After almost two years of federal court cases, independent investigations, and general media sensationalism, the Deflategate controversy is finally over. Tom Brady, the New England Patriots’ star quarterback, has completed his four-game suspension and will return to the field to take out months of pent up anger on the helpless Cleveland Browns.
The Deflategate saga began almost two years ago after the 2015 AFC Championship game between the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts. The game was a rout—the Patriots won 45-7—and would have been forgettable were it not for the absurdity that followed. Unknown to fans at the time, Colts linebacker D’Qwell Jackson noticed an issue with an intercepted Patriots football, prompting NFL officials to test the air pressure of all 12 Patriots footballs at halftime to ensure that they were inflated as specified by the NFL rulebook. The officials tested the footballs, reinflated them, and returned them to the game. Nonetheless, the NFL publicly stated that they would be investigating the reports of underinflated footballs. A media frenzy ensued.
Immediately, the press sensationalized the initial reports of the controversy, creating a narrative that pitted the New England Patriots against the world. Sports “journalists” offered their opinion on the facts, the analysis of the facts, and the analysis of the analysis of the facts. Even Ben Affleck and Matt Damon weighed in on the controversy. The situation unraveled so fast that the NFL commissioned New York attorney Ted Wells to investigate and compile a report of what really happened.
The Wells report charged a Patriots assistant equipment manager–who called himself “the deflator” in a series of text messages, reportedly in reference to his “weight loss”– with deflating the game balls. Wells also concluded that it was “more probable than not” that Brady was fully aware of the conspiracy. This led to the punishment for the quarterback and his team. Since NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell believes deflating footballs is comparable to using steroids, he suspended Brady for four games without pay at the start of the 2015 season and fined the Patriots organization. However, this was only the beginning of the mayhem.
Brady appealed the suspension in the 2015 summer and the battle between the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) and the NFL intensified. The NFLPA filed an internal appeal within the NFL’s judicial system. Unsurprisingly, Goodell upheld Brady’s punishment, so the NFLPA did what any good American labour union would do and sued. Hoping to reach a settlement, the judge eventually threw out Brady’s suspension; however, the NFL appealed that decision and won. In yet another strange turn of events, the court cited landmark American labour union legislation as the basis for their case. Brady appealed one last time, and failed. He still had the opportunity to appeal to The Supreme Court of the United States, but ultimately decided against it. He ultimately served his four-game suspension a season late, in 2016.
The entire Deflategate scandal was truly ridiculous. That federal court cases, surveillance footage, and Bill Nye became part of a story about deflated balls is the definition of absurdity. However, even Goodell couldn’t stop Belichick and a pair of irrelevant quarterbacks from stringing together a 3-1 while Brady served his suspension. Nothing can stop the New England Patriots’ domination: Not road games, not injuries, not even ‘Deflategate.’