Tag Archives: Tom Brady

Pats Fans, Don’t Worry. I Figured Out Our Defense.

Look at this man. You all should be ashamed of yourselves.

Look at this man. You all should be ashamed of yourselves.

 

As a lifelong Patriots fan, I feel that having a basic understanding of what has become known as “deflategate” is sort of my duty, even though any attempt by Roger Goodell or the NFL to investigate or adjudicate anything is almost categorically doomed from the start, especially something as silly and inconsequential as whether footballs were slightly deflated. I felt that, like Spygate, this was an inconsequential bit of reckless competitive exuberance, a violation that was made horrible not from the advantage it gave the perpetrators but for the ammunition it gave their detractors. We are now talking about Tom Brady’s Legacy like it’s a stock. How will this affect his legacy? Do you expect to see his legacy dip when the market opens tomorrow? Please. Four Super Bowls are immune to market fluctuations.

All that being said, the Wells report seems to be a serious investigation, so let’s take it seriously. Before we do, let’s establish what we already know.

  1. The balls the Patriots used in the AFC championship were under inflated at halftime, a violation of league rules. The Colts’ balls were not, which would seem to rule out environmental factors as the cause of said under-inflation.
  2. Each team is responsible for providing their own game balls, thanks to a 2006 rule change that Tom Brady was instrumental in bringing about.
  3. The pressure of the balls were measured before the game by officials and were deemed legal.
  4. Tom Brady likes his balls at the low end of the pressure spectrum.
  5. Tom Brady at the time said publicly that he didn’t know anything about why the balls were underinflated. So did Bill Belichick (although Belichick sort of weirdly deflected all questions to Brady).
  6. Roger Goodell has monumentally fucked up every investigation he’s been a part of.
  7. Both Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are infallible.
  8. Indianapolis is super annoying, hates gay people, and stole Baltimore’s team.
  9. Science is still out on how air pressure works.

Proceeding from those unassailable presuppositions, let’s examine the Wells report and figure out how to serve justice based on its contents.

The Wells report reaches the conclusion, which it states near the beginning of the text (talk about starting with a conclusion and working backwards!) that:

“It is more probably than not that Jim McNally (the Officials Locker Room attendant for the Patriots) and John Jastremski (an equipment assistant for the Patriots) participated in a deliberate effort to release air from Patriots game balls after the balls were examined by the referee. Based on the evidence, it also is our view that it is more probable than not that Tom Brady (the quarterback for the Patriots) was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities of McNally and Jastremski involving the release of air from Patriots game balls.”

First of all, let’s dissect some of the legalese here. “More probable than not” is a sort of sloppy and unscientific way of saying “we have zero proof of this.” “More probable than not” would never get you a conviction in a court of law, and anybody who thinks that Roger Goodell has the legal authority to suspend someone and take away millions of dollars in pay based on “more probable than not” is out of their fucking minds. Will he try it? Maybe, he sort of has to if he wants to keep this “defender of the shield” nonsense going. After attacking the livelihoods of so many (mostly black) players with impunity, it would hurt his credibility to turn a blind eye to a supposed infraction from a white player who just so happens to be the (beautiful) face of football. It would, anyway, if Goodell had any credibility left to hurt.

The “evidence” that implicates Brady is almost exclusively limited to the texts between McNally and Jastremski. Those texts seem to indicate that Tom was pressuring McNally to keep the balls deflated and that he was giving McNally sporting goods in exchange for his off-the-books secondary job as Tom Brady’s personal ball handler (you would think that job would be its own compensation, but alas, we live in crass times).

McNally seems generally pissed at Brady. “Fuck tom” he texts to Jastremski (the report doesn’t indicate whether he was immediately struck by lightning after this was sent). In his anger at Brady for being a professional and asking him to prepare the balls according to the preferences of a four time Super Bowl champion, he seems to threaten that he will over inflate the balls, promising “watermelons,” “rugby balls” and “balloons” as retaliation.

What is clear from the text exchanges between McNally, Jastremski and Brady himself is that Brady was very particular about how he liked his balls. We know he liked them with less pressure, which is why McNally is always threatening to over inflate them and why Jastremski calls him a “Spaz” for making the same joke/threat for what we have to assume is a really annoying number of times. What there is no evidence of, however, is that Tom asked either of them to do anything illegal or against the rules. It does not take any sort of leap of faith to read the shit that Tom was giving McNally about ball pressure as a desire to keep the balls at the lowest legal point of pressure. Tom could have been giving him shoes and signed jerseys specifically for that reason, because Tom knew it was outside of the scope of McNally’s normal responsibilities and because the Patriots wouldn’t put “Tom Brady’s personal ball handler” as a payroll expense on the budget.

The Wells report tries to use one particular exchange as evidence that McNally knew he was doing something illegal and was at least jokingly threatening to go to the media with information. He texted Jestermski “jimmy needs some kicks…lets make a deal…come on help the deflator” followed by “Chill buddy im just fuckin with you ….im not going to espn……yet.” This exchange could just as easily be read as a negotiation: the employee (McNally) is trying to negotiate a better perks package at his job by threatening to take an offer of employment from ESPN. Did the Wells report people think about asking if McNally had ever applied to ESPN? Of course not.

The AFC championship game is one of the most high pressure games of the year. Everyone in the organization feels that pressure to be perfect, from Tom Brady all the way down to one James McNally. Jim McNally’s job was to deliver the balls, but maybe he was worried that the balls were not as Tom liked. Even though he wasn’t supposed to, maybe he deflated them a bit, not to push them under the legal limit, but to ensure they weren’t overinflated. After all, we know that Jastremski texted McNally that “I checked some of the balls this morn… The refs fucked us…a few of then [sic] were almost at 16.” Was it possible that McNally saw how overinflated the game balls were, and, knowing that he would be the one to hear about it if Brady was displeased with the ball pressure, decided to deflate the balls to a lower legal amount? Maybe he went too far, but that is his fault, not Brady’s.

The Wells report also makes a big deal out of the fact that Brady had many phone calls and even a meeting with Jastremski after the story broke following the AFC championship game, and uses this as some sort of evidence to implicate Tom, which is totally unfair. If Brady knew he had been pressuring Jastremski to keep the balls inflated to the lowest legal limit, wouldn’t he want to talk to him after the controversy erupted and the sky darkened under a cloud of fiery hot takes? Wouldn’t he want to get to the bottom of it? He’s a good employer, and, caring about his employee, wanted to shield him from a media shitstorm, so of course the “timing and frequency of telephone communications” was related to the scandal. That’s why he gripped the podium in terror and lied when he was asked about his ball preference: because he was trying to keep his guys out of trouble. He’s loyal to his people, maybe loyal to a fault, which is why when the NFL asked him about McNally, he pretended to not even know who he was out of loyalty. We should all be so lucky to have friends like Tom Brady, who forget we exist when times get tough.

So what, then, should happen next? What should Roger Goodell do, besides take his millions and retire to some island where he can suspend human being for sport so we never have to await his misguided judgement on situations like this ever again?

There is only one rational answer: he should make Jim McNally apologize for swearing at Tom behind his back via text. The NFL really needs to crack down on that kind of thing.

 

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The Greatest Run in Obnoxious Sports Fan History Comes to an End

It appears the greatest era of major sport dominance in American history is now coming to a close. As New England sports fans, we knew this was coming. We couldn’t be this obnoxious forever.

We’ve talked about it for years now, wondering how much longer all four Boston teams could be playing at championship levels.  For educated fans (and what fan base prides themselves on their education and knowledge more than New England fans?) we couldn’t help but notice the parallels between rooting for a truly dominant sports empire during a decade that saw our country’s preeminent geopolitical position challenged and weakened both from outside and within. We knew that nothing lasts forever, that pride goes before a fall, and that empires, like everything else in this world, are either growing or dying.

By 2010, we were talking about it openly, wondering if this was it, examining slight deviations from championship form as a sign of the coming collapse. The Celtics were old, true, but they forced the Heat to a Game 7 last year.  The Patriots secondary had starters  that Monday Night Football didn’t have pictures of a few years ago, but they still contended for a Super Bowl the last few years. The beer and chicken late season swoon gave way to the horrifying Bobby Valentine era for the Red Sox, but the fire sale to LA and John Farrell’s guidance seemed to have righted the ship.  We kept looking for signs that the pendulum was staring to swing the other way. We were aware it couldn’t last because we remembered what it was like before.

It’s easy to see New England sports fans as entitled brats spoiled by victory, and the fact that I’m writing this eulogy while the Red Sox are in first place, the Bruins are the current eastern conference champions, and Tom Brady is still the Patriots QB illustrates this point pretty clearly. But those of us who grew up in the nineties as I did are acutely aware of how precious this decade was.  I “saw” the Celtics win the 1986 Finals in only the most strict optical-neurological sense; being one year old at the time have no memory of the event.  Although, I also don’t remember Buckner’s error or the destruction of the Patriots at the hands of the Super-Bowl shuffling Chicago Bears from that same year, so that’s probably a fair trade. A Boston team didn’t win a title between 1986 and 2001, the longest stretch in Boston sports history since the drought between the Bruins Stanley cup win in 1941 and the first Celtics title in 1957. Even the long-suffering Red Sox fan of older generations had seen the Celtics dominate four decades of basketball.  That long championship-free run lined up perfectly with my youth, and as such, I was raised on sports ineptitude.

There were some moments of success between then and the beginning of the 21st century, including a trip to the Super Bowl for the Patriots and Pedro’s six hitless innings of relief in game five of the ALDS against the Indians in 1999 (a game Troy “yum-yum” O’Leary hit two home runs in, second one at 2:00:00). Those were the two highlights of my first sixteen years of sports allegiance.

So when Patriots pulled off the greatest upset in Super Bowl history in 2001, and the Red Sox pulled off the greatest comeback in sports history in 2004, it was not only shocking, it was as if God himself had smiled on us. We were no longer the lovable losers, we were the best. There were those three Super Bowls, two world series, an NBA title, and a Stanley Cup. Our teams were excellent. All the organizations were excellent.

That’s what we valued: excellence. So at some point, realizing that the cynical New England doomsday gloominess no longer befit a people so gifted by the sports gods, we decided to become excellent ourselves, nearly precisely at the moment when we realized the run was unsustainable, that our own window for excellence could not last.

We became the most excellent assholes in the history of sports fans.

No one could come close to our mix of hubris, condescension, knowledge, conviction, and volume. We were the most excellent assholes that have ever gone into a bar. I was one of them. And I was truly obnoxious not because I thought we would never have our comeuppance. On the contrary, I understood the window would inevitably shut, that such a run of championships and perennial contention was unsustainable. We knew we had a small window to be the greatest assholes in sports history, so we took up the mantle and wore it proudly.  We were obnoxious because we realized that we could be smug in a way that no fan had ever been, we could reach new levels of arrogance, we could belittle other fans in ways that no on had ever been able to do.

When destiny knocks, you open the goddamn door.

Of course, pointing out that we were the most excellent assholes in sports history is, in and of itself, a really asshole thing to do. But I am one of them. You see, a Boston fan is not just louder than you, and won’t just yell at the TV louder than any other fan at the bar. A Boston fan will yell really good points and will drunkenly slobber statistics while quoting both members of the mainstream sports media and esoteric analytics guys. They will also spill your drink on you and blame you for putting it there. This is us. This is who we are.

And when you cross us, or tell us that Boston sucks in some way, unlike Yankee fans from their era of dominance in the late 1990’s, we don’t simply have catchphrases we repeat like half-retarded plains politicians spouting talking points (1918! 27 rings! Drill baby drill!). We would sarcastically, caustically, and condescendingly remind you that you didn’t matter. We usually laughed while we did it. I remember one time being with my brother in Philadelphia after Vince Young had very incorrectly dubbed the Eagles a “dream team” and a guy in a Eagles jersey called out my brother for being in a Patriots sweatshirt during a minor league hockey game. The Philadelphia fan, in typical Philadelphia mediocre-asshole style, said simply “Pats suck!” My brother looked at him, burst out laughing and said in the manner of  the more-seasoned,  professional asshole, “good luck with that dream team!”  The guy had to be restrained by his buddies. My brother laughed at him like you would at a child threatening you if don’t provide it with cookies. How dare he even attempt to say something negative about the Patriots. Have you seen Tom Brady play? 

This attitude is hard to give up. I was in a bar in New York when the Knicks eliminated the Celtics. People were celebrating, I was heartbroken knowing that it might be the last time I got to watch the Big Three era Celtics. They had come from 3-0 down to force a game six. They were scrappy and they even made a come back in the fourth after everyone thought the game was far out of reach.

Knicks fans were celebrating. I yelled across the whole bar: “So glad New York has moved to .500 when up 3-0 against Boston teams in the 21st century! Good to break even!”

I am the worst.

People really started to not like us during the run, and absolutely justifiably so. Having lived in Philadelphia and New York over the past few years, I see people roll their eyes when they find out I follow Boston sports. It’s not just New York or Philly people either, it’s any sports fan from anywhere else in the country. People will tell me to my face “Boston fans are obnoxious.” I had a girlfriend who was born overseas and only spent two years in the U.S. before I met her. She was telling a group of mixed-company friends about me when we first started dating, and she reported back to me that the males present had all uniformly agreed that New England sports fans were assholes, and I, as such, must be one as well. I explained to her that people hate us they way people hate the U.S. They hate us because we control everything and their tiny countries don’t matter. This explanation convinced her that her friends were correct.

Here’s one of my favorite stand ups explaining just how annoying Red Sox fans are in an offensive and hilarious analogy.

But suffice to say, that era of dominance across all four sports (although the Celtics and Bruins were late to the party) seems safely behind us now after last week  ended with a shitstorm of calamity that hadn’t been seen even during the pre-Rams upset days.

First, the Bruins blew the Stanley Cup up by two goals with barely a minute left to play. Then the rumors started that Doc Rivers wanted out. This was personally deflating for me, because I had, and I am dead serious, wrote-in Doc Rivers for President in 2012 specifically because I felt betrayed by Obama. Now this? Why do all the black men I vote for placement in our highest office betray me?

(Late addition to this: just found out that Brad Stevens was hired as the Celtics new coach. Not sure Rondo is going to listen to a college coach who looks like he’s twelve. Although Rondo doesn’t listen to anybody. Fingers crossed.)

Then there was the arrest of Aaron Hernandez for MURDER which was amazing because when the story broke that a body was found near his house and he was wanted for questioning, I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. He was, according to all accounts, a “good kid.”  The transformation in my mind from “maybe Aaron Hernandez hangs out with the wrong people”  to “Aaron Hernandez has DEFINITELY murdered a bunch of dudes in cold blood” was shocking. In a few short days his case morphed from something akin to Ray Lewis hanging out with the wrong people to Marvin Harrison’s kingpin-level execution of witnesses.  This is not just bad for Hernandez and the poor people, as in plural of person, that he probably killed, it’s really bad for the Patriots. This is the organization that let the greatest receiver in franchise history walk, a move that some argued would open up the middle of the field for our two stud tight ends, one of which will most certainly never play football again, and the other of which has had five surgeries this year. (It should be noted that when you Google “how many surgeries has….” the first autofill is Joan Rivers, the second is Rob Gronkowski). It’s looking an awful lot like that gargantuan body of Gronk’s is just not meant to hold up. Professional athletes don’t have that many surgeries on unrelated issues and then come back and play a long and healthy career. The future for the Patriots is suddenly looking bleak, because the future of the Patriots is limited to the short time left in Brady’s career. (Again, look at how entitled that is. “We don’t have a team unless we have the best quarterback of all time.” I know its ridiculous. But once you have Tom Brady, no other QB will ever be able to satisfy you again).

Then Paul and KG were shipped out of town for draft picks and a heaping pile of guaranteed money owed to Gerald Wallace. I am pretty devastated that they, and especially Paul, will not retire as Celtics. I could write forever on Paul, but my man Alex at Journeymen pretty much summed up the relationship Boston fans my age have with Paul as well as anyone could. I have a lot of conflicted feelings about the trade, and a good deal of that conflict arises from the fact that I live a fifteen-minute walk from the Barclay’s Center, which means I get to watch Paul and KG play more than I would’ve if they were still in Boston. I will be scalping tickets at every home game. I will be like the guy at this Lakers game, only desperate for Paul to look at me instead of Bonner.

And something that hasn’t been mentioned much recently in the wake of all that’s happened in the past week, but remember somebody also BOMBED the most important amateur New England sporting event. It’s been a rough year.

John Liam Policastro wrote an article over at Vice.com about how the Boston’s return to (relative) sports mediocrity will be good for the city. He reminds us that the indie music and comedy scene in Boston was awesome when the sports teams sucked. Besides the real big issues with causation, correlation, and coincidence in that article, it does bring up an interesting point about what happens when a whole city gets high on its own glory. He argues that with less people asking to turn the game on in bars, there will be more bands and comics getting attention. I doubt that’s the case, although that would be nice. But what Policastro doesn’t think about, and probably fairly so as the article is about Boston specifically, is the rest of New England. New England roots for Boston teams just as much as Boston does, and as someone who grew up in Bangor, ME, and just spent time last weekend in a sports bar in Putnam, CT,  there are no “scenes” that will emerge in these places because the regional sports teams aren’t winning titles. Boston people often forget just how regional their sports teams are, and in doing so dismiss the thousands of fans that stream south from Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, and North from Connecticut and Rhode Island to fill Fenway, Gillette, and TD Garden. Don’t tell those people that their going to get more culture now that the Celtics suck. That Celtics are their culture.

But we, those from the farthest flung corners of New England, knew the end was coming as much as any Harvard or MIT student (or janitor) did. If Boston fans want to start going to hear bands instead of watching the games, let them. We New Englanders will keep watching.

After all, those Boston fans are assholes anyway.

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