Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Tom Brady debacle

Roger Goodell and the NFL are likely going to eventually lose their battle with Tom Brady, you know. It's only a matter of time. Why? Because they've based their whole prosecutorial case on smoke, mirrors, and unfounded allegations, with little to no hard evidence to back it up. And for all intents and purposes, the appeals process of the NFL has always been a kangaroo court. The Commissioner handing out original punishments he deems appropriate is fine, but the same guy hearing the appeals is a travesty of justice. It's not supposed to work like that in America.

True, in recent times, particulary since 9/11, prosecutors (and Big Brother) have won the biggest victory of them all. They have persuaded the "court of public opinion" to always think anyone accused of a "crime" must be guilty. More often than not the media is happy to jump on board the hang-em high bandwagon. But that doesn't make it right. Far from it. Oftentimes they are eventually proven to be quite wrong, but they never, ever, apologize or try to atone for the damage they have inflicted on innocents during their witch hunts. Much the same principle could well apply in the Tom Brady case.

The Wells report, which Goodell and his minions commissioned (paid for) in the first place, is a primary example. Within it, Wells concluded that Brady "was more likely than not at least generally aware" of some sort of wrongdoing. Stop right there and think about that.

By his own words, Wells had already admitted he couldn't prove anything, so he hazarded a guess to please his masters. And excuse me, but "more likely than not at least generally aware" doesn't cut it, not even close, much less warrant a guilty verdict and punishment. Further, by those same words, Wells is tacitly saying Brady wasn't actively complicit in the "crime" to begin with -- if it even happened at all. Experts on both sides have offered up conflicting scientific "evidence". And, after all, we're talking about one measly pound (or less) of air pressure in a football during a game played in a heavy rainstorm.

Earlier today, Roger Goodell upheld the original 4-game suspension he'd handed down to Brady. Though he still doesn't have any hard evidence Brady was complicit in any wrongdoing, the Commish was desperate to find a way to justify his ruling. He'd been mulling it over for over a month. Then Brady himself gave him something Goodell could sink his teeth into. Brady had destroyed the cell phone which the NFL thought contained incriminating evidence. That in itself is a ludicrous proposition.

First of all, Brady has long been known to switch cell phones every few months, like millions of other people as new and better ones hit the market. To get rid of one for another is hardly earthshaking news and peculiar to Tom Brady. Arm-chair prosecutors say this is a very serious matter and casts Brady as destroying incriminating evidence but, looked at objectively, it proves nothing.

Ah, but some say that texts and phone calls, once out there, are forever -- right? They can be traced to servers, hard drives, and the likes. Unless you're a former IRS honcho or your name is Hillary, that's true enough. But the NFL had a small problem there. Despite being the gorilla in the world of Americans sports, they don't have the subpoena power necessary to obtain such records. And let's get real. Whatever deflategate scenario may or may not have happened, including Brady's involvement or not, did not run afoul of the law. No real "crime" has been committed, no arrests, no criminal charges, etc. The authorities that DO have subpoena power have no basis upon which to act.

That's not even to mention Brady's privacy rights. He was under no obligation to turn over his phone records to his corporate bosses. But by not doing so, Goodell used it against him as a sign of guilt. It's as if Brady was presumed guilty and had to prove himself innocent, which is bass-ackwards from the way the system is supposed to work.

Hypothetically, let's imagine Brady decided to give up his cell phone and call/text records to Goodell and his Court. What would they have? A bunch of numbers but no idea of what conversations took place. This proves nothing again. Incriminating texts showing Tom Brady explicitly directed an equipment manager or ball boy to deflate footballs below the NFL minimum allowed? THAT would be hard evidence, but given how many idiots have gotten into trouble in recent years over texts, and further given Tom Brady is a pretty savvy guy, it's highly doubtful #12 would have done something so stupid. So in the end, it could fairly be argued the whole phone thing was merely Brady standing on his rights, and good for him. For Goodell to make the leap that no phone evidence is a sign of guilt smacks of a kangaroo court indeed.

Some wonder why New England Patriots' owner Robert Kraft was willing to "fall on the sword" and accept the $1 million dollar fine and loss of a couple draft picks over Deflategate. Let's get real again. A million bucks to an NFL owner is chump change, and since when have the Patriots had high draft choices? They're the best there ever was at finding diamonds in the rough, plugging them into their system to become terrific team players, and the beat goes on. And the cheese baron has never been exactly known as a rabble rouser. The defending Super Bowl champions will be just fine, and Kraft knows it.

But this sordid case is far from over. Tom Brady, his agent, and the player's union look at things far differently than Mr. Kraft. They have deemed Goodell's ruling and reasoning behind it to be totally unacceptable. This is going to land in a federal court somewhere, and likely quite soon.

In this respect the Brady camp has an advantage. When it comes to federal courts, given the NFL is a national entity, they can pick one in a state they deem more favorable to their chances. Someplace that generally leans more towards worker's rights than that of management. Liberal, if you will.

The obvious choice would be Massachusetts, home of the Patriots. Or perhaps Minnesota, where a certain federal judge has been sympathetic to union/labor causes in the past.

With time quickly winding down before the start of the NFL season, the Brady camp would be looking for an injunction (postponement) of Goodell's 4 game suspension. And they well might get it. Brady would be allowed to start the season while the court deliberates further. But this comes with risks for both sides.

Federal judges typically take their sweet time before handing down a final decision. It could be weeks, even a couple months.

If Goodell and the NFL crash and burn at the judge's hand, it would be just more egg on the face of a Commissioner that's recently seen many such court findings go against him. He can't make up rules as he goes along and apply them retroactively. No real court is going to uphold such a heavy-handed and unreasonable approach. And in a federal court, an objective judge is going to want to see more than suspicions, allegations, and "non-evidence" before he/she would consider a guilty verdict. His/her Honor could easily toss the case unless the NFL comes up with more than what they appear to have to date against Brady. He could be fully reinstated as if this never happened. If that happens, Robert Kraft will have some egg on HIS face. He already paid a million bucks and gave up a couple draft choices, and those aren't coming back.

But if it goes the other way, it could be big trouble for the Patriots as well. The status quo is Brady will miss the first four games. If he gets a "stay" he'll be able to play. Yet if the judge comes back, after due deliberation (a few months) and rules against Brady, instead of missing September, he might miss December, when the games REALLY count. And good luck throwing a new quarterback into the mix at that point. As mentioned above, Bill Belichick and the Patriots are masters of interchangeable parts, but there's only one Tom Brady. Deleting him as the playoffs loom would likely spell disaster for the Foxborough faithful.

The high-stakes and even higher-profile chess match goes on. You'll hear all about it. Brady v Goodell is a dream come true for the talking heads. They can go on for hours, days, weeks, even months with their speculation, though they know nothing factual. Sort of like Anderson Cooper and his merry band of pseudo-experts chasing and analyzing the latest disaster. Long on talk, but short on substance.

Personally, one way or the other, I hope whoever makes the final call on this whole Brady/Deflategate debacle does so before Labor Day. Either he's in or he's out. Get it before the court quickly, listen to the evidence and/or lack thereof, and dammit, come to a decision. It shouldn't take more than a couple days. This whole charade has gone on WAY too long already.......

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