A fair victory for the cheater Tom Brady

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady had his four-game suspension overturned by a federal judge.
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady had his four-game suspension overturned by a federal judge. The Associated Press

Cheaters never win and winners never cheat – except in New England.

There, despite a mountain of evidence that Tom Brady is a cheater and the New England Patriots are cheaters, they’re actually winners, thanks to Thursday’s ruling overturning the fair-haired quarterback’s four-game suspension for tampering with footballs.

It doesn’t matter that the team already admitted to breaking NFL rules. That two staffers charged with prepping the Patriots’ footballs intentionally deflated them to make them to easier to throw and catch in freezing weather.

It also doesn’t matter that Brady obstructed the league’s investigation. That he destroyed his phone before investigators could examine the text messages in it. Or that Brady refused to make himself completely available to answer investigators’ questions.

There will be no asterisk next to the Patriots’ decisive, but dubious 45-7 win over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship game last January. Nor mention of how the team used that victory to advance to and then win the Super Bowl.

Just call him Teflon Tom, quarterback of the Deflatriots. Hero of New England.

For this misplaced praise we can thank the fumbling NFL, under the direction of the battered and overzealous Commissioner Roger Goodell, who really should have known better.

As much as it pains us to admit it, U.S. District Judge Richard Berman was right to overturn Brady’s suspension. The various affronts to due process in the case were too overwhelming to ignore.

Brady, the judge ruled, wasn’t treated fairly under the terms of the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement with the players union. Goodell, Berman basically said, meted out arbitrary punishment without proper precedent.

He didn’t have the right to suspend Brady for not cooperating with the Deflategate investigation because the quarterback was never notified that he could be suspended for such behavior. For the same reason, Goodell also didn’t have the right to suspend Brady for being aware of other people tampering with footballs.

This is true even though the NFL’s investigation found that “it is unlikely that an equipment assistant and a locker room attendant would deflate game balls without Brady’s knowledge and approval.”

In short, Brady got off on a technicality – a technicality to which Goodell never should have exposed the NFL in the first place.

But now, with the fanfare over Brady’s vindication in federal court, the Patriots’ devilish deeds have been sent to the sidelines. Forgotten are certain details, such as the fact that Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft has agreed to fork over a $1 million fine and forfeit two draft picks, or that the ball handlers –Brady’s patsies – have been fired.

So it’s up to the rest of us to pass along the real lesson of Deflategate, the one we’d want our children to learn. There are moral rules and there are legal rules, and when all is said and done, you need both for a victory to have honor. Even on a technicality, the cheaters shouldn’t have won.