By Jason Keidel
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As Jets fans form a conga line around the five boroughs, dancing down the halls over Tom Brady’s suspension, the rest of pro football and its fans should be just as jubilant.
The ruling from the federal appeals court does not address Brady’s guilt or innocence. But in reality it does.
It tells the rest of the teams in NFL they play on an even field with the Patriots. It says golden boys obey the rules, too, and even if the chosen ones go far enough out on the limb, it will snap.
But don’t get too gleeful. A few more notions spring from this bad day in Beantown.
In no way is Brady’s legacy stained by a few PSI. Pioneers and legends love to push the legal membranes that surround them. While an inelegant mantra like “if you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying” isn’t exactly apt, it does describe the nature of sports. Anyone who says this negates his gridiron deeds is just suffering from abject homerism.
And you can be sure Brady isn’t the first quarterback to tinker with footballs. QBs often lament various climes, from wind to rain to sleet, making their grip on the pigskin essential, and making it necessary to deflate a few balls. He’s just the one who got caught, which was like some karmic tax he and the Pats needed to pay long ago.
He’s only gone for four games, and you should be glad he comes back after a month. The place you’d like to vanquish Brady is on the gridiron, not in the courtroom. He’s taking ample lumps now, but don’t assume this dismisses the Patriots from Super Bowl contention, especially since they dwell in the emaciated AFC East.
And, of course, the Patriots are often the NFL version of Bruce Banner. When the Pats play angry they play with a passion and precision they didn’t have before whatever discipline slapped them across the corporate face.
Remember when these charges first cast a light on the Patriots, they won the Super Bowl. Using fully inflated footballs. Granted, you don’t deflate them unless you gain some edge from it, but the Pats are almost compulsive with regard to rules, if not addicted to breaking them.
Just because Jimmy Garoppolo is starting the season, it doesn’t mean Brady can’t end it in customary fashion, somewhere north of the AFC title. According to CBSSports.com, the Patriots play the NFL’s ninth-hardest schedule in 2016, which isn’t saying much, particularly considering whom they play during Brady’s presumed absence. After a tough road opener at Arizona, the Pats play in Foxborough over their next three games, against Miami, Houston, and Buffalo.
So while you should celebrate the delayed justice visiting the first man of football, it’s not a referendum on the 2016 season. Don’t get too gleeful or stomp on New England’s grave. You won’t like them when they’re angry.
Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel