Why Deflategate Won’t Hurt Brady’s Legacy

After eight months of the most overblown story in recent sports history, the deflategate saga has finally concluded.  The scandal originated in the NFL during the AFC Championship game that took place on January 18, 2015.  The New England Patriots were hosting the Indianapolis Colts in a game that would determine which team would advance to the Super Bowl.  The Patriots won the game 45-7.  But later that night, a reporter from Indianapolis published a story claiming that the Patriots were possibly using footballs that were below the regulation air pressure level that was acceptable by the league.  This sparked a five month long league investigation that eventually determined that it was “more probable than not” that the Patriots, and more specifically quarterback Tom Brady, had knowledge of the deflated balls and conspired for them to be that way in order to gain an advantage.  This report turned out to be highly controversial and many analysts were quick to point out the lack of specific evidence used to justify the findings.

Although ripe with error, the commissioner of the NFL, Roger Goodell, used the information in the report to suspend Brady for four games. The Patriots were also fined 1 million dollars and had several future draft picks taken away.  After a lengthy appeal process, Brady eventually had the suspension overturned in court.  The judge ruling on the case determined that the investigation performed by the league was not truly independent.  The judge also found that there was no precedent for such a harsh penalty given for such a small infraction.  Although Brady won his appeal, many people believe his legacy has taken a hit.

But with a little research, it is easy to find many other examples of great athletes admitting to equipment violations during their playing days.  The greatest wide receiver in NFL history, Jerry Rice, admitted to using Stickum on his gloves to help catch the footballs.  Stickum is a sticky spray substance that was commonly used in the league before it was banned in the early 80’s.  And in other sports like basketball, Phil Jackson and Shaquille O’neal have admitted to letting air out of basketballs during games to gain an advantage.  Shaq said during a podcast that “Sometimes, in the games during all my championship runs, if a ball was too hard, I let air out.  I’d have a needle. A friend of mine would have a needle and I would get the game ball. … I needed that extra grip, but I wasn’t doing that for cheating purposes. I just needed the extra grip for my hands so I could palm it, a la Michael Jordan, the way he used to palm it.”  And in 1986, Phil Jackson told the Chicago Tribune that “What we used to do was deflate the ball.  We were a short team with our big guys like Willis [Reed], our center, only about 6-8 and Jerry Lucas also 6-8, [Dave] DeBusschere, 6-6. So what we had to rely on was boxing out and hoping the rebound didn’t go long.  To help ensure that, we’d try to take some air out of the ball. You see, on the ball it says something like ‘inflate to 7 to 9 pounds.’ We’d all carry pins and take the air out to deaden the ball.”

When comparing the deflategate scandal to these other stunning admissions by great athletes, it begins to seem incredibly insignificant and common.  The main reason the story was so huge is because of the history of the Patriots and the prior Spygate scandal that caused them to lose money and draft picks 8 years ago.  Many teams and fans are envious and spiteful towards the Patriots because they win a lot of championships and are so hard to beat.  The real reason the Patriots win so much is because they have the greatest quarterback and head coach in the history of the league.  Tom Brady will be a first ballot hall of famer and go down as the greatest of all time.

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