Let's call "DeflateGate" what it really is: Brady vs. Goodell

Once upon a time, "DeflateGate" was an investigation by the NFL into alleged ball tampering by the New England Patriots. But it's gone way, way beyond that. Now it's a contest of wills between Tom Brady and Roger Goodell, with neither budging.


(Goodell photo courtesy of the National Football League)

By Clark Judge

Talk of Fame Network

“DeflateGate” is no longer the NFL vs. the New England Patriots. It’s Roger Goodell vs. Tom Brady. And it’s hard to root for either.

What should have been a misdemeanor has turned into a capital offense, and now it’s personal. It’s Brady vs. Goodell. Goodell vs. Brady. And with neither budging, taking this stalemate to a courtroom isn’t just a necessity. It’s a relief.

This nonsense has to end.

But it won’t until one of these guys moves, and there’s a better chance of Cleveland winning Super Bowl L. Brady is protective of his image. Goodell is protective of his image. Both are used to winning, and neither takes setbacks lightly. So they’re locked in a stare-down, waiting for the other to blink.

And someone will … someone must … now that we’re going to court.

Six months ago this was supposed to be about the Patriots taking air out of footballs, but it long ago morphed into a contest of wills. It started when New England owner Robert Kraft called out the commissioner – demanding an apology if there was no “definitive” proof tying his quarterback to under-inflated footballs -- then accelerated when Brady failed to turn over emails and text messages that investigators demanded.

That frustrated Goodell. But when Brady later destroyed evidence, Goodell was infuriated. Brady argued that it’s not uncommon for him to discard his cellphone, adding that he offered to help the league office retrieve information by supplying the names and numbers of all those he sent texts. But he had to know that wouldn’t fly with a commissioner who won’t tolerate obstruction. And if Brady had nothing to hide, Goodell reasoned, why would he hide or destroy it?

Good question.

But the more Goodell pushed, the more Brady resisted. And at that point, this ceased to be about the Patriots or deflated footballs. It became about Tom Brady defying the commissioner of the National Football League.

If Tom Brady wouldn’t give Goodell what he wanted … no, what he demanded … he wasn’t about to accede to Brady. So he defied Brady. He upheld his four-game suspension, telling the quarterback that if he wasn’t going to play ball, well, neither would he.

And so there.

OK, fine. Except now we have Brady with the same penalty as Greg Hardy, who beat up and threatened to kill a woman. Excuse me … what? Yes, Brady gets the same sentence as Hardy for … let me see if I have this straight … being "generally aware" that he was using under-inflated footballs … in a game where the referee can’t remember which of two gauges (gauges that read differently) he used to measure them … in a season where two teams – Carolina and Minnesota – tampered with footballs during a game, yet received no penalties … and in a case where there’s no evidence tying Brady to the alleged crime.

You gotta be kidding.

Nope, as I said: This isn’t about deflated footballs or Ideal Gas Law. This is about inflated egos, a power struggle between a commissioner who refuses to be pushed around by an employee who is reluctant to cooperate. But it’s more than that. It’s about two power brokers who won’t back down, who cannot and will not admit to shortcomings lest their reputations suffer. So someone has to break this deadlock. And someone will.

He’s called a judge.

It’s hard to conceive of how we arrived at this place. My guess is that if, in the aftermath of the AFC championship game, Brady said he didn’t know the footballs were deflated (heck, officials didn’t know until they measured them) -- that he simply liked footballs to feel a certain way and that if they were under-inflated, well, he’d accept the punishment -- this would have disappeared with a modest fine.

But as time went on … and we’re in our sixth month after the fact … it became more about the cover-up than the alleged crime. It became more about Brady’s failure to cooperate with Goodell and more about Goodell’s failure to close a flimsy case that has spun out of control.

A Minnesota judge this week urged the NFL and NFL Players Association to try to reach a settlement, saying “the earth is already sufficiently scorched.” But this isn’t about the NFL and NFLPA, and it’s not about the league and the New England Patriots, either. It’s way beyond that.

It's about Tom Brady and Roger Goodell.