Deflategate: 455 Pages, 103 Days, 0 Facts


Apr 30, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; NFL commissioner Roger Goodell looks on in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Well, well, well. Or should I say, “Wells, Wells, Wells”? After 103 days, 455 pages, and probably a hell of a lot of money, Ted Wells issued his report today on last year’s AFC Championship Game today – commonly known as Deflategate. Its findings were anything but conclusive.

At this point, there’s only really one important question that needs answering: we waited for this? The NFL conducted perhaps the most thorough investigation on any topic in its history. It hired one of the premier law firms in the country. It spent more time investigating whether balls were underinflated in the first half of a game that was decided by large margins in the second half than it has spent on any one topic in the history of the league (and probably more money). And all for a conclusion thats key words are “probably”, “generally”, and “likely”? I think Roger Goodell’s probably in line at the lawyer store trying to take this one back.

I read the entire Wells report. I’ll save you trouble. Here’s the smoking gun – or the squirt gun: text messages between two equipment personnel. Text messages in which they complain about one of their bosses being picky. Text messages in which they joke repeatedly about Tom Brady’s preference for balls inflated at the margins of acceptability. Text messages in which they gloat about memorabilia they’d been given by their picky boss (common practice). Apart from the memorabilia thing, we’ve all never done any of that, right? Of course, not.

“It is more probable than not that New England Patriots personnel participated in violations of the Playing Rules and were involved in a deliberate effort to circumvent the rules.” More probable than not? That’s what we waited 103 days for? That’s what we need a 455 page report to say? Embarrassing.

I don’t subscribe to the notion that we should paint a scarlet letter on people because we’re suspicious of their potential guilt. The founders didn’t subscribe to that notion either and here’s the fact of the matter: the conclusions of the Wells report are not supported by fact. They are supported by suspicion. Let’s understand something: There’s nothing wrong with a quarterback wanting game balls inflated a certain way. There’s nothing wrong with him communicating those preferences to his equipment personnel. We know that Aaron Rodgers and other quarterbacks do that. We know that every NFL quarterback prefers game balls a certain way. Christ, we know that two Super Bowl quarterbacks conspired to doctor every game ball prior to a Super Bowl. Again, the most important point of this investigation and this report is very simple: the conclusions are not supported, at all, by fact.

Also, it’s instructive to think back to the last Wells report – the one that actually included evidence. Evidence  that showed that Dolphins players were bullying one of their own. Concrete evidence to support a claim – otherwise known as fact – a thing that is indisputably the case. Fact, something not seen in today’s Wells report. Not seen at all.

Here’s what we know. In the six quarters after the Colts decided to focus more on the inflation of the Patriots footballs than their run defense, Tom Brady threw 6 touchdowns to one interception with balls that were inflated however the league wanted them to be. He did this with balls that were inflated however the Colts wanted them to be. He did it with balls that were inflated however anyone besides the and the Patriots wanted them to be. Brady was the MVP of the Super Bowl with more scrutiny on him than any player in the history of the sport. Stick your asterix on that.

Here’s what we also know. Ray Rice knocked out his wife on camera. Hundreds of former NFL players suffer from depression and other post-concussions symptoms. Some of these symptoms have led to suicide. The NFL has spent more time and money on this issue than it has on the real issues it should be confronting as a league. More time and money determining whether something happened with footballs in the first half of a game a team won in the second half than it did investigating Ben Roethlisberger for rape. More time than it spends investigating players for domestic abuse. More time than it spends determining whether there’s more it can do to keep its players safe. It is absolutely embarrassing.

Here’s another fact: we don’t know more today than we knew yesterday. After 103 days and 455 pages we are left in the exact same spot as we were when this first began: we don’t know what happened. We don’t know if the Patriots cheated and we don’t know if the Colts or the NFL acted improperly. There you are, folks. That’s the best investigation money can buy.