First, let me say this. I am not a Patriots fan. I do not like Tom Brady. I am frustrated by him as an athlete and despise him for being so good at what he does. However, I respect him as a player. NFL fans would simply be idiots if they did not acknowledge the fact that Brady is and will be one of the best quarterbacks ever to play the game.
As someone who falls into the anti-Brady camp, Deflategate was quite amusing when the scandal first hit newsstands. The New England quarterback facing suspension for being potentially involved in game balls being a little less inflated than they should be? And that potentially contributing to the Patriots’ resounding victory over the Indianapolis Colts? I thought it was pretty hilarious, and I was not alone. Brady has so few moments of weakness, and seeing his perfection falter because of such a trivial occurrence seemed too good to be true.
But then one month went by, and another and another. Since January 2015, Brady and his team of lawyers have been in and out of courtrooms, press conferences and private meetings. Brady was suspended for four games for the 2015-16 season before a judge repealed the suspension just before the season started.
He led the Patriots to another the AFC Championship Game in the 2016 playoffs. This time, they lost to the eventual Super Bowl champions, the Denver Broncos. The offseason came back around, and Brady again faced suspension for an action that threatened “the integrity of the game,” as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell put it.
Most recently in the Deflategate timeline, the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals is pending a decision on a request from Brady and the NFL Players Association to rehear his four-game suspension.
If the court denies this request, there would only be one more place this 18-month long debacle could go: the Supreme Court of the United States.
Based on statistics alone, Brady’s chances of being saved by the Court are slim to none. The United States Supreme Court receives approximately 1,000 requests to hear cases per year. The Court only selects about 80, leaving hundreds of cases untouched. Getting eight Supreme Court justices to agree that his case is even worth hearing will be the first step if Brady chooses that path. Judge Clarence Thomas is the only real football fan on the court, and he has been a lifelong Cowboys fan. Counting on a Cowboys fan to save your season probably is one of the worst options, Tom. Take it from a Giants fan: The Cowboys are the worst.
In all seriousness, the fact that Deflategate may go to the Supreme Court perfectly encapsulates the true nature of this scandal from the beginning: a waste of time, resources and attention for everyone involved. I am tired of it. All football fans are tired of it. The Patriots are tired of it, the NFL is tired of it and the lawyers are tired of it. I would venture a guess that Brady is pretty damn exhausted by the whole thing too.
If Brady does in fact choose to appeal to the Supreme Court, his best bet would be to first persuade Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to grant him a stay, which would essentially prevent the NFL from enforcing the suspension until the court can actually hear the case. Unfortunately for Brady, the court rarely grants stays. Last time an NFL player petitioned Ginsburg for a stay, she answered him in just two days. It was a no.
Whether or not cases involving NFL players deserve a spot in the Supreme Court is a fair question. An equally fair answer is that out of all the crimes and infractions that NFL players have committed in their careers, Brady and his deflated footballs should not be the case that gets the most attention in a legal setting.
To respond to Goodell’s claim about Brady’s actions, I suppose that footballs not being accurately inflated could technically hurt the “integrity” of the game. But you know what else hurts the integrity of the game of football? Sexual assault. Gun violence. Domestic abuse. Actual crimes. Perhaps former Baltimore Ravens Ray Rice’s beating his wife Janay Rice in 2014 did not directly impact an NFL scoreboard, but it surely led NFL fans to question the integrity of the sport that they looked forward to watching every Sunday.
The coming weeks will inform us of Brady’s fate in New England’s 2016-17 campaign. Meanwhile, football preseason is merely weeks away. If Brady’s suspension does remain upheld, Patriots backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will take the field in games against the Arizona Cardinals, Houston Texans, Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins.
Right now, odds are that Brady is off the field for a quarter of the team’s season. But if we anti-Brady NFL fans are being honest with ourselves, the Pats will probably do just fine this season anyway.
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