It didn’t matter how trumped up the charges were. It didn’t matter how sloppy, prejudicial and scummy the investigation was. The lies didn’t matter. The leaks didn’t matter. The damn science didn’t matter.
Tom Brady’s rights didn’t matter. Fairness didn’t matter.
What mattered was the power handed to Roger Goodell five years ago.
The Ginger Hammer had the right to rubber-stamp the bag-job investigation he authorized. He had the right to uphold the punishment he handed down. And the players gave it to him.
In the end – and we are close to the end – the ship that would have delivered Brady to freedom sailed in 2011. That was when Brady’s union and the NFL’s owners agreed to let Goodell sit on his iron throne and dispense his own brand of industrial justice.
That agreement came after the players aimed a bayonet at the owner’s hearts in the form of an antitrust lawsuit which bore Brady’s name (and nine others).
Brady vs. the NFL was just saber-rattling though. The players wanted a new and more lucrative CBA, not a fight over the antitrust exemption the NFL enjoys. So the union eventually took its newfound pay and benefits concessions from the league and punted on the discipline stuff.
And Monday, two of the three judges who heard the NFL’s appeal of Judge Berman pounded Brady and the NFLPA over the head with that concession.
“A federal court’s review of labor arbitration awards is narrowly circumscribed and highly deferential – indeed, among the most deferential in law. Our role is not to determine for ourselves whether Brady participated in a scheme to deflate footballs or whether the suspension imposed by the Commissioner should have been for three games or five games or none at all. Nor is it our role to second-guess the arbitrator’s procedural rulings,” wrote Second Circuit Judge Barrington D. Parker.
In brief, they don’t care what level of hack and paid character assassin Ted Wells is. And they don’t care that Brady’s alleged awareness of ball deflation was deemed worthy of the same penalty Goodell handed down to the subhuman Greg Hardy.
And they don’t care that the guy who upheld that absurd punishment was the same guy that handed it down. Because the players said he could do that.
“…if an arbitrator makes mistakes of fact or law, we may not disturb an award so long as he acted within the bounds of his bargained-for authority,” Parker added.
When the players agreed to let Goodell continue in his role as judge, jury and executioner, they never could have foreseen this eventuality.
Who would take seriously a scenario in which the greatest quarterback in the history of the game would be framed by a pack of stooges from the league office who’ve been riding along as lavishly-paid hemorrhoids for decades?
A scenario in which the franchise possessed by the league’s most embarrassing owner – Jim Irsay – with a knuckle-dragging Igor as GM – Ryan Grigson – would get the NFL to snap-to-attention over presumed ball deflation. Ball deflation so negligible even the league’s officials couldn’t detect it while handling the balls play after play.
A scenario in which the NFL would say, “Yes. We will wage this war for truth and justice,” yet when it learned what a fifth-grader should know – stuff goes flat when it’s cold out – they began to concoct and smear.
A scenario in which one player - with the tacit approval of a cabal of owners bent on seeing the Patriots get “theirs” - would become the NFL’s white whale.
A scenario in which a player who is representative of everything the league says it wants to embrace is held up by a serpentine Commissioner who’s lived off the NFL’s teat for three decades as lacking integrity.
One supposes if that scenario was laid out, the players might have thought twice. Then again, who would have ever believed it?
You can wail about the judges who sided against Brady and vacated Judge Berman’s decision. You can gnash your teeth about Goodell and his minions.
But Tom Brady was hoisted on his own petard, as they say. And there wasn’t nothing they could do about it. The whole thing reminds me of Goodfellas.