Was 'Deflategate' About Tom Brady's Legacy Or His Ego?

Was 'Deflategate' About Tom Brady's Legacy Or His Ego?

10:11am May 13, 2015

Here's a question to ponder over your morning coffee: Why?

Why would the New England Patriots' Tom Brady get involved in a scandal? This week, Brady, who has denied any wrongdoing, was suspended four games for his alleged involvement in lowering the pressure in the footballs he threw in a playoff game.

Yet he did not seem to need to cheat to win.

In the case of Bill Belichick, the Patriots' head coach, the answer to the question above seems easy: It is — as they phrase it in sports — all about winning. And he has a record of flirting with the limits of what's legal.

In 2007, he cheated and stole the New York Jets' signals, paid the half-million-dollar fine and moved on. Even that venerable gentleman, Don Shula, has called him "Beli-cheat."

And remember the game played the week before the infamous deflatable AFC championship? In that game, the Patriots barely beat the Baltimore Ravens, using a screwy formation that was technically legal, but only by rendering an ineligible receiver suddenly eligible — or something or other. Never mind the particulars; it was just good old Belichick scheming.

As the quarterback who made that scheme work noted smugly, when the Ravens complained: "Maybe those guys got to study the rulebook."

That quarterback, of course, was Tom Brady. Now there is a man who knows the rulebook.

What intrigues me is, why would he do it? Brady, who has already become a football immortal. So did Brady cheat and put his legend on Skid Row just because it's only all about winning — a la Lance Armstrong — or was it perhaps more personal?

He's 37 years old now, and football players at 37 are simply physically not up to what they once were.

A few years ago, it was Brady and his contemporary, Peyton Manning — they, the divine divas of the 21st-century NFL — who successfully petitioned the league to let teams use their own balls. We can say now, perhaps, that by doing so Brady would eventually hoist himself on his own petard. But the larger point is that even then, Brady was looking for a little hedge against growing older.

Sure, deflating the balls must've helped the Patriots, but maybe more than that, it helped pretty Tom Brady, the Golden Boy, hang onto that sheen of immortality for an overtime.

It would surely drive Belichick crazy to think that it was vanity as much as victory that drove Brady, but I have to believe that is the case, that Brady might not have cut a deal with the devil only because it's all about winning.

Oh well, he still has his looks. I wonder if it'll be just as difficult for him when his beauty starts to fade as it has been lately, as he realizes that his skills are beginning to deflate.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Here's a question to ponder over your morning coffee. Why? Why would the New England Patriots' Tom Brady get involved in a scandal? Brady has been suspended four games for his apparent involvement in lowering the pressure in the footballs he threw. He seemed to be the kind of player who did not need to cheat to win. Though Brady denies doing anything wrong, commentator Frank Deford has no doubts.

FRANK DEFORD, BYLINE: Bill Belichick, the Patriots' coach, we can understand easy. It's, as they phrase it in sports, all about winning. So he cheated and stole the Jets' signals, paid the half-million-dollar fine and moved on. And geez, some people think maybe that Belichick's Patriots only just got caught the one time. Remember the game played the week before, the infamous deflatable AFC championship? In that game, the Patriots barely beat the Ravens with the help of a screwy formation that was technically legal that had an ineligible receiver suddenly eligible or something or other. Never mind the particulars, just good old Bill Belichick scheming. And no, it wasn't technically cheating, just dirty pool. For as the quarterback who made it work said smugly when the Ravens complained, maybe those guys got to study the rulebook.

The quarterback, of course, was Tom Brady. Now there's a man who knows the rulebook. And what intrigues me is why would he do it, he who'd become a football immortal - immortal. That's what we call his kind. So did Tom Brady cheat, put his legend on Skid Row because it's only all about winning - a la Lance Armstrong - or was it perhaps more personal? He's 37 years old now, and football players at 37 are simply physically not up to what they once were.

It's interesting, but a few years ago, it was Brady and his contemporary, Peyton Manning - they, the divine divas of the 21st century NFL - who successfully petitioned the league to let teams use their own balls. We can say now, perhaps, that by doing so, Brady would eventually hoist himself on his own petard. But the larger point is that even then, Brady was looking for a little hedge against growing older. But then you start to search for other edges and you find an accomplice who will call himself the Deflator and doctor Tom Brady's pig skins in a lavatory.

Sure, deflating the balls must've helped the Patriots but maybe more it helped pretty Tom Brady, the Golden Boy, hang onto that immortality mode for an overtime. It would surely drive Belichick crazy to think that it was vanity as much as victory that drove Tom Brady, but I have to believe that that is so, that Brady might not have cut a deal with the devil only because it is all about winning. Oh, well, he still has his looks. I wonder if it'll be just as difficult for him when his beauty starts to fade as it was back when he realized that his skills were beginning to deflate.

(SOUNDBITE OF MARCHING BAND) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Support your
public radio station