By Omar Tyree
I woke up this Tuesday morning to another bomb of sports news dropped on the NFL: “Four-time Super Bowl winning quarterback, Tom Brady, has been suspended for the first four games of the 2015 season. The New England Patriots will lose a first round draft pick in the 2016 NFL Draft and a fourth round pick in the 2017 draft. In addition, the Patriots organization will be fine a $100,000.”
What? Wow! All of this just for taking a little bit of air out 11 footballs for the AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts in late January?
Yes! The NFL is dead serious about keeping its game fair, while addressing dozens of team and player infractions on and off the field in its desperate attempt to hold itself to high standards of integrity, which Tom Brady has apparently not bought into.
The whole football deflation issue and accusations have been no more than big a practical joke to Tom, as he repeatedly blew off the NFL officials with aw-shucks, come-on-guys jabs at press conferences, including locker-room guffaws about him not knowing anything. But the fact remains that 11 out of 12 footballs handled by Brady in the first half of the second biggest football game of the season – that sent his Patriots team and its loyal fanbase to their sixth Super Bowl in 15 years –were manipulated on purpose, for a quarterback who admittedly likes his footballs soft enough to grip and squeeze a little better, particularly in cold weather games.
Well, cold weather games are the norm in New England, and the Patriots have been known to bend the rules at all costs before. Nevertheless, Tom Brady must have considered the football deflation transgression as more of a slap-on-the-wrist variety that he need not take too seriously. However, NFL officials did not consider it all jokes and games, particularly with so many other serious issues that have circled the league in the past few years.
Once the “Wells Report” came out that it was “more probable than not” that Brady knew about a pair of Patriots team assistants who conspired to deflate the championship footballs before the game and cover-up their tracks, the professional football fraternity of players, coaches and executives, as well as a nation of fans and media were all waiting to see what would happen.
Would the all-American boy, Tom Brady, be given a slap on the wrist or a two-game suspension, as I had first predicted? We all knew the league had to do something, or run the risk of thousands of players, coaches, fans and sports media pundits questioning how serious the NFL is about keeping the integrity of their game up the par, regardless of who breaks the rules – particularly with suspensions being handed out left and right to African-American players who get into trouble off the field.
Is Tom Brady’s “little white lies” and jokes about deflated footballs any different from the “big black lies” of football players caught up in domestic violence disputes? I’m not necessarily comparing the two infractions, because domestic violence against women and children is surely a much bigger issue. However, I am comparing the lies, and lies to league officials during competitive and or criminal investigations should be handled the same across the board. In fact, if a deflated football is such a small issue, then why even lie about it, while declining to cooperate with any further questions?
I’ll tell you why. Tom Brady knows that deflated football is cheating and he doesn’t want to admit to it. It’s the same as a baseball pitcher slapping a little Vaseline on the baseball, or a slugger using cork in his bats. How about wide receivers and defensive backs using stick-em on their hands to catch the ball better, or a track star using an-inch longer spike than usual? How about NASCAR racers having an inch-longer wing on the back of their cars, or professional basketball players obviously flopping on a play to get a foul called?
These may all sound like small infractions to some of us, but they are all against the rules of their respective sports for a reason, and no one should be allowed to break those rules and laugh it off.
For the record, I am not a Tom Brady hater or a hater of the New England Patriots. I actually like the guy and all of the cool, blue-collar swagger that he seems to maintain in spite of his fame, wealth and international model wife. But nobody’s perfect, Tommy. Nobody! So his punishment, although more than I expected, sends a clear and concise message to everyone that the NFL – like the other professional sports leagues – is at least attempting to remain fair—unlike the rest of American society where race and class definitely makes a difference. So let’s all tune in and see what happens next. This may get real interesting.
Omar Tyree is a New York Times bestselling author, an NAACP Image Award winner for Outstanding Fiction, and a professional journalist, who has published 27 books, including co-authoring Mayor For Life; The Incredible Story of Marion Barry Jr. View more of his career and work @ www.OmarTyree.com.