'Dumb,' 'Ill-Conceived,' 'Justified': Sports Writers React To NFL Ruling Against Patriots

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady walks off the field after throwing an interception during the NFL Super Bowl XLIX against the Seattle Seahawks Sunday on Feb. 1, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (Matt Slocum/AP)
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady walks off the field after throwing an interception during the NFL Super Bowl XLIX against the Seattle Seahawks Sunday on Feb. 1, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (Matt Slocum/AP)

Some call the NFL's "DeflateGate" ruling ridiculous. Others say the Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady had it coming.

In all, the punishment — a four-game suspension for Brady, a $1 million fine against the Patriots and a lost of two draft picks for the team — over the use of deflated footballs in the AFC Championship has inspired plenty of fiery opinions. Here's what some sports writers and columnists said:

Mike Reiss, ESPN - "A blistering penalty"

No sugarcoating it. The NFL just crushed the Patriots. This is an extreme reaction despite not having definitive proof.

More from Reiss on WBUR:

Chris Gasper, The Boston Globe - "This is a decision so ill-conceived"

From the beginning, Deflategate was about more than playing with under-inflated footballs in the AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts. It was about dredging up Spygate. It was about re-opening an old wound and settling an old score. It was about the belief by other teams that the Patriots were recidivist rule-breakers who skated because owner Robert Kraft was pulling the strings on Goodell. It was about Goodell, flexing the biceps he didn’t have in 2007, when just 13 months into his tenure he had to rule on Spygate.

Steve Buckley, Boston Herald - "This was colossally dumb"

It’s only after Pats fans accept this sobering reality that we can proceed to the next phase of this discussion, which is that the severity of the suspension is further proof that the National Football League is frighteningly out of control. ... Does the punishment fit the crime? If it’s just Brady and a couple of equipment guys concocting a scheme that wouldn’t have gotten past the first-read table of an old “Three Stooges” shoot, the punishment is too severe.

Jackie MacMullan, ESPN - "Neither Brady nor the Patriots needed deflated balls to achieve greatness"

Let me be clear: Brady and the Patriots deserve to be punished. They circumvented the rules on the proper inflation of the balls, then they flopped into a bunker like Sgt. Schultz ("I know nothing!") once the balls were confiscated and tested at halftime of the AFC Championship Game.

The Patriots have once again proven to be their own worst enemy and most formidable opponent, playing loose with the rules to provide an advantage that is negligible at best.

Ben Volin, The Boston Globe - "Brady is the one taking the fall"

The Patriots have no one to blame for this but themselves. They have been arrogant and defiant from the start — demanding apologies when none were deserved, ignoring Goodell’s orders of full cooperation and obstructing Ted Wells’s investigation.

Adam Kilgore, The Washington Post - "Humility would have quelled the controversy"

The suspension, which is justified, is not about how much of an illicit advantage the Patriots gained (probably not much), the behavior of the NFL (suspect at best) or the flaws within Ted Wells’s report (numerous). Poking those holes dances around the crucial issue: Brady flouted a rule, and then lied about it to the public and to investigators. The latter matters as much as the former.

Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News - "Someday, the NFL will get this whole suspension thing right"

In the end, it knew that coming down hard on Brady would please everyone else outside New England. Now they're just dealing with the ire of Patriots players and fans, instead of the fan bases of the other 31 teams.

As for the Patriots' organization, from Spygate through Deflategate, it has been asking for this kind of gross misjudgment from the NFL. The league has been aware of the Patriots' Evil Empire perception, and it had to overcompensate with a reality all too harsh.

Ian O'Connor, ESPN - "Brady needs to come clean right now"

Much sooner rather than later, Tom Brady needs to call the most important audible of his football life. His crime against sport is not in the same ballpark as those committed by Pete Rose, Lance Armstrong and Alex Rodriguez, not even close, so there is no reason to follow their path of endless denial and deceit before finally telling the truth.

Dan Shaughnessy, The Boston Globe - "Your football dynasty is no longer credible"

It might be time to stop minimizing the actual infraction in question. It doesn’t matter that New England won the AFC Championship game, 45-7. What matters is the notion that perhaps the Patriots were in position to crush the Colts because of systematic cheating over the course of the season, or perhaps longer.

Steve Almond, WBUR's Cognoscenti - "Even the most blessed and powerful of characters will fall from grace if their only motive is the desire to win a game"

The central lesson to be drawn from this mess we’ve agreed to call “Deflate-Gate” is that the basic ingredients of Greek Drama hold up quite well, even in a helmet and shoulder pads. For here is a story Aristotle would have recognized as archetypal: the hero brought low by a power greater than himself. 

Tom Curran, Comcast SportsNet - "The Patriots got hit ... because they are the Patriots"

Goodell’s no lawyer. And he’s been lashing around with his discipline stick like he’s trying to kill a bat in a darkened room.

The man screwed up so prominently and so often the only way to save face — maybe — and restore some confidence — maybe — was to go Big Game Hunting. And, as it turned out, Big Name Hunting.

No bigger game than the Patriots. No bigger name than Brady.

Chris Perkins, The South Florida Sun Sentinel - "It doesn’t tarnish [Brady's] legacy"

If you learned Dolphins legend Dan Marino used deflated footballs would you think any less of his career? I wouldn’t. Marino, to me, would remain one of the NFL’s all-time great quarterbacks. The same privilege should apply to New England quarterback Tom Brady.


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Zeninjor Enwemeka Senior Business Reporter
Zeninjor Enwemeka is a senior business reporter who covers business, tech and culture as part of WBUR's Bostonomix team, which focuses on the innovation economy.



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