Tag: NFL

The NFL, Deflation and the Law

So the NFL season will kickoff tonight. I’m mildly excited. My main enthusiasm is for the college game, which got off to an amazing start this past weekend.

However, the NFL’s kickoff game will be Pittsburgh against New England, which took on added interest when a judge threw out Tom Brady’s suspension for his role in Deflategate, reinstating the quarterback for at least the first game of the season.

My opinion on deflategate has waxed and waned. My first reaction, as someone not overly fond of the Patriots or Brady, was to support a hefty punishment, especially in light of their previous cheating (Spygate). But as time has gone on, my opinion has changed. I skimmed through the Wells report and came away … unimpressed by the case against the Patriots and particularly against Brady. And when I read Judge Berman’s decision, I found myself nodding my head and agreeing with everything he said.

You can read Bill James for a very good evaluation.

Goodell cannot make up industrial law as he goes along. As Berman stated it, “It is the ‘Law of the Shop’ to provide professional football players with advance notice of prohibited conduct and potential discipline.” There is no trail anywhere suggesting that a player can be suspended for an equipment tampering violation. No player has ever been punished in a like manner for a like offense—and, in fact, there have been similar offenses committed in the past, with no punishment at all directed at the players who benefitted. In 2009, a New York Jets employee was caught using a sideline heater to warm up the football that would be used to a attempt a field goal, making the ball travel further. The Jets’ kicker was present and obviously aware of the activity, but no action was taken against him. The league’s Competitive Integrity Policy states that the fine for a first offense for equipment tampering is $5,512. But since Mr. Brady did not tamper with the equipment and there is no real evidence that he was even aware that it had been done, even that fine would be problematic in this situation.

A phrase in the NFL Game Operations Manual states that if the footballs are tampered with in this manner “the person responsible and, if appropriate, the head coach and other club personnel will be subject to discipline, including but not limited to, a fine of $25,000.” However, the Game Operations Manual is not provided to players, is not subject to collective bargaining, and is not a basis for disciplinary action against players, even if that disciplinary action was within the range outlined in the directive.

Even the case that the deflation happened at all is weak. The Wells report specifically says that the Colts’ balls were inflated to 0.5 PSI more than the Patriots before the game (both were within the legal range). When you account for the cold, we’re talking about 0.4 PSI that the Patriots may have let out. I think the Patriots did probably let some air out of the balls but 0.4 PSI is … not a lot to hang your hat on. And the case that Brady knew about this is even weaker. The supposed damning texts really aren’t that damning. It’s more of him complaining about the league over-inflating the balls.

The most damning evidence, to many, is that Brady destroyed his cell phone. But there’s actually no rule in the NFL against destroying evidence and players who have done so have not previously been disciplined. (In the link, James goes into many reasons that Brady may not have wanted the leak-prone NFL to have private information on his phone. I’m not completely sold, but I think he has a point).

What the should the league have done about this? Well, the rules specify a $25,000 fine on the team. Given the Patriots’ history and the importance of the game, I think they could have gotten their million dollar fine without a problem. But when Goodell decided he wanted Brady’s head on his wall, he elevated the tentative conclusions of the Wells report to certainties and then stumbled right into a briar patch of labor law.

The long and short of this, to quote the great sage Walter Sobchak: This is not ‘Nam. This is collective bargaining. There are rules. Goodell has gotten himself into trouble numerous times trying to exercise control of the league. In the media vacuum before the Super Bowl, this story became massively overhyped. He saw an opportunity to exercise his authority again and a judge slapped him down again. It pains me to say this but the judge was right.

(PS – As a Steelers fan who lives in outskirts of Steeler Country, I’d love to see Brady not under center tonight. But I can’t honestly say he shouldn’t be. Damn.)

(PPS – As I was working on this post, the Imperial March from the Empire Strikes Back came on my iTunes shuffle. How appropriate.)

NFL Claims Ignorance of Video. Also Gravity and Spacetime

Earlier this year, video emerged of Ravens running back Ray Rice dragging his unconscious fiance — correction, the fiance he had beaten unconscious — out of an elevator. The NFL, in their wisdom, decided to suspend him for a whole … two games. The Ravens kept him on the team. After all, once you’d won two superbowls with a guy involved in a double murder, what’s a little wife-beating among friends?

Today, the other shoe dropped. TMZ released a video from inside the elevator, showing Rice beating his fiance. The NFL suspended Rice indefinitely and the Ravens cut him. I guess they finally have a “context” for a player dragging his fiance out of an elevator after beating her unconscious. Both are saying the never saw the new video before.

I’m not convinced.

I’m not sure if they knew about the video or not (TMZ is hinting that they did). But even with the video, they don’t know anything today they didn’t know yesterday. The only thing that has really changed is the optics. We’ve gone from knowing Rice beat his fiance to actually seeing it happen. Ta-Nehisi:

The NFL claims that it had never seen the video before today. But the video that was already out there, along with the reporting, was bad enough. The idea that it took today’s release to understand the gravity of things is insupportable. You don’t become a sports and entertainment juggernaut through absent-mindedness.

The NFL claims they want to crack down on their violent image. But they never seem to really follow through. They claim they want to stop brutal hits on defenseless players. But dozens of hits go unpunished every week. They just occasionally pop up to fine one that got on ESPN. A couple of years ago, they came down very hard on the Saints for paying bounties to defensive players who injured other players. Last year, another scandal erupted when it turned out that several members of the Dolphins offensive line, notably Richie Incognito, were engaging in brutal bullying of their fellow players. In both cases, there were whispers that this sort of thing was widespread. And while the NFL came down hard on the guilty parties, they didn’t really dig too deep into the NFL’s culture.

Ray Rice is not the only player engaging in a little recreational wife-beating. The league should have made an example of him. But they didn’t; not until it got to this point. This makes me think that their attempts to clean up the league are just window dressing — a way to silence the game’s critics without making any real changes.

Are You Ready For Some Football?

All I can say is………about time.

College football partially started last night (Now that they got a QB, how good are those Badgers going to be this year?) with the rest starting tomorrow, with bowl implications already on the line. To wit: Oregon/LSU at Cowboy Stadium. I’ll be honest, I thought The Ducks were the best team in the nation last year but they were tight in the national championship game and gave it to Cam and Co., so be it. They are not as stacked this year but still have incredible team speed, 2 potential Heisman winners, and a wicked smart coach. Not just for their cool uniforms but I like them tomorrow.

The other game with massive BCS implications is Boise St/Georgia in Atlanta. The Dogs will have home field and rowdy fan base. With a win tomorrow the Broncos could run the table this year and would not be denied (riots in the streets) a spot for the national title. Underdog lovers have been waiting for a small conference school (e.g. Boise St., Utah, TCU)to make it to the big dance, maybe this year.

Pro football is right around the corner:
How good are the Eagles?
Was Chris Johnson worth the money?
Will Adrian Peterson be “The Man” this year?
What will Carson Palmer do?
Is this Philip Rivers’ year?
Will Peyton keep his streak alive by starting?

I’ll also throw out the US Open if anyone wants to comment on that. Maria is out, Murray is currently in the fight of his life, Novac looks like the terminator, Rafa looks vulnerable, and Roger is playing the best tennis of his life.

Hope Solo (goalee hottie for the US women’s soccer team) will be on DWTS this year, I might check that out and get some bonus coverage of Chas Bono in the process.

Where’s My Football?

It’s not too bad yet, just some mild nervous ticks,a general malaise of well being, and a hair trigger temper set off by the most innocuous of offenses, when oh when is this lock out going to end? For any real NFL fans on the site, maybe this will temporarily assuage any pangs of helplessness:

If I don’t see some serious hits on the tube pretty quick, or at least reading about how both sides kissed and made up, house hold items are going airborne.