Commissioner Roger Goodell upheld Tom Brady’s suspension in part because the Pats QB destroyed his cell phone and didn’t tell the NFL until June 18. For a change, Goodell is right.
Pete Carroll is on the cover of Sports Illustrated this week for a story on how he and the Seahawks recover from the most notorious call in the history of Earth, edging past the real-estate investments made just ahead of the Great Permian die-off.
My guess is that next week’s cover will be Tom Brady, for being notorious, period.
It’s been quite a time for the entrants in Super Bowl XLIX. Never thought I’d say this, but if I were asked to choose the lesser perverse fate, I’d take the Seahawks’ self-snatch of certain victory over the Patriots into a 28-24 defeat, creating a firestorm of second-guessing that has helped speed global warming (hey, take a look at your lawn).
At least, the Seahawks in 2015 have a chance to play out of a lot of the ignominy with a successful pursuit of The Lost Yard. A long shot? Sure. But Brady has no shot.
The resolution Tuesday of the long simmering/snickering/stultifying Deflategate controversy was surprising: Arbitrator Roger Goodell upheld the decision of Roger Goodell’s commissionership to suspend the Patriots QB for four games for directing footballs to be deflated prior to the AFC Championship.
The conventional wisdom that Goodell, knowing how foolish it looked to others to have him sit in judgment of his own office’s judgment, would reduce or eliminate the suspension was upended for good reason — Brady destroyed the cell phone he had been using that contained incriminating texts.
The new evidence was important enough for Goodell to have it in the third paragraph of his 20-page statement explaining his decision on Brady’s appeal:
On or shortly before March 6, the day that Tom Brady met with independent investigator Ted Wells and his colleagues, Brady directed that the cell phone he had used for the prior four months be destroyed. He did so even though he was aware that the investigators had requested access to text messages and other electronic information that had been stored on that phone. During the four months that the cell phone was in use, Brady had exchanged nearly 10,000 text messages, none of which can now be retrieved from that device. The destruction of the cell phone was not disclosed until June 18, almost four months after the investigators had first sought electronic information from Brady.
The Brady camp is already issuing tut-tuts by claiming he always destroys his cell phones, apparently somewhat in the fashion of drug dealers employing burner phones. But that doesn’t work for this phone, and not on this timeline of disclosure.
June 18? Even grade-schoolers know that when deploying the dog-ate-my-homework excuse, it needs to get out early and often.
Whether one buys the premise that deflation makes a difference, or that cold weather was responsible, or that the investigation was tainted or a witch hunt, or that the media fascination with Deflategate was sound and fury signifying nothing, it’s obvious that Brady has been lying about his degree of knowledge/involvement.
He was sufficiently consumed by his lie that he made a choice to destroy evidence to create at least a veneer of mystery, rather than turn over the phone and remove all doubt about his complicity. It’s Lance Armstrong-esque, in kind if not degree.
Naturally, Brady’s agent Don Yee disagreed, releasing Tuesday a statement that said in part:
”The Commissioner’s decision is deeply disappointing, but not surprising because the appeal process was thoroughly lacking in procedural fairness.
“Most importantly, neither Tom nor the Patriots did anything wrong. And the NFL has no evidence that anything inappropriate occurred.
“The appeal process was a sham, resulting in the Commissioner rubber-stamping his own decision. For example, the Wells investigative team was given over 100 days to conduct its investigation. Just days prior to the appeal hearing, we were notified that we would only have four hours to present a defense; therefore, we didn’t have enough time to examine important witnesses. Likewise, it was represented to the public that the Wells team was ‘independent’; however, when we requested documents from Wells, our request was rejected on the basis of privilege. We therefore had no idea as to what Wells found from other witnesses, nor did we know what those other witnesses said.
“These are just two examples of how the Commissioner failed to ensure a fair process.”
The process the NFL followed is spelled out for league and union in the collective bargaining agreement, and in fact allows Goodell to be the arbitrator. In this case, his decision on the appeal seems unlikely to be overturned if Brady decides, as has been widely speculated, to take an adverse decision to federal court. Legal experts say judges are usually averse to overturning an arbitrator’s judgment if the rules were followed.
However the legal issue plays out, however loud the screeches from the New England fan base, it appears that Brady’s relatively minor misdeed has morphed into a mockable spectacle in which Goodell, against all odds created by his ham-fisted tenure, comes out on the right side.
As is frequently the case with hyper-competitive, hyper-successful people, Brady cannot resist looking for an edge, even if the edge goes over the edge, as defined by the industry’s standards. Even after being caught, these alpha males have a hard time walking it back to contrition.
Might be even harder than spending an entire NFL season in pursuit of The Lost Yard.
The good news is now Goodell is freed up, at least temporarily, to explain how Junior Seau’s family doesn’t get to speak at his induction to the NFL Hall of Fame.