Deflategate: Don't suspend Tom Brady, make him play for the Raiders

Deflategate report arrives, and air is let out of New England Patriots QB Tom Brady's image, Bill Dwyre writes

There is no escaping the reality, or the need for the next sentence. They just let the air out of Tom Brady's image.

There are many different faces we could put on after the report, released Wednesday, about Brady and the New England Patriots' Deflategate.

There is the stern face of disappointment. Remember his "I had no knowledge…" in the aftermath of the discovery of underinflated footballs, ones he could get a better grip on, in this year's AFC title game? A lawyer commissioned by the NFL to look into the matter concluded that Brady "was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities."

There is the furrowed brow of concern. Pro football players are role models for our children. What will little Joey think? Will he be putting sleeping pills in the other team's Slurpees because Brady would?

Then there are the squinted eyes and angry set jaw over the frequent betrayals by a major force in our nation, the National Football League, which can now open its own retail chain: Scandals R Us.

We have moved quickly from the ironically named Saints and their Sean Payton Bountygate, to Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson, to this. Golden Boy to tin cup.

Lastly, we can put on the laugh-and-giggle face over such a big deal being made about a couple of ounces of air enclosed by pigskin:

• Clearly, had Russell Wilson been able to get two more ounces out of that Super Bowl football, his pass would have gotten to the receiver a millisecond sooner and the Seattle Seahawks, not the Patriots, would have won the game.

• Don't suspend Brady. Just make him play next season for the Raiders.

• This proves that Brady is no Peyton Manning. If they put him on "Saturday Night Live," it would become "Saturday Night Lies."

The truth is, what is spelled out in the 243-page report by independent investigator Ted Wells is that little is sacred in sports these days. It is win-at-all-costs. Only pretend to care about the fans who are the ones making you millionaires.

Brady is a superstar athlete who got caught with his makeup off.

He likely felt little or no guilt about a few ounces of air in a football, although he had to know what was being done was wrong or it wouldn't have been done in such clandestine fashion.

We teach our children at an early age in athletics to look for an edge. That is seen not as cheating, but as "athletic smarts."

Sixteen years ago next week, Michael Josephson and his Institute of Ethics held the Arizona Sports Summit in Phoenix, with the expressed goal of addressing these issues. More than 70 people, all major coaches, athletic directors and officials from around the country spent three days discussing and advocating the need to do better. All signed a pledge to that, and the rallying cry of that pledge, in this still-existing program, was "Pursuing Victory With Honor."

The main speaker, and leading advocate, was John Wooden.

Even there, with good behavior the order of the day, there was a long discussion about whether, when the ball goes out of bounds in a basketball game and it is a close call for possession, it is wrong for players to point in their direction in an attempt to influence the referee. One coach said that was just "trying to get an edge," and therefore OK.

When getting that edge unlevels the playing field, then it is cheating. As silly and insignificant as it seems, Brady's couple of ounces of lost air unleveled the playing field. He was cheating.

With cheating comes the possibility of getting caught, and with getting caught comes the opportunity of recovery. Fessing up.

But often, when the magnitude of the situation comes home to roost, the same characters who have been hearing and saying for years that sports builds character do the characteristic thing. They duck and run. Brady had a chance to stand and deliver, rather than telling us he had "no knowledge…"

The text exchanges between Brady and his equipment-manager enablers — the NFL's own Brady Bunch — are both horrifying and hilarious.

Brady is a multimillionaire sports matinee idol — OK, was — whose status and team role should have been so clear to him that cheating in any form could not be an option. For somebody in Brady's spot, the pressure to win is overwhelming. So should be the understanding of the consequences of not doing so honorably.

To be in this triangle of conspiracy with his two equipment-manager enablers, paying for their favors with signed footballs (presumably fully inflated) and size-11 sneakers, is as laughable as it is stupid.

We are a country of second chances. Great damage is done, but time and scars do heal. Brady can still recoup somewhat by standing up and telling the truth.

But please, not on a national talk show.

Until then, we will await the next NFL kerfuffle. Give the league a week or two and one of theirs will mug a little old lady or rob their mother's trust fund. It's what we have come to expect.

Oh, yes. Remember, these are the same people over whose arrival in Inglewood and Carson we are drooling.

Let's have a parade and make Brady the grand marshal. He might be available.

bill.dwyre@LATimes.com

Twitter: @DwyreLATimes

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