Monday 11 December 2017

Eamonn Sweeney: Tom Brady saga blows up in NFL's face

‘It seems fairly obvious that some of the balls were tampered with but there hasn’t been a shred of evidence that Tom Brady knew about this’.
‘It seems fairly obvious that some of the balls were tampered with but there hasn’t been a shred of evidence that Tom Brady knew about this’.

Eamonn Sweeney

What do you give the man who has everything?

How about a four-match suspension?

And so it was back in May that rich, handsome, talented, successful and famous husband of the world's highest paid supermodel Tom Brady got slapped with a ban just a few months after the greatest triumph of his career, one of the greatest triumphs in any quarterback's career ever in fact. At the age of 37 the New England Patriots star had steered his side past the fearsome Seattle Seahawks to become only the third quarterback in history to win the Super Bowl four times.

But it's what happened in the game before that, the AFC Championship game, that's been occupying the American sporting public since then. At half-time in the Patriots' victory over the Baltimore Ravens, officials discovered that a number of the balls being used by Brady's team were under-inflated to a level below the legal limit and to a degree which suggested human intervention.

The balls were re-inflated to the correct level and the show went on. The Patriots had led 17-7 at half-time and went on to win 45-7. Brady could have been throwing balloons or rocks and they'd still have beaten the Ravens. But no matter, Deflategate AKA Ballghazi had begun.

The NFL's investigation found no concrete proof that the balls had been deflated by the Patriots, despite commissioning a scientific report whose conclusions have since been robustly challenged. However, the finger of suspicion was pointed at one Jim McNally, locker-room attendant, who was seen taking the balls into what our American cousins like to call the john for 90 seconds shortly before the game. Perhaps unwisely McNally had described himself as 'The Deflator' in texts to Patriots equipment manager Jeff Jastremski, whose name makes the whole caper sound even more like something from a Coen brothers movie. Brady, McNally, Boston. We surely have a dog in this fight.

It seems fairly obvious that some of the balls were tampered with it but there hasn't been a shred of evidence proving that Brady knew about this. Last week public opinion started to turn decisively in the quarterback's favour. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had said that one of the things which made the league suspect Brady was lying was his insistence that he hadn't discussed Deflategate with Jastremski in a series of conversations the men had immediately following the game with the Ravens. How unlikely was that for God's sake?

So unlikely that in fact it never happened. The release of Brady's testimony to the enquiry reveals that he never denied discussing Deflategate with Jastremski. So the league's supremo now stands accused of misrepresenting the evidence of the league's leading player. An article in Sports Illustrated has called for Goodell to resign while a Washington Post sportswriter has said he can't be trusted ever again.

And then there's the case of the mobile phone which Brady was using at the time. The player destroyed it shortly afterwards, something the NFL affects to find suspicious though there are those who claim he was merely making sure a device containing records of his private calls didn't get into the hands of a league which is notoriously 'leak' prone. Several leaks from the NFL which made things look worse for the Patriots have since proven to be false.

The fact that Brady's appeal against his suspension was judged by the same people who'd imposed it in the first place has also drawn plenty of adverse comment. Goodell, it's generally agreed, has made a balls of it. Meanwhile, Brady the poor hoor will have to sit out the start of the season, in either his $20m mansion in Los Angeles or his $14m condo in New York, with Gisele Bundchen. Life can be cruel sometimes.

There's something quintessentially American about the magnificent outsize lunacy of it all. Like the USA or hate it, you can't deny its perpetually compelling nature. When you think about it, Donald Trump is probably the only suitable President for the place.

The movie is going to be brilliant.

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