Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is, in all likelihood, a cheater. That’s the consensus of the just-released Wells Report into the deflation of footballs prior to last season’s AFC Championship game.
Reaction of the Football World: AAARRRRGGGHHH.
Reaction of Patriots Nation: YAAAAAWWWWWNNNN.
Here’s one deadbolt lock for the season opener against the Steelers in September: Brady’s reception at Gillette Stadium will be downright Lindbergh-esque. (That assumes, of course, that Brady hasn’t been suspended. Just sayin’.)
The Patriots are about as popular as Ebola, and this only makes it worse.
DeflateGate is viewed through two, vastly different prisms in Football America. The Patriots and their fans will blame the hapless functionaries, fall guys and gofers; they will note that coach Bill Belichick and Patriots owner Bob Kraft were exonerated; and they will say that there was no “smoking gun.”
The rest of the nation? The Patriots are about as popular as Ebola, and this only makes it worse. They’re going to contest a Princeton scientist? Ha! The words “more probable than not” translate into “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
To wit: A reader responded to a New York Times column by writing, “Tom, say hello to your new friend Lance Armstrong.” The New York Post, as only it can (and will) do, had Brady on its front page Thursday with the headline, “NFL probe has Brady... BY THE BALLS!” Its back page called Brady a “Pretty Little Liar.” This is the same august publication that had Brady on its cover the day after the Super Bowl with the headline “How Cheat It Is.”
But, four months from now, the quest for a fifth Super Bowl for Brady will trump those pesky, irksome, “more probable than not” conclusions of the Wells Report. As The Onion observed, “the American populace went on to say that they also absolutely cannot wait to hear how this new scandal will have no effect on the legacy of Tom Brady.”
In that sense, New England is no different than any other NFL locale in terms of its unwavering and unconditional support for its team.
Think of the Minnesota Vikings female fan wearing an Adrian Peterson jersey and carrying a homemade switch to their game, or the female fans of the Baltimore Ravens wearing Ray Rice jerseys. (We can envision the creative signs and apparel that will be on display for the nationally televised game against the Steelers.)
Brady’s supposed transgression pales in comparison to those of Peterson and Rice. He’s not accused of a crime. But he does stand accused of cheating. Or, to be specific, “it is more probable than not that Brady was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities.”
He does stand accused of stonewalling, for, despite being overly accommodating in his daylong meeting with NFL investigators (according to his agent), he put his foot down on letting them see his emails and text messages.
If he’s got nothing to hide, why not release them, says The Rest of America?
None of their &*#@*&$% business, says Patriots Nation.
Sports fans are incredibly forgiving, especially if the player happens to be someone like Brady who, until Wednesday, was regarded as Sir Lancelot. Handsome. Dashing. Accomplished. Married to a va-va-va-voom. The fans will look at reasonable evidence and dismiss it out of hand. They will see signs of conspiracy, malfeasance or other dastardly deeds on the part of the opposition. They will see no smoking gun. They may see smoke. But they will see no fire.
Brady’s “team” is already in full-fledge attack/denial mode, from his father (“Framegate”) to his agent (“a significant and terrible disappointment.”) And you’d expect either guy to, you know, NOT defend Brady? One sired him. The other is on his payroll. It’s his job.
But I think that will also be the overwhelming reaction in Patriots Nation. And by “overwhelming,” I mean like 99.999 percent. Somewhere there might be a dissenter, like one of those Japanese soldiers on a South Pacific island who thinks World War II hasn’t ended. But you will have a hard time finding him. Or her.
Sports fans are incredibly forgiving, especially if the player happens to be someone like Brady who, until Wednesday, was regarded as Sir Lancelot.
The Wells Report (remember that?) will be gone and long forgotten by September. If, by chance, the NFL disciplines Brady, that will only ramp things up among those who already feel that Patriots Nation is an island — alone, isolated and defiant.
The rest of the football world doesn’t hate or resent the Patriots because they are successful. They hate and resent them because they are successful, and they have this history of, well, pushing the envelope. They cheated in 2007 with Spygate. They got caught. They were fined.
Those things are a big deal to a lot of people, but, in a Patriots Nation teeming with Brady-ophiles, they are mere spitballs against the battleship. And so is this.