Thursday, May 07, 2015

Football Watch: Just 'cause you're as pretty (and, yes, talented) as Tom Brady doesn't mean you get to cheat -- and then lie about it


Oh Tom, Tom, Tom! You stood there at that January 2015 news conference, looking pretty as a picture, and just fibbed your pretty head off.

"We found these claims not plausible and contradicted by other evidence."
-- the Wells report, on Tom Brady's claims of Deflategate ignorance

by Ken

Since we had our share of fun with the Deflategate story when it broke, it only seems fair to pick up the story now that an NFL investigating commission has brought forth its report. And it appears that I for one may owe the Super Bowl champ New England Patriots' coach, Bill Belichick, an apology.

I titled my January 21 post " 'Cheating' is such a harsh word, but strange things just seem to happen around New England Pats' coach Bill Belichick," but now it appears that all our Bill may have been guilty of was running a football team where the star quarterback felt entitled to cheat. Well, that and then doing such a stunningly piss-poor job of getting to the bottom of the story when the scandal broke. And, oh yes, venting all that indignation and frothing persecution mania, denying any possibility that his team could be at fault, when in fact the source of the problem was in his own locker room, and his star player was lying his guts out.

While the NFL report stops short of directly pointing at finger at beloved heartthrob-QB Tom "Don't Hate Me Because I'm Beautiful" Brady, the inescapable conclusion is that not only did our Tom have to know that he was tossing around illegally under-inflated footballs, but that the under-inflating was done at his instigation, even insistence.

Here's the Washington Post's Mark Maske ("DeflateGate: 'More probable than not' Patriots violated rules, Tom Brady aware"):
Citing the actions and text messages of two team employees, the report by attorney Ted Wells [the link is to the full report -- Ed.] concluded that it is “more probable than not” that the Patriots deliberately used under-inflated footballs during their AFC championship game victory over the Indianapolis Colts.

The report is the culmination of a highly unusual situation in which the NFL, for the second time in less than nine years, investigated whether one of its most successful and highest-profile teams circumvented rules to gain a competitive advantage. In 2007, the league found the Patriots had improperly videotaped opposing coaching signals. These most recent accusations dominated discussion in the two weeks leading up to February’s Super Bowl, raising scrutiny of Brady and the Patriots’ competitive integrity even as they were pursuing their fourth title.

It remains unclear what — if any — punishment awaits.

The report’s most compelling evidence are colorful and frequently profane text messages between John Jastremski, a Patriots equipment assistant, and Jim McNally, the officials’ locker room attendant at Gillette Stadium. McNally, in a text message to Jastresmski in May 2014, referred to himself as “the deflator,” according to the report.

“Based on the evidence developed in connection with the investigation and summarized in this Report, we have concluded that it is more probable than not that New England Patriots personnel participated in violations of the NFL Playing Rules and were involved in a deliberate attempt to circumvent those rules,” Wells wrote.

“In particular, we conclude that it is more probable than not that Jim McNally and John Jastremski participated in a deliberate plan to circumvent the rules by releasing air from Patriots game balls after the examination of the footballs by NFL game officials at the AFC Championship Game.”

Wells wrote that investigators also concluded “it is more probable than not that Tom Brady was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities of McNally and Jastremski involving the release of air from Patriots game balls.”
"At least generally aware"? Um, well, yes. This seems an understatement, to the extent that it's possible to believe the report's conclusion that neither Head Coach Bill Belichick, his assistant coaches, or the team’s ownership were involved.

By all means continue reading Maske's report, which does a fine job of covering the report and the size and shape of the scandal radiating out from it. But I think we want to go back to those e-mails, partly because they're pretty hilarious, but also because I think they give a rather clearer picture than the above suggests of the nature and extent of His Prettiness's involvement, and kind of an alarming image of who and what he has become.

For this we turn to Matt Bonesteel's Post sidebar piece, "If nothing else, the Wells Report gave us hilarious text messages about Tom Brady, Deflategate." "The NFL’s findings," Matt notes, "hinge on incriminating text messages sent between McNally and Jastremski. And boy, are they incriminating. And hilarious."
After a game between the Patriots and Jets on Oct. 16, 2014, Brady “complained angrily about the inflation level of the game balls,” leading to the following text-message exchange between the two equipment managers:
McNally: Tom sucks … im going make that next ball a [expletive] balloon
Jastremski: Talked to him last night. He actually brought you up and said you must have a lot of stress trying to get them done …
Jastremski: I told him it was. He was right though…
Jastremski: I checked some of the balls this morn… The refs [expletive] us…a few of then were at almost 16
Jastremski: They didnt recheck then after they put air in them
McNally: [Expletive] tom … 16 is nothing…wait till next sunday
Jastremski: Omg! Spaz
Here’s some texts from Oct. 21. They’re still a little salty at Brady.
McNally: Make sure you blow up the ball to look like a rugby ball so tom can get used to it before sunday
Jastremski: Omg
Oct. 23, 2014. Still plotting against Brady ahead of the upcoming game against the Bears.
Jastremski: Can’t wait to give you your needle this week
McNally: [Expletive] tom….make sure the pump is attached to the needle…..[expletive] watermelons coming
Jastremski: So angry
McNally: The only thing deflating his passing rating
The next day, McNally seemed to indicate that Brady would need to pay up if he wanted the balls the way he liked them.
Jastremski: I have a big needle for u this week
McNally: Better be surrounded by cash and newkicks….or its a rugby sunday
McNally: [Expletive] tom
Jastremski: Maybe u will have some nice size 11s in ur locker
McNally: Tom must really be working your balls hard this week
What seems to be something of a smoking gun, when McNally calls himself “the deflator” and mentions taking the story to ESPN, came on May 9, 2014, before the start of the season.
McNally: You working
Jastremski: Yup
McNally: Nice dude….jimmy needs some kicks….lets make a deal…..come on help the deflator
McNally: Chill buddy im just [expletive] with you ….im not going to espn……..yet
Does anyone believe that Jastremski and McNally were making this stuff up? Does anyone see any possibility that, however the under-inflating scam may have started (conceivably, someone suggested it to our Tom), it was being driven by the superstar himself?

To return to Mark Maske:
[T]he investigation’s conclusions about Brady threaten to taint his legacy as one of the sport’s greatest quarterbacks. [You think? -- Ed.] While lacking concrete evidence that Brady orchestrated or ordered the balls’ deflation, the report is starkly critical of his honesty in cooperating with investigators.

Brady insisted he had no involvement in any efforts to deflate game balls and that he did not know McNally nor his role, but the report states, “We found these claims not plausible and contradicted by other evidence.” McNally, the report added, also divulged to NFL Security that Brady had told him personally of the quarterback’s preferences regarding air pressure.
What's fascinating about all this is that it was, in fact, so unnecessary. As our Tom himself pointed out so ungraciously, the Pats didn't need to futz around with the footballs -- just look at how dominant they were in their path to Super Bowl victory. Unfortunately, Tom was offering this as, er, proof that Deflategate wasn't real, and now we know he knew perfectly well that he was fibbing. It just seems to have suited his convenience to have those balls inflated the way he liked theme, and fuck the rules. Hey, who's the superstar?

It's also a fascinating problem for the Pats' coaching staff and management. Coach Belichick at least so far hasn't been heard from, but you have to wonder what he's feeling now, since presumably his star player lied to him. At least I presume he asked Tom if there was anything to the story and Tom told him no. Does anyone expect Coach Bill to apologize for having, however unintentionally, wildly misinformed the public? I don't.

As for Pats owner Robert Kraft, he might do better to keep his trap shut. Mark Maske again:
Patriots owner Robert Kraft called the investigation and its findings “incomprehensible.”

Kraft said in a written statement he was “convinced” that Wells’s investigation “would find the same factual evidence supported by both scientific formula and independent research as we did and would ultimately exonerate the Patriots.” Kraft said that to “say we are disappointed in its findings, which do not include any incontrovertible or hard evidence of deliberate deflation of footballs at the AFC Championship Game, would be a gross understatement.”

Kraft also said the Patriots would accept the findings of the report and any discipline dispensed by the league, but he went on to opine that “the time, effort and resources expended to reach this conclusion are incomprehensible to me.”
Apparently calling the report "incomprehensible" and blithering moronically about his team's moronic "scientific formula and independent research" is his way of accepting the findings of the report. Hey, Bob, you lying jackass. Your "independent research" was a fraud. It was a put-up job with no goal except to make it look like there was no football deflation. The only thing is, we know now that there was, and that the balls were being switched after the official pressure checks. At this point, any further claims about "scientific formula and independent research" have to be taken as out-and-out lies and flagrant cover-up.

I sure hope the NFL considers this as it weighs disciplinary action, which sources are indicating may not be as powder-puffy as one would normally expect.
Possible penalties against the Patriots could include a fine and the loss of one or more draft picks. [League Commissioner Roger] Goodell fined Belichick and the Patriots a total of $750,000 in 2007 and stripped the team of a first-round draft choice in the “Spygate” scandal in which the Patriots were found to have improperly videotaped opposing coaching signals.

One person familiar with the league’s inner workings said decisions regarding potential discipline are “coming soon.” Possible discipline of Brady, as well as a fine and prospective loss of a draft choice, are “all under consideration,” according to that person, who requested anonymity because no official announcements had been made. . . .

The Patriots’ latest scandal intensified the public debate as to whether the team’s accomplishments have been tarnished. Detractors have called them cheaters. Supporters of the team counter that such feelings result from jealousy over the franchise’s unmatched success.
Oh, I imagine there's jealousy over the Pats' success. But there's also a lot of resentment at their record of cheating and lying.

And then there's Tom Brady's "legacy as one of the sport's greatest quarterbacks." Here's the Post's Adam Kilgore ("Tom Brady lied; only the consequences are open to debate"):
Tom Brady is one of the greatest players in NFL history, the only quarterback to play in six Super Bowls, the undisputed on-field leader of the sport’s most successful franchise in this generation. He is also a liar. Brady probably cheated, an NFL-commissioned report found, and he lied about it. The actions do not invalidate his career, but they incinerated his golden-boy image and made messy the once-simple assessment of his place in history.
Adam notes that of course Brady knew he was cheating, and expected an advantage from it -- or he wouldn't have gone to all that trouble to do it. He points out that one reason the NFL investigation "could not determine the full scope of Brady's cheating" is his "lack of cooperation and his lack of veracity."
Brady refused to turn over electronic communication such as text messages and cell phone records. Even more brashly, Brady told lies during his interview with Wells’s team.
Adam writes: "Wells’s report turned anyone who believed Brady into a fool," and while that isn't going to change the record of his on-the-field accomplishments, it sure seems likely to change the way the public regards him. You would have thought that if any star athlete could ever look forward to having the world at his fingertips when his playing time came to an end, it was our Tom. Now, I'm thinking, maybe not so much.

N.F.L. Sentences Brady to a Year with the Jets

By Andy Borowitz
May 6, 2015

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (The Borowitz Report) – In what football insiders are calling an unexpectedly severe punishment, the National Football League has sentenced the New England Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady to a year with the New York Jets for his role in the so-called Deflategate scandal.

The punishment drew howls of protest from Patriots fans and management, with many calling it the harshest in league history, but N.F.L. Commissioner Roger Goodell defended the decision as “a necessary deterrent.”

“We need to send the message that this league has zero tolerance for cheating,” Goodell said. “We believe that a year of playing quarterback for the Jets sends that message loud and clear.”

Brady was reportedly in a state of shock when he heard the news of his punishment. He later met with reporters in a hastily called press conference during which he frequently seemed on the verge of tears.

“I am going to fight this decision with every fibre of my being,” Brady said. “This is America. You can’t force a person to play for the Jets.”

At a sports bar in Manhattan, the reaction to the impending arrival of the Jets’ longtime nemesis was muted. One Jets fan observed, “Look, Brady’s a dick, but even he didn’t deserve this.”

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