By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- It's been six years -- six years! -- since the term "DeflateGate" first entered our collective consciousness. Out little DeflateGate baby is ready to head off to kindergarten, and most of the world has largely forgotten the details of the matter.
Those of us in New England have not.
That is largely because the end result of Roger Goodell's actions brought about a four-game suspension for Tom Brady, and a massive penalty in fines and draft picks to the Patriots. Despite the league getting exposed for tracking PSI data and then destroying it all without sharing to the public that basic physics does in fact come into play in the real world, despite the NFL lying to a Second Circuit court about Brady's testimony, and despite about a half-dozen other egregious instances of overreach and deceit on behalf of the commissioner and the NFL, the overriding narrative to the saga has typically been summed up with the punishment.
Of course, since Brady was "busted" for this elaborate "cheating method" (regarding air pressure, which is a topic zero human beings have ever cared or noticed before or after this historic event), he's put together a third Hall of Fame career. He beat and earned Super Bowl MVP honors against the potentially dynastic Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX despite an avalanche of pressure regarding PSI, he came up three points shy of making another Super Bowl the next year, he earned Super Bowl MVP honors again the following season with the 28-3 comeback win over Atlanta, he set a Super Bowl record with 505 passing yards in the next year's Super Bowl, and two years later he outdueled young stud Patrick Mahomes en route to winning another Super Bowl.
Since handing Brady a four-game suspension, Goodell's also had to hand him two Lombardis and a Super Bowl MVP trophy on a grand stage with the whole world watching.
Now at age 43, Brady's back in another Super Bowl -- his 10th -- with a new team.
It's almost like ... a fraction of air pressure wasn't at the root of all his success. Who knew?!
Anyways, the commissioner spoke to the media on Thursday, an annual tradition on Super Bowl week. And The Boston Globe's Ben Volin was on hand to ask Goodell in person about Brady, and whether the commissioner still beleives such a heavy-handed punishment was the right and just thing to have done at the time.
If you thought that an older, wiser Goodell might reflect back upon the scenario with some sobering perspective, then congratulations and welcome to your first Roger Goodell press conference!
Instead of answering the punishment part of the question, Goodell rambled on and on about how great and wonderful Brady is.
"You know, Tom Brady has shown that he is probably the greatest player to ever play this game. His leadership, his ability to rise to the big occasions and make everybody rise around him-- that's what's absolutely incredible to me," Goodell said, avoiding the question. "Everyone just plays better when they're with him. And so he's an exceptional talent. But more importantly, he's one of the great guys. I've known him for probably 15 years, and he's an extraordinary guy. He's just, he's real and he cares about this game, deeply. He cares about the people involved with the game."
Goodell's filibustering non-answer concluded: "And so for me, I wish them well. I think he's gonna continue to be a great performer. I'm glad to hear he's gonna play a few more years."
Gee, that's great.
The dodging of the question was, of course, entirely predictable.
In years past, Goodell has tiptoed around direct questions about the matter. Regarding his and the NFL's lies about tracking PSI data in 2015, he conveniently changed the protocol to "spot checks" instead of data recording. In the case of literally every single scientific mind in the country explaining in plain detail that the PSI of footballs has been outside of the permissible range thousands of times in NFL history ...
... and in the case of the NFL outright admitting that air temperature affects ball pressure by switching out footballs at halftime of a frigid Seahawks-Vikings playoff game, Goodell has metaphorically shrugged his shoulders when presented with basic evidence that his yearslong pursuit of Brady was more or less a witch hunt based on accusations from the Colts and Ravens.
All players must be treated the same. All teams must be treated the same. Nobody is exempt from the rules.
Of course, when similar air pressure concerns were raised in games that didn't involve Tom Brady, those matters were cleared up instantly. But, yes, certainly every team and every player has been treated the same on the matter. For sure.
In any event, Goodell and the NFL were laid bare for acting improperly and operating in deceit during the entire fiasco. A basic understanding of the physical laws that dictate our lives might have helped him from preventing the situation from spiraling out of control six years ago, but Goodell can't be concerned about having ever been wrong in the past. It's not in his nature.
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