The Last Of Deflategate, And What It Means

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady speaks at Salem State University in Salem, Massachusetts, May 7, 2015. REUTERS/Charles Krupa/Pool ORG XMIT: BKS06

I have received a lot of mail seeking my reaction to a judge reinstating Tom Brady and vetoing Roger Goodell’s harsh punishment decree. My reaction is that this is bad for football, the NFL, and the culture, and one more step toward validating cheating as an accepted cultural norm, not just in sports, but in the nation itself. Once upon a time, sports were supposed to model good sportsmanship, integrity and fairness. This episode demonstrates how far from that we have come. It is a serious and troubling development.

From a legal standpoint, I get it. I assumed that Goodell knew the limits on his own power: silly me. Apparently the NFL’s labor deal neutered the absolute power of a Commissioner to do what he felt was necessary to protect the integrity of pro football. Unions seldom care about the integrity of their game, at least not when their members’ money is involved. The original sports league commissioner, baseball’s Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis—Damn! Why didn’t we name our son “Mount McKinley Marshall”?—banned Shoeless Joe Jackson and his team mates from baseball forever after a jury had acquitted them of throwing the World series for bribes. His drastic action probably saved baseball, and has influenced the sport to this day. Goodell’s failure, in contrast, promises to do lasting harm.

Remember, the judge didn’t exonerate Brady; he just ruled that Goodell didn’t have the power to punish him. There is no doubt in my mind that Brady cheated, just as there was no doubt in the NFL’s investigator’s mind. There is also no doubt that you could not prove Brady’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The idea behind absolute power in a sports commissioner is that sports contests must be viewed as being fair or people will stop watching, and any hint of cheating and corruption must be banished. I agree with that idea. Baseball flunked its most crucial recent test when Bud Selig didn’t have the guts to pull Barry Bonds off the field when he was breaking records on steroids (and everyone knew it); pro football has been flunking one test after another. Society is becoming more cynical and more tolerant of cheating, and I think professional sports are as much a cause as a symptom.

Why am I convinced Brady cheated? Many factors, none of which individually are conclusive:

  • The conditions under which the cheating took place: bad weather, a play-off game, the team behind.
  • The Patriots’ well-established contempt for the rules.
  • The fact that a quarterback knows the feel of his tool, footballs, and that an experienced one like Brady could not possibly have been unaware that the balls he was throwing were even a little bit underinflated.
  • Brady’s evasive, smug, wink-wink ha-ha demeanor in multiple venues regarding the incident, like a high school jerk who knows he’s getting away with something and thinks its hilarious.
  • The immediate “everybody does it” defense from Brady’s fellow quarterbacks. (That’s not a defense. That’s an admission.)
  • The “it didn’t matter, they would have won anyway” defense from the same quarters. This is also an admission of cheating. Cheating is wrong whether it works or not, and whether it is necessary or not. NFL fans don’t even know what’s wrong with cheating any more….because the players don’t.
  • Some of the absurd defenses raised by Brady’s defenders, including his team, like the argument that one of the equipment guys involved in the incident was only called “the Deflator” in a contemporaneous text message because he was on a diet.
  • The fact that Brady destroyed his cell phone to avoid its contents being searched. This is spoliation, the destruction of potentially incriminating evidence, and suggests, but doesn’t prove, guilt. If he had done it in a criminal investigation, it would have been itself a crime. Ethically, the act is just as wrong whether it is a crime or not. (See: Clinton, Hillary)

I believe most Patriots fans know he cheated too. They just don’t care: he’s their star, and the team won the Super Bowl. The ends  justify the means.

Now Brady  has “won.” This is Donald Trump ethics, and pure corruption of our values; it is no surprise that Trump and Brady are pals. They are both ethics corrupters, and their corruption is spreading.

It’s not just them, of course. They are part of a cancer that has metastasized under Barack Obama. As often is the case, habitual incompetence has been countered by lies and cover-ups, and this has been the pattern in  Obama’s administration. Employment figures have been manipulated to show a weak recovery as more impressive that it is. Interest rates have been kept low for an unprecedented, and dangerous length of time to give the impression of stability and growth. In assessing every policy, good developments have been hyped and failures have been buried. All that matters are intentions; actual results can be spun.

The amazing current example is the administration’s trumpeting of Munich II (the Iran nuclear agreement) as enhancing Obama’s legacy because it’s intended to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons, even though under the best case scenario it will provide Iran billions to spread terrorism, will ensure that Iran quickly becomes nuclear armed after 15 years if not before, and is based on hope and trust of a state that nobody believes is trustworthy.

The IRS cheated and the Justice Department abetted a cover-up. The State Department messed up in Benghazi, and the “disgusting YouTube video” lie was sold to the American people and media long enough to get Obama re-elected. Whistle-blowers have been punished in the Veterans administration. The Affordable Care Act was passed with lies, tricks and outright misrepresentations, as Prof. Gruber revealed: the Democrats and Obama cheated about him, too, claiming that he was a marginal player.

Yesterday we learned that over 50 spies are now blowing the whistle on the Defense Department’s reports on ISIS, alleging that they have been “cooked” to give a cheery, and false, impression of how the war against terrorists is going. I predicted this, long ago, and it wasn’t hard. The culture of incompetence, corruption and desperate cheating to avoid the consequences of being inept and corrupt was obvious, and the results, as long as Obama is in the White House, were preordained. That’s the way it works. That’s the way it always works.

The NFL emphatically rejecting corruption and standing for honesty and integrity would have been one, small, positive step in the culture to slow the ethics rot. It failed, in part because the NFL’s corruption is soul deep. The rest of the culture isn’t there yet.

But time is getting short.

27 thoughts on “The Last Of Deflategate, And What It Means

  1. It’s all about the home team. I went to college in MA and I am frankly disgusted at the either smug or hostile posts I have seen from my college friends who were from MA on social media. That said, I have seen a lot more smug and hostile posts from liberal and/or black friends defending Obama, defending the Palestinian cause, and, oh yes, some of my Irish friends who are Anglophobic. Logic and ethics simply don’t work when the home team, or for that matter, the hated visiting team, is in play. To blacks, Obama is the ultimate home team, and can do no wrong, those who oppose him just can’t stand that a black was successful. To liberals, Israel is the hated visiting team, and can never be right. To Anglophobes, the English are the worst people ever to walk this earth, and the blood of every innocent caught in the way of a bomb is on their hands.

    I’m frankly done trying to engage the other side with any kind of logic, because the other side was done with conservatives a long time ago. Once Obama’s time is up, it’s time we start taking the war on terror back to the terrorists and the war on cops into the ghettoes. Sometimes you have to make your point with a punch in the mouth or a bullet.

  2. This played out exactly as I expected. As soon as it went out of the NFL’s hands it was game over.

    The Patriots fans are remarkable like the Yankee fans.

    Lost in all of this is Bob Kraft – an icon in this are (I am 20 minutes from Gillette) and the fact he is, IMHO, a snake.

    • I like Tom Brady, having had a brief interaction with him years ago (pre-fame) and being a Michigan grad. So, much to the chagrin of my wife, I root for the Patriots.

      That said, I concede that Brady would probably lose in a civil trial (more likely than not). That’s all I can bring myself to admit. However, it is hard to imagine that someone would mess with Brady’s footballs without his consent or knowledge. Who would take it upon themselves to mess with Michael Jordan’s basketball without express direction? And, as my father used to say, if it doesn’t make sense, it’s not true.

      What is strange is the way the NFL fumbled (pun INTENDED) this whole thing. Why would Goodell exclude any evidence or not permit any witness? He can disregard them completely, why not let everything in? Why say you’re relying exclusively on the Wells Report and make findings that go beyond it? It seemed like a case of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

  3. It is no surprise. A high school coach in Virginia Beach was suspended for three weeks for recruiting violations (in high school!) and has just had his suspension extended for another two weeks for violating the terms of the original suspension. His players expressed in the local newspaper that they were happy he wasn’t fired. I’m outraged that he wasn’t. BTW, the success or n on-success of his team does not affect me at all, other than the overall decline, or shal we say, slow death of ethics in sports.

    • John, this isn’t just sports, it’s culture wide. Both Trump and Clinton, unethical jerks that they are, are defended vigorously by their supporters, who are apparently a plurality in both parties. We are doomed.

  4. Jack,

    I completely agree with your points about NFL, sports, ethics, Landis, and the implications. Great points, well stated, and very important to sports and to society. Very strong blog.

    Then you go and pollute it all with this rant:

    “Employment figures have been manipulated to show a weak recovery as more impressive that it is. Interest rates have been kept low for an unprecedented, and dangerous length of time to give the impression of stability and growth.”

    First of all, the jump from NFL to politics is definitely there, but IMHO you’d make the point better by understating rather than by over-reaching. One blogpost topic at at time.

    Second, what in the world are you talking about re manipulation of employment figures? Facts please? And they’d better be good.

    And as to low interest rates giving the “impression of stability and growth,” it’s precisely the opposite: raised interest rates would give the impression of confidence, keeping them lower suggests we’re not robust enough yet to withstand higher rates.
    Not to mention the false implication that the administration has anything to do with the rate decision in the first place.
    Not to mention your frankly purely political opinion that interest rates have been low for a “dangerous length of time.” Why ‘dangerous’? We’ve also had systemic under-employment and low inflation for an unprecedented length of time – that’s what dictates continued low rates.

    You’re an excellent ethics analyst. I don’t mind your opinionated political analysis because you do probe big topics deeply. But an economist you ain’t, and I think you dilute your ethical points when you try to make such reaching connections as these.

      • The Fed voodoo is beyond my ken—I read both sets of arguments, in in truth, understand none of it. I just know my savings account is worthless. This PBS contributor’s reasoning makes more sense to me…and unlike Summers, he’s not an Obama Administration vet.

        I should have left the mysterious interest rate controversy out of this. The point is that the administration refuses to be transparent about the economy or be accountable for what it really is.

        • But let me add this: do you really want to cherry pick cavils and pretend the real issue is imaginary? I have followed many administrations, and never, never seen anything approaching the repeated instances of agency (and White House, of course) incompetence and/or corruption, non-/mis-/malfeasance followed by cover-ups, spin and denials, often only unraveled by whistleblowers and the IG’s office….and this from the “most transparent administration.” it’s a culture of cheating—using lies and tricks to “win.” The ISIS reports would be the last straw, if I hadn’t seen the last straw years ago. Do you have a last straw> You must.

    • I’ll stand by them. All the Democratic candidates are directly or indirectly challenging the employment figures, for example. Straight up: do you think it’s transparent to show employment improvement when a larger number in the workforce isn’t working? Bernie says the real number is 10.5%. But 10.5% wouldn’t look so good. Do you agree with Bernie? Many economists do, if the right figures are factored in. I’m looking at a graph that says 10.5 is about right.

      Manipulation is when virtually every month’s job report comes in with ballyhoo and is quietly reduced later. How about Robert Samuelson on interest rates?

      Here’s a precis of what I was talking about re employment, from Gallup’s CEO. Do you dispute it?:

      “Here’s something that many Americans — including some of the smartest and most educated among us — don’t know: The official unemployment rate, as reported by the U.S. Department of Labor, is extremely misleading.

      Right now, we’re hearing much celebrating from the media, the White House and Wall Street about how unemployment is “down” to 5.6%. The cheerleading for this number is deafening. The media loves a comeback story, the White House wants to score political points and Wall Street would like you to stay in the market.

      None of them will tell you this: If you, a family member or anyone is unemployed and has subsequently given up on finding a job — if you are so hopelessly out of work that you’ve stopped looking over the past four weeks — the Department of Labor doesn’t count you as unemployed. That’s right. While you are as unemployed as one can possibly be, and tragically may never find work again, you are not counted in the figure we see relentlessly in the news — currently 5.6%. Right now, as many as 30 million Americans are either out of work or severely underemployed. Trust me, the vast majority of them aren’t throwing parties to toast “falling” unemployment.

      There’s another reason why the official rate is misleading. Say you’re an out-of-work engineer or healthcare worker or construction worker or retail manager: If you perform a minimum of one hour of work in a week and are paid at least $20 — maybe someone pays you to mow their lawn — you’re not officially counted as unemployed in the much-reported 5.6%. Few Americans know this.

      Yet another figure of importance that doesn’t get much press: those working part time but wanting full-time work. If you have a degree in chemistry or math and are working 10 hours part time because it is all you can find — in other words, you are severely underemployed — the government doesn’t count you in the 5.6%. Few Americans know this.

      There’s no other way to say this. The official unemployment rate, which cruelly overlooks the suffering of the long-term and often permanently unemployed as well as the depressingly underemployed, amounts to a Big Lie.

      And it’s a lie that has consequences, because the great American dream is to have a good job, and in recent years, America has failed to deliver that dream more than it has at any time in recent memory. A good job is an individual’s primary identity, their very self-worth, their dignity — it establishes the relationship they have with their friends, community and country. When we fail to deliver a good job that fits a citizen’s talents, training and experience, we are failing the great American dream.

      Gallup defines a good job as 30+ hours per week for an organization that provides a regular paycheck. Right now, the U.S. is delivering at a staggeringly low rate of 44%, which is the number of full-time jobs as a percent of the adult population, 18 years and older. We need that to be 50% and a bare minimum of 10 million new, good jobs to replenish America’s middle class.

      I hear all the time that “unemployment is greatly reduced, but the people aren’t feeling it.” When the media, talking heads, the White House and Wall Street start reporting the truth — the percent of Americans in good jobs; jobs that are full time and real — then we will quit wondering why Americans aren’t “feeling” something that doesn’t remotely reflect the reality in their lives. And we will also quit wondering what hollowed out the middle class.

      I call Obama calling that a recovery to be proud of misleading. Don’t deflect about who’s at fault—it’s misstating what the facts are—cheating, to avoid accountability. I wasn’t arguing policy, Charles. Here’s a non partisan critique of the Gallup CEO’s post.

      It concludes…

      The broader point is that any statistic can be meaningless without the proper context. A 5.7 percent unemployment rate, for example, looks pretty good now in comparison to the 10 percent rate of October 2009, but it wasn’t so hot back in June 2008, when the unemployment had jumped by a percentage point over the previous year and was climbing ever higher.

      Whether you consider the unemployment rate to be a “big lie” or not, the truth remains this: The job market today is much stronger than it was, say, five years ago, but it is still not as good as it needs to be for Americans to feel a broadly shared prosperity. The White House, Wall Street and the media know this. The American public knows it, too.”

      We don’t get the employment stats in any broader context, but with sunshine and giddiness. The excuse used is “everybody does it”, meaning “we expect cheating.”

      “Employment figures have been manipulated to show a weak recovery as more impressive that it is.”

      You want to claim that the manipulation—that is, withholding other stats and context to lull the public—isn’t a ploy, go ahead. I know you’re honest, so I must assume you are excessively trusting. What about the Defense Dept fudged reports? Completely unrelated, or a product of the same culture?

      You know my conclusion.

  5. Jack, your reaction and mine are identical. I appreciate your posting on this topic – what you share helps me so that I can explain, when necessary, about how I am so done with the NFL. At least I have happy memories of my experiences with the NFL in its earlier days. I don’t expect any more such memories to be made – unless some Commissioner Kilamanjaro Fujiyama comes along and cleans up the business both on and off the field.

  6. I know too many people after retrenching who want 40 hour jobs with benefits, but their employer prefers not giving benefits so won’t schedule them over about 25 hours, no matter how much they need the help. The workers do two jobs like that without sick time or any help with healthcare bargaining. They’re part time but working full time or more without benefits. Swapping positions makes little difference and turnover is fierce as they search fruitlessly for that 40 hour job,

    I don’t know what the solution is, but when the good workers can’t get those hours and full time positions, it strains everyone: worker, customer, and system.

    • If I can get the same work hiring 2 people for 20 hours each that I can for one at 40, and not have to give them sick time, paid time off, or benefits, well, you do the math.

    • The obvious solution is to create more jobs. Several possible ways to do this. Raising corporate taxes on small businesses with an income over $250,000 might do it or possibly making health insurance so expensive that General Motors can’t afford it. Confiscating land to put solar farms or windmills on would also work, along with raising taxes on those nasty old coal-burning power plants. How about taking any land with a mud puddle on it away from the farmer who originally owned it as “wetlands”? All of these measures have been proposed, and rejected, at one time or another.

  7. There are lots of things wrong with labour laws in Australia, it’s almost impossible to sack someone being one, but something that is fair and right is that as soon as someone is on the payroll they accrue sick leave, holidays, long service leave and superannuation.

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