Ted Wells was insistent on Tuesday that the NFL didn’t want any of this. An investigation, a suspension, draft pick penalties.
Maybe he’s right. After all, he said he examined the Patriots’ cries of league bias with a “sharp eye.”
But it’s apparent the league’s broadcasting and digital arms have decided to make the best of it. Once the NFL released its punishment of the Patriots on Monday, the NFL Network and NFL.com went all DeflateGate, all the time.
Through Monday night and all day Tuesday, the NFL Network featured wall-to-wall coverage of the punishment and fallout for the Patriots.
Wells’ conference call Tuesday afternoon was the content refill that kept the machine churning into Wednesday. It’s not going to let up anytime soon.
We aren’t suggesting the NFL shouldn’t cover Deflategate. Neither are we saying its coverage has shied from guests who claimed the punishment was too severe.
But the sometimes giddy tone of the coverage doesn’t match the grave moralizing of Troy Vincent in his announcing the discipline. Or any of Roger Goodell’s pursed-lip appearances peppered with words like “integrity” and “duty.”
It’s like laughing at a funeral.
Big deal, right? Nobody’s going to be offended but the Patriots and people in New England, and if the Patriots didn’t want an investigation and everything that came with it, maybe they shouldn’t have monkeyed with the footballs or been more forthright from the start. The Patriots are part of a league and that league created a news appendage that weighs in on the news the league creates. Robert Kraft knows that better than anyone.
But when Tom Brady’s attorneys are asked to make their case the league was biased, they can point to the tone of the coverage. Or the convenient timing of the report’s initial release – right after the NFL Draft concluded. By the time Wells’ report was made public the analysis and introductions of all the incoming players was complete and Wells report – which somehow took 103 days to finish – magically dropped into the void.
The aim wouldn’t be proving the NFL set a trap to help its web and TV ratings. The aim would be showing that, once the investigation began, an ancillary benefit existed for the league that was unique to this team and unique to this player. The NFL Network and NFL.com capitalized on that with their coverage.
The NFL may not have wanted this, as Wells said. But their media platforms have surely come to embrace it. And, ultimately, it gave the league office – and Roger Goodell – a chance to dispel the notion he was in the bag for Kraft and hopelessly over his head in managing anything but money.
You guys ever heard of the movie, “Wag the Dog”? If you got this far, check out this link. The movie had an interesting plot.