Sunday, January 21, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Holy reversal, Batman! Tom Jones changes mind on Deflategate

Turns out, I was wrong.

I admit it.

It took Batman to convince me. The worst Batman. The worst Batman who may or may not have had one or seven too many drinks before appearing on the debut of Bill Simmons' HBO show Any Given Wednesday.

Ben Affleck — a good actor but a crummier Batman than Val Kilmer and even Adam West — went on Simmons' show and took a sledgehammer to the NFL over its handling of Deflategate.

During his five-minute, slightly slur-filled and expletive-laced tirade, Affleck managed to convince me that Deflategate might be the dumbest calamity and biggest miscarriage of justice in sports history.

For two years, I've railed against Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for allegedly letting the air out of footballs. I've blasted coach Bill Belichick for being a liar. I've condemned the Patriots for being rotten, no-good cheaters.

I applauded when the NFL tried to suspend Brady for four games. Just the other day, as this case cycles through the courts, I held out hope that Brady would still get some sort of suspension.

Then Batman spoke.

"Deflategate is the ultimate (expletive, expletive) outrage of sports ever,'' Affleck said. "It's so (expletive) stupid that I can't believe it. Do you realize they gave a suspension for a quarter of the regular season, which is what they do when you get busted for taking steroids?''

Let's stop here for just a second and point out that Affleck is as Boston as baked beans. He might not have gone to Hahvad, but like any true New Englander, his wicked ego is dwarfed only by his snobbish attitude toward all things not Boston.

The only person on the planet more Boston than Affleck is Simmons. Put these two guys in the same room, mention the word, "Deflategate'' and then duck.

But you know what? Affleck is right. Deflategate is stupid. We're talking about air. Just a little bit of air.

Affleck's mad-as-hell-and-I'm-not-going-to-take-it-anymore harangue was over the top, biased, profane and outrageous. I kept waiting for the men in the white coats to rush in with a straitjacket. Yet Affleck was spot-on.

Affleck pointed out how one of the key pieces of circumstantial evidence the NFL used against Brady was Brady destroying a cellphone that the NFL believes might have shown proof that Brady ordered the deflation of footballs.

"What they did was suspend Tom Brady for four (games) for not giving them his (expletive) cellphone and for having a friend who called himself the Deflator,'' Affleck said. "If I got in trouble for all the things my friends called themselves, I would be finished!''

Wonder what Matt Damon calls himself.

"I would never give an organization as leak-prone as the NFL my (expletive) cellphone so you could just look through my emails and listen to my voice mails,'' he said. "They're not the FBI. This is not a federal subpoena. You're not required to turn over your bank records. It's outrageous.''

"I talked to (expletive) professional football players across the board and they think it's (expletive).''

He's right. Other players do think this is a joke, that the Patriots and Brady gained no real advantage even if they did let a little air out of the football.

So why is the NFL turning this into a federal case?

"This is a conspiracy of people working inside the NFL who all come from organizations that Tom Brady whipped their (expletive) for the last 10 or 15 years.'' Brady said. "These guys work for the (expletive) Jets and the Broncos and everybody else who are now going, 'Get him! Hang him!' ''

The rantings of a madman? Maybe. The passionate speech of a dedicated fan? Absolutely.

But that doesn't mean he is wrong. Let's be honest, Deflategate really is about one thing: The Patriots did cheat with the whole Spygate episode a few years ago and NFL teams wanted commissioner Roger Goodell to make up for that incident by hammering the Patriots for Deflategate.

"It's a (expletive) ridiculous smear campaign, and Goodell doesn't have the integrity, doesn't have the decency to say, 'You know what? This is stupid, I was wrong,' '' Affleck said. "We're running our greatest player ever through this mill of humiliation and shame, which is totally unwarranted, for the sake of our own bruised egos, our embarrassment.''

And that is the crux of the issue right there. It is Goodell's ego that is getting in the way. It is his ego that won't allow him to let it go, to just move on.

The NFL and the commissioner will say that there is more to all of this than air in a football. They will say this is about preserving the commissioner's right to wield his own brand of justice, a power that was given to him by the players in the last collective bargaining agreement.

They can say that all they want, but this is about the NFL vs. Brady, the NFL vs. the Patriots and the NFL doesn't want to lose. It doesn't want Brady suspended because justice would then be served. It wants Brady out because its egomaniacal minds cannot stand the thought of losing to those equally egomaniacal Patriots.

But here's why else the NFL needs to move on: There are more important things to address, as Affleck so wisely pointed out.

"We haven't done anything to address this crisis in domestic violence in the NFL, but the (expletive) football better not be 8 percent lighter,'' Affleck said. "And if we find out it is, you're gone for four games!

He's right. The NFL is wrong. I was wrong.

I've finally seen the light. It's as plain as the Bat Signal.

     
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