Friday, August 14, 2015

Brady/Goodell. The end game?

This whole ongoing brouhaha really is amazing when one thinks about it. We're still talking about a few footballs that may or may not have been ever-so-slightly underinflated in a game that was a blow out over 6 months ago.

We know about the NFL commissioned Wells report that took 2 months, cost an untold amount of money, and resulted in over 200 pages of legal mumbo-jumbo that proved nothing.

We also know Roger Goodell took it upon himself to slap Tom Brady with a 4-game suspension (not to mention zapping the New England Patriots for a million bucks and two high draft choices.) Evidently, the words "more likely than not to at least be generally aware" of possible wrong-doing were good enough for the Commish. Hang-em high.

It's old news that Brady and the NFL Players Union appealed the original punishment. But that wound up right back in front of Judge Roy Bean, sorry, Commissioner Goodell. And dammit, the media wanted a good old-fashioned hanging. Roger was loath to disappointment them. They can be a pesky bunch at times with their columns and sound-bytes. So to the surprise of absolutely nobody, the sentence stood.

While Patriots owner Robert Kraft was willing to fall on the original sword (which he later very publically regretted), the cheese and mayo tycoon said he was wrong to put his trust in the NFL. Kraft mistakenly thought an equitable solution would be reached upon appeal that everybody could live with. Sometimes billionaires get it wrong too. Goodell wasn't backing down and neither was Brady. No deal. Not that a measly million bucks matters to Kraft, but those draft choices aren't likely coming back either.

When such a situation arises, there's only one thing to do in America. Sue somebody. Take them to court. As we all further know, that's exactly what happened. Though the NFL had still prevailed, in a brilliant legal pre-emptive strike, they sued Brady and the union just minutes after the appeal process was over in a New York federal court. Why would a CEO and the corporation sue an employee after they have handed down and upheld a punishment for "wrong-doing"? This was a shady way of keeping Brady and the union from federal "court-shopping" for a much more "labor" favorable venue. Like Minnesota. It worked. The case is being heard by one Judge Berman in Manhattan.

Berman has raised some interesting points during his questioning of both sides. He asked the NFL lead counsel what direct evidence they had to implicate Brady in any wrong doing. After the usual legalese doubletalk, said mouthpiece was forced to admit they had no "smoking gun" directly tying Brady to the allegedly under-inflated footballs. But dammit, there was ample evidence that showed Brady must have been involved -- somehow -- in a crime that may or may not have happened in the first place.

What the media (and Wells/Goodell) missed all along but Hizzoner did not, was the fact that Brady's stats were better in the second half of the game, after the balls had been re-tweaked to official game specs, than they were in the first half. So how -- pray tell -- did Brady benefit from an unfair advantage? Especially during a 45-7 rout?

The judge also asked defense counsel how it could be that the balls were allegedly underinflated in the first place without Brady's approval and/or knowing about it. Perhaps a reasonable query. But the legal-eagle responded that his client (and the Union) still dispute the balls ever WERE deflated. And, if so, some lowly Patriots equipment attendant must have taken it upon himself to do so, thinking it might help his quarterback, which the stats clearly show did not.

Berman mused about why Brady would destroy his cell phone which may have contained "incriminating evidence", but didn't dwell on it too long. Perhaps he saw the obvious dead end, on a couple fronts.

First of all, whatever numbers may have been on that phone hardly offer evidence of guilt. Brady may have called, and taken calls from a lot of people, including the above-mentioned ball-boy. But without a recording of the conversation, that doesn't prove anything.

Further, Brady had been in the habit of replacing his phone every few months. How many millions of people do that as better technology continues to evolve? This hardly paints Brady's action as unusual, much less proves guilty behavior. Only an overzealous prosecutor could leap to such an unfounded conclusion. Judges typically know better than that and would disregard such non-evidence.

Further yet, Brady was under absolutely no obligation to turn over such personal information. He rightly claimed that by doing so, he would have set a precedent. If another alleged "infraction of the rules" occurred in the future, the league could say, "Hey, Tom Brady gave up his phone. This guy should too". Open the door just an inch to some people and it's like cracking Pandora's box. Things will only get worse and there ain't no putting the lid back on. Better to keep it shut tight in the first place.

So many are anxiously awaiting the next go-round in Judge Berman's courtroom in a few days. He has said all along he wanted the parties to reach a settlement between themselves, but that doesn't appear likely. Both Brady and Goodell have dug in and are going for all or nothing.

Yet here's the thing nobody seems to realize yet. Berman can find for one side or the other, rap his gavel, and declare case closed. But that's not necessarily so.

Whoever loses still has the right to appeal. Berman is just the first stop in the federal court system. This could be taken over his head to an appellate court. Sure, the 2015 NFL pre-season is already underway with the regular games coming up shortly and a "final solution" to this problem -- quickly -- would seem to be optimal.

But it might not end like that. Would Brady or Goodell insist on slugging it out again at the next level? Could happen. Might take weeks, even months, but it's possible. Other than paying the lawyers a few million more bucks, there's nothing to hold either of them back.

And what if they still can't settle even then? On to the Supreme Court? Wouldn't that be something? Brady v Goodell in the matter of Deflategate. By the time it reached the Supremes, Brady would likely have been long retired and in the Hall of Fame. Goodell? Who knows? He's been making over $40 million a year as Commish, judge, jury, and head bottle washer. He'll be just fine wherever he lands next. Maybe the Donald could find a spot for him. Those rich folks that bluster a lot but can't back it up with substance always seem to have a way of winding up in bed together, one way or the other.

Just a thought......

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