I’ve witnessed a slew of scandals during my first 75 years, but I think the dumbest of all may be the scandal known as deflategate -- and the severe penalty it incurred.
Deflategate, for those who skip the sports pages, refers to the deflation of footballs used in the first half of the Jan. 18 AFC Championship game between the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts, won by the Patriots 45-7.
Tests showed that the footballs used by Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the first half were slightly underinflated.
The balls normally are inflated to a pressure between 12.5 to 13.5 pounds per square inch. These were about two pounds per square inch lighter, making them easier to throw and catch, and resulted in a four-game suspension of Brady by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
It was a harsher punishment than other players have received for more serious transgressions, including domestic abuse and other illegal activities.
Making Brady, arguably the best player in the NFL, miss one-quarter of a season because an equipment man removed air from the footballs seems ludicrous.
Federal Judge Richard Berman, speaking at a hearing Wednesday, sounded like he agreed.
Pointing to the lack of direct evidence that Brady had anything to do with deflating the footballs -- or ordering the footballs deflated, Berman asked:
“What is the evidence of a scheme or conspiracy that covers the Jan. 18 game? I’m having trouble finding it.”
There is no such evidence, but the NFL argues that there is no evidence because Brady had an assistant destroy a cell phone just before he appeared before a special investigator.
Brady said he had gotten a new phone and didn’t need the old one -- admittedly a pretty lame explanation, knowing he probably would be asked about it.
The irony is that the deflated footballs used in the first half did not help the Patriots much. Most of the scoring was in the second half, when the Patriots pulverized the Colts -- to use a colorful but apt sports word.
I’m not necessarily a fan of Brady or the Patriots, but a four-game suspension with no more evidence than a destroyed cell phone is harsh indeed.
Some have said Goodell threw the book at the Patriots because the team had been caught cheating in the past. The Patriots were fined $1 million for deflategate, which has been paid.
I get Goodell’s treatment of the Patriots organization (yes, I know, spoken like a true Green Bay Packers fan), but why the severe treatment of Brady with such little evidence?
As it is, this scandal, already six months old, appears never-ending. One pundit even suggested that with appeals it could extend into 2017.
Spare us, oh Lord Roger. Lighten the penalty and let’s get on with the season.
Contact Bob Bestler at firstname.lastname@example.org.