Deflategate, America's never-ending hangover that's somehow immune to Gatorade and McDonald's breakfast, came up quite a few times in Wednesday's Super Bowl media session with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. It went about as well as you'd expect, with Goodell astutely observing that sometimes people will get upset with the decisions he makes, emphasizing that he works really, really hard (promise!) to be transparent and honest, doing stuff for the "long-term health of the game", and integrity. Yup. Integrity.
This dovetails quite nicely with the storyline that's all the rage this week - you know, the one where if New England is able to take down the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, it'll be Tom Brady and the Patriots' ultimate revenge against the commissioner that, at best, made an example of Brady and the Pats last year, and at worst, ran a smear campaign when he realized the original cheating accusations were sketchy at best.
Anyway, the endgame a lot of people seem to see here is that if Brady's revenge comes to pass this Sunday night, especially if he wins a fourth Super Bowl MVP award, then his payback for the Deflategate shenanigans is complete, Brady and the Pats will have obliterated any doubts about how good they really are, and the freaking thing will finally be dead and buried for good, winner take all.
That's how George Lucas would draw it up, sure, no doubt, but it's also inaccurate.
If your memory hasn't rage-deleted the details of the Deflategate punishments, you'll remember the whole reason Tom Brady's suspension dragged itself out for so long, to the point where he played the entire 2015 season before an appeals court reversed the original Judge Berman ruling that freed Brady (stay with me) was because Brady could appeal it as a player, with the NFLPA to back him up.
The rest of the punishment, however, wasn't able to be appealed. Aside from the $1,000,000.00 fine to the team, the Patriots lost their 2016 first-round draft pick, and in one of Roger Goodell's favorite "this'll show 'em!" moves, he docked them a 2017 draft pick as well.
A 2017 fourth-round pick, to be exact.
Think that's small potatoes? Just in the last few years, check out who New England's been able to pick up in the fourth round (yes, I'm cherry-picking, but you'll see the kind of talent that can still be snagged on the second day of the draft):
Shaq Mason, current starting guard (4th round, 2015)
Malcolm Mitchell, wide receiver, 4 touchdowns in 2016 (4th round, 2016)
Trey Flowers, defensive end, arguably New England's best pass-rusher (4th round, 2015)
James White, running back (4th round, 2014)
Ok, one more for the road: Asante Samuel, one of the best cornerbacks the Patriots have ever had, was a fourth-rounder in 2004.
Point being, there's a reason Bill Belichick has zero problem trading higher picks to thirsty teams and stocking up on mid-round picks like we stock up on Girl Scout cookies - there's talent in there, and sometimes they turn into cornerstone players if they're developed properly.
Back to the story, though - even if everything goes down like we laid out already, even if the Patriots are Super Bowl champions for the fifth time in sixteen seasons, and Roger Goodell has to hand over a Super Bowl MVP to the quarterback he worked so hard to keep suspended, don't let anyone tell you Deflategate is over. And that's exactly how Roger Goodell designed this punishment to sting.
You can bet Robert Kraft hasn't forgotten.