Friday, May 15, 2015

Wells Report Ignores NFL's Problems

This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on Friday, May 15, 2015.
By Bill Gouveia


            If you were looking for someone to fill the position of “New England Patriot Yahoo”, I have all the qualifications.


            I have been a season ticketholder for more than four decades and travel to one or two away games every year.  I own multiple Patriot jerseys, t-shirts, hats and other over-priced merchandise.  My first-ever Pats game was at Fenway Park.  I raised my children to be diehard Pats fans, and my three-year-old granddaughter in Delaware knows who Rob Ninkovich is.


            So when it comes to DeflateGate, it is difficult for me to be objective and impartial – and even harder for others to view me that way.  I have a vested interest in this franchise.  A considerable portion of my life has been spent rooting for them.


            But that does not render my opinion unworthy of expression, or make me a shill for my team.  I have been a Red Sox fan for even longer.  Criticizing my hometown organization comes naturally.


            So as I have sifted through this stupid situation, I understand the Patriots as an organization have some culpability here.  And yes, I believe most other teams in the NFL often do similar types of things.  But that doesn’t make it right, and even if it was just one equipment person breaking a rule – if you get caught, you get punished.


            But suspending Tom Brady for four games based on this pile of less-than-circumstantial evidence?  Unless Brady suddenly confesses that he ordered the Code Red (my favorite Jack Nicholson moment), the NFL just continues to demonstrate it doesn’t know how to do much of anything besides make money.


            I actually read the Wells Report.  I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it, and wouldn’t want to be tested on it.  After re-reading the parts that contained the allegedly incriminating information, I have to confess I am thoroughly embarrassed.


            For the NFL, that is.  Their position on this matter is so hopelessly compromised that even a great attorney like Ted Wells can’t create a report making it look like they handled things fairly and competently. 


            For the record, I believe some Patriot personnel deflated the footballs.  I believe the two Mensa members who sent the offending texts tried to get the balls to Tom Brady’s liking, and in doing so took out too much air.  I think they broke the rules, and I believe they and the Patriots organization deserve punishment.


            But the largest fine in the history of the league and a number one draft pick?  Plus you lose your quarterback for 25% of the regular season?  That’s insane.  Did they kick Roger Goodell’s dog along the way?


            And spare me this “integrity of the game” crap.  The NFL allows quarterbacks to beat the balls half to death, cook them in Easy Bake Ovens (do they still make those?), and scour them like dirty dishes.  But going a fraction below the air pressure limit is somehow damaging the integrity of a league that won’t even pay to care for players with brain damage as a result of participation in this sport over the years?  Integrity?   Right.


            I know this is not a court of law.  I know the burden of proof is lower, the standard different.  But read this entire report and show me where it even mostly proves Tom Brady knew balls were being deflated illegally.  I dare you.  And don’t give me supposition, opinion, or fantasy.  Give me facts.


            The NFL referees lost possession of these footballs in a championship game after being advised of a potential problem.  They can’t remember how they checked the air pressure.  Those are facts.  Now to cover up how badly they performed, Tom Brady is being made the scapegoat.  There should be an investigation of the NFL.


            Ted Wells acknowledged his report cost millions of dollars.  Hint to the NFL – a $7.50 padlock for the room holding the balls could have saved a whole lot of money.


            So label me a Patriot Yahoo if you like.  I’ve been called worse.  There’s no doubt I am not totally objective.  But I know bull-you-know-what when I smell it.


            And the stench emanating from the league offices and the Wells Report makes that commodity much easier to find than the NFL’s alleged “integrity”.


Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and a 44-year Patriots season ticketholder.  He can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

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