Yahoo Sports writer Dan Wetzel, who’s been firmly on Tom Brady’s side ever since he did basic math and figured out that it’s, oh, let’s say, "more probable than not" that nothing ever happened in Deflategate, penned a rousing grit-and-guts column this week called "Here’s why Tom Brady won’t give up in deflate-gate fight".
If you’re a Tom Brady fan, it’ll get you so pumped that you’ll want to run through a brick wall. Wetzel starts with Brady’s competitive fire keeping him motivated through a "I wonder if I’m starting this week?" quarterback shuffle at the University of Michigan, almost going undrafted, and then becoming, well, Tom F’ing Brady.
Here's a taste:
"So why would Brady accept a punishment for something he fully believes he didn't do? Why would he accept any part of the NFL's clown school investigation? Why would he play nice with Goodell, who Brady believes has it out for him?"
"Also ridiculous was anyone imploring, let alone expecting, Brady to stand down. He's never standing down. Haven't you seen him play? Every friend, colleague and member of his legal team who has discussed this with him says he maintains complete and total innocence."
That’s some Rudy-type stuff, no? Or Braveheart, or Gladiator, or Van Wilder? Tom Brady is still fighting tooth and nail through the highest echelons of the court system because he’s innocent and won’t be the league’s piñata.
One little thing, though – it’s not just Brady that keeps the legal fight going. Or just Brady and the NFL.
It’s Tom Brady AND the NFLPA, and if we’re being serious, the NFLPA has way more chips on the table than Brady does at this point. It’s mind-boggling that brilliant writers like Wetzel conveniently seem to think that Tom Brady is just defending his honor when the player’s union has been the hold-me-back Russell Westbrook to Brady’s Kevin Durant.
Ever since this thing went to the courts – and, inconveniently for Roger Goodell, out of his control – what has the NFL’s argument been?
It sure has doubled down on the idea that Tom Brady is basically the Scarface of ball deflation, but their main point is simple. It doesn’t matter if the league can prove anything, what matters is that the commissioner can rule on whatever issue he wants to, however he wants to, and that’s the bottom line, because Stone Cold…er, Roger Goodell said so.
At it’s best, that’s what gives the commissioner discretion to deal out punishments on the grounds of "integrity of the game" (BARF) that aren’t clearly spelled out by the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Penalties for steroids, recreational drugs, and plenty of other stuff is clearly spelled out. But plenty of stuff isn’t, which is, well, how we got to this point in the first place.
Roger Goodell has, amazingly, managed to take the most versatile tool the league has and gamble so much on it that the NFLPA has to appeal – quite literally – ANY discipline the NFL dishes out, since it looks like Goodell is playing blackjack after chugging a fifth of Jack Daniels when he makes a ruling on almost anything.
The NFLPA has so, so much to lose here, and they can’t give up. If they do, they’ve tapped out and set a precedent that the NFL can, quite literally, do anything they want to anyone they want, and then if a player appeals, the league can go "Welp, sorry, you guys signed up for this, that’s what happens, should have thought it through last time!"
Nobody had a problem with Roger Goodell’s YOLO discipline approach when he was suspending guys like Pacman Jones and Donte Stallworth, but after the last few years, basically since Bountygate, the NFLPA’s had enough. Check out NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith teeing off on the league this week:
"The league has a history of being bullies. And today, we’re filing a brief because the commissioner decided to be a bully when it came to the fair hearing of a player."
Tom Brady’s name grabs all the headlines, but that’s why this is still going on and on. The players’ association knows they’re irrelevant if this ruling stands, and the NFL knows that if the Deflategate ruling gets overturned for good, the league loses a metric ton of their power over the players.
And they know that they know.
"Can you imagine Adam Silver poring through the fine print of the NBA's collective bargaining agreement in search of a way to leak Kevin Durant's family emails? Or pursuing a scorched-earth prosecution of LeBron James over a shoelace violation?"
That’s what the NFL and the NFLPA are throwing haymakers over, and why Deflategate started when "Blank Space" by Taylor Swift had just hit number one on the billboard charts - the NFL saying they can, legally, act however they see fit. There’s going to be a winner and a loser, and it’ll more than likely be a worse blowout than the Broncos-Seahawks Super Bowl for whichever side ends up losing.
So, to bring it back to Wetzel’s point, let’s get this out of the way first. Dan is the man. He's mercilessly barbecued the NFL each and every time they've lied, moved the goalposts, and manipulated the media for months now. But saying Tom Brady is fighting the NFL like Rocky Balboa to save his good name is totally missing the real fight.
This latest round of Deflategate court drama isn’t really about Brady proving he’s right, it’s the players’ union finally getting a case so hilariously stupid that they may have found the Death Star’s exhaust vent, and they’re firing up the X-wings and going for it.
Roger Goodell has lied more than House of Cards, Game of Thrones, and the South Park episodes about Game of Thrones put together, but he was actually telling the truth when he said this last year, after the NFL appealed Judge Richard Berman’s decision:
"This is about our rights in the collective bargaining agreement. That’s all it is. We filed this litigation initially to reinforce the fact that we had this right in our collective bargaining agreement. We had a decision from Judge Berman. We disagree with it. That’s what appeals courts are for."