OK, the verdict is in. Tom Brady is out for 4 games without pay (costs him something in the neighborhood of $4-5M), the Pats are fined $1M (peanuts) and the Pats lose two draft picks (first round in 2016 and 4th round in 2017). Of course, this is pending appeals and grievances and the like, but for now…
Try to shed any vestige you may have of your dislike for the Patriots or your Patriots’ fanboy attire. Is this punishment commensurate with the alleged crime? I say alleged because after about 4 months and 243 pages of turgid prose, the best the investigators could come up with was “more probably than not” and “generally aware”. If that is the new standard for “proof” in the NFL and if those penalties are the new standard for punishment, teams and players had best beware.
Try to shed any vestige you may have of your dislike for the Patriots or your Patriots’ fanboy attire. Is this punishment a surprise? I say it is not surprising at all because the NFL had pretty much painted itself into a corner with regard to punishments. The only thing that is surprising is the magnitude of the sanctions.
Oh, and before folks get carried away with saying that Tom Brady is the highest profile player ever to get a severe punishment from the league, please recall that Paul Hornung was suspended for an entire season back in 1963.
Enough about Deflategate for now; there will be more as appeals and grievances happen…
The next blot on the NFL’s escutcheon arrived yesterday when it was revealed that 14 teams were paid by the National Guard to stage things like salutes to soldiers and other flag waving events. The National Guard says that it did this as a recruiting tool for an all-volunteer army; I have no problem with that. I do have a problem with the fact that this was a sponsored event and that fact was not disclosed. When Pepsi or Budweiser sponsors an event, it is pretty clear that they are ponying up some cash or promotional considerations to get to do that. When there is a salute to veterans or a tribute to the troops, one could – in the past – delude oneself to believe that the teams or the league were self-motivated to honor the troops. It turns out that the honor bestowed on the troops was bought and paid for – very quietly – with funds allocated to the DoD.
Why the secrecy? I think it is simple. It looks sleazy – and now that it is open to public scrutiny, it will look even sleazier if that is even a word. It appears that 14 NFL teams shared a total of $5.4M in DoD funds. If you care to see which teams got how much money, here is a link that will give you that information.
So, what might be next for the NFL…?
Santa Claus appears in stadiums because a retailer like Target or Nordstrom paid the NFL for the appearance?
The league does not donate to breast cancer charities after wearing pink for a month, the charities are paying the league to have the players wear pink?
The punt pass and kick competition is rigged and parents buy their kids way into the finals?
So, you think I am just being cynic? Maybe so, but I do not quite achieve the ultimate level of cynicism as defined by H. L. Mencken:
“A cynic is a man who, when he smells flowers, looks around for a coffin.”
I am sure you have heard by now that Bill Simmons and ESPN are parting company starting in the Fall. Unlike many other reporters, I will not profess to know what he might or might not be doing next. Unlike others, I have no insight into the events within ESPN that led to this situation. Here is what I know.
Bill Simmons and ESPN have been together for more than 10 years. Simmons created and led Grantland.com starting with a concept and turning it into a highly regarded website for long-form commentary on sports and pop-culture. He also was one of the prime motive forces behind ESPN’s 30-for-30 documentaries. He has appeared on various studio shows for ESPN and has been a fill-in host on PTI on occasion.
Back when the Ray Rice Affair was front-page news, Simmons called Roger Goodell a liar on his podcast. The NFL and ESPN have more than a passing acquaintance in the financial arena and Simmons earned a 2-week suspension for that remark. I agree at that point he crossed the line. Recently, he was a guest on Dan Patrick’s syndicated radio show and made another comment about Goodell that was less than flattering. He said Goodell lacked “testicular fortitude”. Soon after that, ESPN announced that they will not be renewing Simmons’ contract in September.
Bill Simmons is a talented guy; I do not think there is a lot of argument about that. He may be replaceable in terms of finding someone to edit/lead Grantland.com. However, one thing I read made me stop and shake my head:
According to reports, ESPN will retain ownership of his ESPN outlets one of which is his podcast, “The B. S. Report”.
The initials there stand for Bill Simmons and not the gutter phrase for ovine offal. I do not know how ESPN thinks it will carry on “The B. S. Report” in the absence of “B. S.” unless of course they have Keith Olbermann do it in the persona of Bob Slurm…
Finally, this item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times demonstrates that if you look hard enough, you can find something good to say about anything:
“Comedy writer Alex Kaseberg, on the Orioles and White Sox playing inside an empty stadium: ‘On the bright side, nobody did the wave.’”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………