Reading the NFL’s breathless release Monday afternoon that the investigation of St. Peyton came back clean as a whistle and that, hell, ol’ Pey-Pey couldn’t have been more accommodating to the investigators (wink, nudge), the words of Elvis Costello occurred to me.
Oh, I used to be disgusted, but now I try to be amused …
Nobody in their right mind ever believed the NFL would get taint all over Manning post-retirement. Having just spent 18 months dragging Tom Brady’s through the streets, they were going to let him loose and hitch up Manning? Please.
But you figured they’d just slip a note to one of their many media friendlies that the investigation into Huge Head’s alleged HGH use was concluded and move on. Instead, it got “MAN LANDS ON MOON!” treatment complete with a neener-neener subhed that read: “Mannings Fully Cooperated with League Investigation into Allegations in Documentary.”
If they could have used the “in tears from laughter” emoji, they would have. They just can’t help themselves.
But I’m not dog-whistling for the anti-Manning crowd to get up in arms. I’m definitely not inviting a renewed parsing of the Deflategate facts, the Ideal Gas Law or Article 46.
I just don’t think that using HGH – particularly in the realm of recovery – is a mortal NFL sin. The job demands unnatural things from the body, it invites unnatural recovery methods. I’ve always regarded the league’s foot-dragging on HGH testing to be partly because they don’t want to know.
Conspiring to spirit game balls away after they were checked by the officials and let the air out of them does seem a bit more nefarious.
But wasn’t it Roger Goodell himself that equated deflating footballs to PED usage? I’ll answer that. Yes. Yes it was.
That being the case, I need to point out the lack of apparent intensity in going after Manning compared to the never-say-die, multimillion- dollar, league-hijacking, shield-tarnishing witch hunt conducted by the NFL when it came to Brady.
Did anyone in the Manning camp – from Tom Condon to Ari Fleischer – ever have Mike Kensil growling, “You guys are in big f******* trouble”? Was anyone at the Guyer Institute summoned for 14 hours of questioning by guys like Jeff Pash or Ted Wells?
Did Manning ever have to fend off league-leaked misinformation to reporters that the NFL allowed to stand even when the NFL knew the information was a lie?
Of course he didn’t. Manning is a friendly. The Manning family is the NFL equivalent of the Kennedys. And the people Manning was closest to during his time in the NFL – Tony Dungy, Bill Polian, even the repulsive Jim Irsay – aren’t people the league would want to alienate by subjecting Manning to the same kind of public cavity search Brady was.
Again, not that I expected or even believed the league should have done that. The guy is retired, after all. He got out of Dodge.
But it was Goodell that invited this comparison when he handed down his appeal ruling last July, stating that, “In terms of the appropriate level of discipline, the closest parallel of which I am aware is the collectively bargained discipline imposed for a first violation of the policy governing performance enhancing drugs; steroid use reflects an improper effort to secure a competitive advantage in, and threatens the integrity of, the game. Since the advent of our testing for steroid use in the 1980’s and now, pursuant to our Collective Bargaining Agreement, the first positive test for the use of performance enhancing drugs has resulted in a four-game suspension without the need for any finding of actual competitive effect.”
So, if the violations were created equal, why wasn’t Manning dealing with the same presumption of guilt Brady did and the same level of fact-finding?
You already know but I’ll answer it anyway. “Getting” Peyton Manning was the last thing the NFL wanted to do. The Patriots have been the Moby Dick to the NFL’s Captain Ahab for nearly two decades.
One last thing to note on this. It’s actually sad that it seems implausible the NFL did a full and exhaustive investigation and a fully cooperative Manning was able to conclusively prove he never used HGH.
Not because of Manning’s lack of credibility. Because of the NFL’s.