I, like many others who don’t want Tom Brady to experience a fiery death (lots of haters out there), feel incredulous that he was handed down a 4 game suspension for his unproven involvement in something I actually refuse to mention again. I am not arguing his innocence and never did for that matter, but didn’t the American judicial system teach us that you have to be proven guilty to face a penalty? Pretty sure that’s the case and professional sports leagues used to follow that logic.
Alas, no more. What infuriates me the most about this situation is that it has nothing to do with Tom Brady or the Patriots. It has everything to do with the NFL and what its image suffered this year. The Aaron Hernandez saga was ongoing this year up until his sentencing, and Ray Rice’s initial two game suspension for beating the shit out of his girlfriend didn’t sit well with people. Adrian Peterson was suspended for child abuse with a switch and not suspended, but ultimately did not appear in another game that season once the PR shitstorm really got going.
In both cases, what was really interesting was the initial reaction: OK, that happened, we don’t care (Ravens, Vikings). Then, the public not only said “we care” but actually, we’re really mad about this. The NFL’s reaction to people caring was, “Oh people are upset about this? We don’t actually care but we will care if you guys care! They won’t play again and we will air anti-domestic violence ads during every game this year to show just how much we are against it!” So, sadly for Tommy Boy his timing was terrible. After the PR nightmare the NFL endured this year, their response has been to not only suspend people when a hot-button issue arises but to suspend them for LONGER than they deem necessary. Just to show you that they’re taking it seriously.
Does the NFL actually think deflating footballs warrants a 4 game suspension? Of course not but we live in an age where your response to the crime is more important than the crime itself. This to me is sickening, and the most laughable part is that while Ray Rice was suspended indefinitely during the season, news got out that Ray McDonald of the 49ers and Greg Hardy of the Panthers had similar charges against them and were STILL playing. Why? Because they weren’t nearly as high profile of players as Rice. Which showed how hilariously hypocritical the NFL and our various professional sports leagues are today. This was perfect, because while Rice was facing ever increasing scrutiny by the day, the latter were playing to little chatter. However, once the general public caught wind of this glaring inconsistency the Niners cut McDonald as a clear PR move. The Vikings did a similar thing, not suspending Peterson at first then holding him out for the year.
If there’s one thing I could get through Roger Goodell’s head or the NCAA’s it’s this: No one is actually naïve enough to think you genuinely care. Regardless of the sanctions you lay down, no fan will say, “See they do value education” or “They don’t support wife-beating. I knew it!” Not only that but the fans of these leagues are so fanatical that no matter what happens they will still watch. If 2014 isn’t evidence of this I don’t know what is: The NFL had never been in hot water more often but held the most viewed Super Bowl in history.
Back in the fall of 2013, the NCAA had an equally hilarious response of its own. When a Twitter user showed that you could search Johnny Manziel’s name and find his Texas A&M jersey for sale on the NCAA website, merchandise was immediately pulled. The NCAA’s statement expectedly danced around the issue with no admission of wrongdoing. But the point was made, when the public is on to you you must react. The NCAA and the NFL alike obviously don’t see themselves as angels. If they did they would be a hell of a lot nicer. No, like anything, they are both business owners and revenue trumps all.
What they fail to understand is like any other business they have a product. That product is on the field and as long as the on-field product is a good one people will continue to watch, simple as that. Yes, people will feel conflicted morally, which brings me to this upcoming season. Never in my life have I rationally thought I could avoid watching NFL games. This season that is more likely than ever, as whether I watch games or not I will be equally PISSED. Like any other fan I truly love watching football at all levels, but will find it harder than ever to enjoy watching the same way. Either way I am hurting my livelihood; I watch the game I love with a sour puss face or provide myself further anguish by not watching at all. A true ethical dilemma. God damn it Roger Goodell why must you complicate what I love so mercilessly.