good job with their investigation. While whether or not Brady is guilty of anything will always be a source of contention, fans everywhere seemed to be in agreement that, once again, Goodell botched this whole thing spectacularly. He isn't a good commissioner. He doesn't handle stress well. He's a PR nightmare. He isn't fit for this office. He's a great stooge for taking the blame away from the owners, and he happens to be in a position of authority during a time where a sport that more or less sells itself continues to be a financial juggernaut, but in terms of being a decent, effective, and successful commissioner, he falls flat all across the board.
And that is not the man you want making absolute decisions.
To those who were lucky enough to not have to bother paying attention to Deflategate over the past few months, you may not know that the NFL's primary argument during this appeal wasn't so much that they had any irrefutable evidence of wrongdoing or any kind of smoking gun proving guilt; in fact, they fully acknowledged that anything they had on Tommy B was circumstantial at best. Rather, they said that didn't really need any of that. Proof and evidence weren't really all that important, per the CBA. All they really needed was enough of a case to convince the commissioner one way or another on a ruling, and if they can do that, then said commissioner can pretty much dole out any punishment that he wants. I'm simplifying things here, but that is the basic gist of what the NFL was arguing during the appeals process.
And in all fairness, it isn't a terrible argument; the NFLPA did in fact cede that power to the commissioner during negotiations in exchange for a greater share of revenue across the board (although very similar language has actually been on the books for decades now). So to say that the NFL was completely out of their minds to take the stance that they did is incorrect. However, had the ruling gone the other way, then a very, very dangerous precedent would have been set for all players, all across the league, going forward. Brady vs. the NFL would have given the front office a very prominent, very staunch item to point their finger at when handing out player discipline going forward. Had the NFL prevailed here, then pretty much anything goes from here on out. No consistency, no uniformity, and no bounds whatsoever when it comes to handing out punishments. Deflated footballs get the same amount as PEDs, but more than domestic abuse, but less than child abuse, but the same as getting a DUI...just a complete mishmash of unpredictable punishments. Goodell would have had the power to hand out discipline more or less on a whim, as long as the NFL could build a case for it, pointing to this case as to why he has the authority to do so. To make matters even worse, any investigation wouldn't even have to be independent; the league could simply reverse engineer the outcome they wanted, type up a report proving it to be true, and that would have been the end of that. So while there were plenty of people rooting hard against Tommy B here, had they gotten their wish, it very well could have been their team next. And had that happened, they would have had no leg to stand on in the appeals process; after all, "more probable than not" got Brady four games and the team two draft picks, plus a million dollar fine, held up in a court of law. What case could you possibly make that the possession of marijuana charge you just copped, to which there is concrete evidence and a police report, isn't worth of whatever punishment Goodell sees fit?
So whether it feels like it or not, today is a good day for all fans. Ceding power to the commissioner is fine, just so long as that commissioner is competent. We clearly don't have that here, and thankfully there hasn't been any kind of precedent established that allows that incompetency to reign supreme.
Goodell isn't going to lose his job. The league keeps making money, so he's safe. But his authority took a much-needed hit today, and that's good for everyone.