(Photos courtesy of the New England Patriots)
By Clark Judge
Talk of Fame Network
Tom Brady has no choice. He must take the NFL to court, and he must win.
With commissioner Roger Goodell upholding Brady’s four-game suspension, the league office has done more than sit down one of the game’s greatest quarterbacks. It’s threatened his legacy by calling him a cheater and practically inviting Brady to seek litigation.
So do it, Tom.
It doesn’t matter that Brady is one of the game’s most successful quarterbacks ever … or that he won a league-best 77.3 percent of his career starts, was a two-time league MVP, a three-time Super Bowl MVP and won four Lombardi rings – matching Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana. Nope, what matters now is that the NFL office has said that, upon further review, it’s convinced he cheated.
Brady, of course, insists he didn’t, and given the holes you can punch in this case -- beginning with a referee who didn’t remember what gauges he used to measure footballs -- I’d jump at the chance to take the NFL to court, too.
But that’s not the point. This is: A league office that should be celebrating the career of one of its best quarterbacks ever is, instead, calling him out – essentially, daring him to prove himself innocent after Brady reportedly refused to take a compromise deal, cop to the crime and apologize.
OK, fine. The commissioner is playing hardball. So Brady must play it, too. Otherwise, his reputation is damaged forever. People not only won’t trust what he says; they won’t trust what he’s done, either. They’ll claim he cheated before the AFC championship game; that he may have cheated for years and that his career achievements are tarnished.
Everything he’s accomplished until now will be tarnished, and what happens from here on won’t matter. People won’t care. Which is why it’s necessary for Tom Brady to strike back. If the commissioner won’t clear his name, he must do it himself.
So take the league to court and see what happens. Because what’s happened lately to suspensions handed down by the league office is that they don’t stick. First there was Ray Rice. Then there was Adrian Peterson. Then it was Greg Hardy, and let’s stop there for a minute. Are you going to tell me that Brady gets the same punishment for a misdemeanor as a guy who beat up and threatened to kill a woman?
Not only don’t I blame Brady for pursuing litigation, I’d encourage it. Because it seems this is more about a cover-up at this juncture than an actual crime. While the Ted Wells report suggested Brady was involved, there wasn’t definitive proof – with Wells saying Brady was “generally aware” of footballs being deflated.
Generally aware? I’m generally aware how a car runs, but don’t ask me to explain what happens when I turn the ignition key.
Then, of course, we have referee Walt Anderson who couldn’t remember which gauge he used to measure footballs before and during the AFC championship game. Then, when he did measure them at the half … in a heated room no less … he started with 11 Patriots’ footballs before checking four from the Colts.
Then there’s this: There were two teams caught tampering with footballs last year, and it wasn’t New England or Indianapolis. It was the Minnesota Vikings and Carolina Panthers, whose ball boys pumped hot air into footballs during a cold afternoon in Minneapolis. So they cheated. Guess what happened to them: Nothing.
You can’t make this stuff up.
At this point, this case begins to looks personal. It seems Goodell and the league office is penalizing Brady for not cooperating with an investigation that was amateurish at best, and I get it. Goodell runs the league, and Brady is an employee. So when the commissioner makes a demand or request, Brady must cooperate – and failing to turn over records or destroying a cellphone is not how that’s done.
So punish him for not cooperating, even though Brady revealed he offered to help the league retrieve text messages by providing the names and numbers of all persons he texted and that he “turned over detailed pages of cellphone records and all of the e-mails that Mr. Wells requested.” But Goodell said that Brady's "destruction of potentially relevant evidence went beyond a mere failure to cooperate in the investigation." So he refused to budge, punishing Brady for cheating on a charge that has more holes than Sonny Corleone ... and, sorry, if I’m Tom Brady, that’s a no can-do.
It’s one thing to take away a job for four weeks. It’s quite another to take away a reputation for a lifetime. So Tom Brady must go to court to gain what he could not from Goodell, and he must score a decisive victory. Because if he doesn’t he’s lost more than a case. He’s lost his name.