And Deflategate really isn’t a big deal, despite everything you have heard in the mainstream media and from millions of disgruntled fans of other NFL franchises. Let’s make one thing clear; I am a Bills fan. I hate Tom Brady in a way that few others can comprehend. I despise his personality, his obvious sense of entitlement, his arrogance, and, most of all, his ability to make my team look inept no matter how much they improve. Consequently, I am beyond glad that he is finally getting punished for something, I am positively giddy. After a decade or more of preferential treatment and having the rules bent or outright rewritten for his benefit, Tom Brady is finally getting the short end of the stick and the fan in me could not be happier about it.
But from a rational perspective, how much does anyone really think that this supposed scandal truly impacted Brady’s performance on the field? He’s still one of the greatest to ever strap a helmet on and go under center, if not the best of all time. A couple pounds of air pressure isn’t the difference between mediocrity and historic greatness, otherwise a lot more balls would be deflated in the NFL. Even in the AFC Championship game, the only game where anyone knows for sure (though I am totally convinced that this has been an ongoing and extensive practice) that this was done, Brady’s numbers improved dramatically from the first half to the second, after the flaccid balls were replaced with regulation balls. To me, a greater benefit to the Patriots was how they enabled the ball carriers to avoid fumbles with the easier grip provided by these less-than-turgid balls. There has been more than one statistical study involving the Patriots’ fumble numbers and they range from absurdly anti-Patriots to the opposite end of the spectrum, but the mean seems to be that the Patriots do indeed fumble significantly less than your average football team. But, I digress. The biggest take away I have from this whole scandal isn’t about fumbles. It’s about Mr. Tom Brady himself.
What does Brady have left to prove? He’s been to six Super Bowls and won four of them. He’s been a prolific quarterback for about a decade, he’ll likely end up in the top two or three in every statistical category for passers in the NFL. He has an absurd winning percentage and has owned his division for over a decade. Off the field, he has a super model wife, more money than any one man needs, and just about the most perfect life you could imagine. So that leaves me with one single question: why? Why would anyone with all of the talent, success, and money in the world ever feel the need to cheat, even in such a seemingly insignificant way? I’ve asked myself this question and I can only come up with two possible answers.
First, it is simply The Patriot Way. Bill Belichick’s legendary preparation and mania for secrecy could easily set a subtle, yet sinister example for everyone in the organization. It may not be an organizational mandate, but it’s possible that the coach’s desire to prepare for games and win at almost any cost could prompt players to seek out their own ways to get an edge to win. It could be subconscious, it could be a testament to the players respect and reverence for their coach and a desire to emulate him, or to not fail him. It could just be that the organization is, simply put, shady.
Second, and this is the more likely option in my opinion, is that Tom Brady is a psychologically flawed man. I will never forget how this person broke down in tears years after the draft, when he had rings for almost every knuckle, about how no one believed in him enough to take him before the sixth round. I see a person who, despite having done it all and done it better than most, never can do enough to prove himself… to himself. A person with all the ability in the world who had his self-confidence shattered fifteen years ago and has never been able to recover fully. Deep down inside, he still isn’t quite sure if he’s really that great and that insecurity may have lead him to break or bend a few rules to make sure he never has to find out. I’ve draw this comparison before, that Tom Brady is the Alex Rodriguez of the NFL. To me, I see a lot of parallels, movie star good looks, buckets of money, gorgeous women, great talent on the field of play and yet…
We don’t yet know what Brady’s punishment will be. Again, the Bills fan in me is hoping for the worst, hoping that Goodell hears the appeal and increases the punishments. But realistically, his level of involvement is unclear, the infraction was pretty minor, and the benefits were miniscule at best. The AFC East shouldn’t be expecting an easy year, I will be surprised if he missed more than two at this point.