WEDNESDAY FEATURE: DEFLATE-GATE
“Hey, Tim! Welcome back to Pittsburgh.”
“Thanks! I liked Boston. But it’s good to be ba…”
“So what’s the story with Deflate-Gate anyway? Those Patriots fans in New England don’t really think Tom Brady is innocent do they?”
There you go. That’s been pretty much every conversation I’ve had with every person I know since I moved back to the ‘Burgh ten days ago. People ask with a curiosity in their voice as if I was in some mystical foreign land, or like I was live in the courtroom when the OJ decision was read or something.
But I get the interest. After all, for the past six months I was at ground zero for the biggest sports story in the country, and I was swirled up in the blender of controversy surrounding it. Nice business if you can get it for a sports talk show host at WEEI in Boston.
Something else I discovered that can be good for business as a talk show host as it relates to Deflate-Gate…have a moderate opinion.
That sounds counter intuitive, right? Normally in talk radio the way to get a reaction…to stir the pot as they say…is to polarize as much as possible. Jump on one side of the fence and scream over to the other side that they are idiots, totally wrong, and shouldn’t even be speaking on the matter.
Well, not on this topic. Not on Deflate-Gate. This football deflation saga has become such a red-state/blue-state divisive argument that…in my experience… the best way to kick the hornet’s nest is to go down the middle. Just say Brady deserves a suspension of a game or two maximum.
It also helps if you believe it. Which I do. I’ve said since the Wells report came out that Tom Brady should be suspended for one game because I feel he was “generally aware” of New England equipment personnel deflating footballs (maybe in the AFC title game, and more likely even before). Plus he was uncooperative during the investigation.
That gets all the New England people fired up because about 90% of them think Brady did nothing wrong, want full exoneration for Brady, a public apology from the league to the team, and expect Roger Goodell to be tarred and feathered in the middle of Boston Common at high noon.
Most Steeler fans I’ve come across since I’ve returned to Pittsburgh don’t want to see Goodell reduce the suspension at all because they think Brady was more than “generally aware”, that he obstructed the investigation, and that he might even be covering up for Bill Belichick. And why should Goodell give a break to the Patriots again after he burned/buried/drowned the Spygate tapes?
So, as you can see, any suggestion that a middle ground holds the answer is usually met with raucous disagreement. One thing Boston and Pittsburgh seem to have in common on this debate: it’s four or nothing!
Like I said, it’s good for business to be in the middle for a change.
The NFL and Brady’s team both seem to be of the same mindset, which is why (at the time of this post anyway) this thing is heading to a federal judge.
Frankly I get why Patriots fans have their heels dug deeper into the dirt on this than Steeler fans. After all, any suspension of Brady…or settlement by him…is going be viewed as proof of guilt. So they think he has to go to the wall. I get it. I wouldn’t do that if I were Brady. I’d take a single game for the good of the team. But I understand that point of view from his fans.
But I’m not on board with Steeler fans and analysts who say Brady should be docked the full four games. Despite what he may say publicly after this mess finishes, we all know Goodell would’ve been willing to slice Brady’s suspension back to just a game or two. I’ll never believe Goodell intended to stick with four games, especially after Robert Kraft capitulated to the team penalties.
Anything beyond the game one opener vs the Steelers is gravy for Pittsburgh anyway. Sure, you want to see Brady slapped around out of dislike for the team and jealousy over his success. But a quarter of the season? For maybe telling the equipment guys to deflate some balls that may have had too much air pumped into them by the league’s own sloppy refs? Please. That’s over the top. Greg Hardy wound up with four. Steroid guys get four. This isn’t the same thing.
I expressed these thoughts in Boston and I was accused of being a Rooney funded double agent media-spy sent to poison the thinking in New England. I said exactly the same stuff upon my return to Pittsburgh and I was immediately accused of being “Bostonized.”
Well, I guess I can’t win. Or maybe….I can’t lose? Either way, Pittsburgh, I’m glad to be back. But yes, I’d love to talk about the Pirate pennant race any time you want to change the subject.