By the end of the day, the four-game suspension of four-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Tom Brady will begin.
To restate it for the 6,438th time, the suspension of one of the greatest players in NFL history was handed down because the NFL believes the Patriots let air out of the balls after official inspection during the 2014 AFC Championship Game.
Simple science that the league ignored explained the pressure drop that night but, like a crooked police force proceeding in a murder investigation after finding the victim still alive, the league framed the circumstantial evidence it uncovered to make it appear a deflation long-standing deflation scheme was afoot in Foxboro.
While the actual penalty begins today, Brady and the Patriots have been feeling the effects of the NFL’s witch hunt for nearly 20 months.
Who and what got hit by the fallout? Brady, his family and his reputation. Former Patriots equipment manager John Jastremski and his family. Long-time gameday employee Jim McNally and his family. Patriots owner Robert Kraft and his relationship with Patriots fans. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and his standing with the public. NFL VP of Operations Mike Kensil, who was the initial point man on the investigation, now working to develop a league toehold in China. NFL lead counsel and Goodell’s right-hand man Jeff Pash who was involved early and believed to be pulling the strings to get the Patriots punished. Investigator Ted Wells, whose abrasiveness and evasiveness while proclaiming his independence from the league’s breast pocket left him looking like a clown.
There are more. But I’m tired.
What got me on this jag was thinking back to how it started. All the way back to the email, written by Colts equipment man Sean Sullivan prior to the Patriots-Colts matchup.
Sullivan, after a conversation with Ravens equipment man Jerry Rosburg (Baltimore lost to the Patriots at Gillette the week before in a terrific Divisional Playoff Game), fired off an email to his GM Ryan Grigson. The email – partially published in the Wells Report – read:
"Two concerns came up as of yesterday on footballs at New England. First off the special teams coordinator from the Baltimore Ravens called Coach Pagano and said that they had issues last week at the game that when they were kicking [Baltimore that is] they were given new footballs instead of the ones that were prepared correctly."
"As far as the gameballs are concerned it is well known around the league that after the Patriots gameballs are checked by the officials and brought out for game usage the ballboys for the patriots will let out some air with a ball needle because their quarterback likes a smaller football so he can grip it better, it would be great if someone would be able to check the air in the game balls as the game goes on so that they don’t get an illegal advantage."
From there, Grigson sent forwarded the Colts’ concerns to Kensil and another league VP of Operations named Dave Gardi.
Grigson concluded his missive saying:
"all the Indianapolis Colts want is a completely level playing field. Thank you for being vigilant stewards of that not only for us but for the shield and overall integrity of our game."
Invoking the word “shield” and pressing for the “integrity of the game” to be upheld were dogwhistle buzzwords for Kensil and Gardi.
Those were words that dribbled routinely off the tongue of Goodell. And both Kensil and Gardi had Goodell to thank for the boost they both got into the NFL offices. Goodell, who worked as a Jets intern before leaping into the bosom of the league office, brought longtime Jets executive Kensil into the league office in 2006. Gardi, son of a longtime Jets exec, came aboard in 2010.
Game officials were alerted to be on guard.
But it wasn’t until a Brady interception occurred that the Colts and the league were able to move into joint action.
Colts linebacker D’Qwell Jackson handed it to Colts executive David Thornton, who handed it to assistant equipment manager Brian Seabrooks. Seabrooks thought the ball was soft – predictably, given that Indy was lying in wait to check – and asked an equipment intern to check the pressure. The PSI was allegedly 11.
Seabrooks gave the ball to Sullivan who alerted Grigson, who laughably burst into a press box suite containing Kensil and the ever-clueless Troy Vincent and said, “We are playing with a small ball.”
Wells – with a presumably straight face – would later report that there was no “sting” in place that night.
Obviously, there was. It was orchestrated and perpetrated and in the end millions of dollars were wasted.
The suspension starts today which means – ironically – the end is finally beginning.