By Jason Keidel
With one sentence, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals did something that NFL defenses have failed to do for 15 years: knock Tom Brady out of a football game.
Brady has often been sacked, but he’s always peeled himself from the turf, and, most times, led his team to victory. But Brady will be sidelined for four games to start the 2016 NFL season. Or at least it looks that way to 99 percent of the public.
And for those still clinging to the cinematic, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington moment, when the oppressed finally bowl over the oppressor, for a singular, glorious moment, don’t hold your breath.
If folks in Foxborough and beyond are looking for some silver lining, the court did not rule that Brady was guilty, per se, but rather that Roger Goodell simply had the authority to suspend him. Maybe that’s not enough to appease Patriots fans. But it will have to be. This case won’t be heard by the Supreme Court, which has its own issues at the moment.
Sure, our highest court has heard cases involving sports icons and iconoclasts. Most notably, Muhammad Ali’s refusal to serve in the Army came under the eyes of the Supreme Court, which ruled he had the right to eschew the armed forces and to once again earn a living as a prizefighter. Also, Curt Flood’s free agency case was heard a few years later. Because of poor legal representation and a country and court not ready to see that Flood was being misused by our pastime, Flood was flattened by the court’s collective mallet.
But those two cases spoke to broader and more poignant issues about a man’s right to make a living and live his life accordingly. The notion of doctored leather doesn’t seem to rise to those epic levels.
So Brady, his counsel, the NFLPA and Patriots fans should just drop this. It’s over. It never should have lasted this long. And even if you feel that Brady and his boss Robert Kraft got the shaft, there’s nothing to be gained by shouting up and down the marble halls of our judicial system.
And remember these are the New England Patriots. Long before PSI became as much a part of our lexicon as CSI, they were spanked for illegally recording their opponents’ practices, also known as Spygate.
You may also recall the architect of this dynasty, Bill Belichick, got to New England in a dubious manner. He was all set to inherit the head coaching gig of the New York Jets in 1999, when Bill Parcells surrendered his headset.
And he did, for one day. Then Belichick famously — or infamously — penned his resignation as “HC of the NYJ” 24 hours later. The Patriots had to cough up a first-round draft pick for the right to hire Belichick.
Then there are the pro-Patriot arguments that now double as cliches…
– Brady plays best with a chip on his shoulder, which surely will have morphed into a cinder block by October.
– If the Pats can navigate the first four games and somehow emerge 3-1, they get a fresh Brady in a foul mood.
– They get a chance to see if Jimmy Garoppolo is more than a male model in shoulder pads.
Mayhem seems to rule AFC East this season. The Bills have the Ryan boys running Buffalo into the ground. The Jets have no idea who will start the season at quarterback. And the Dolphins are still looking for their first Super Bowl title since Richard Nixon was in the White House. The Pats can practically win the division by default.
All of this makes for a fascinating football season. We wouldn’t have it any other way, and neither would the Patriots.
Jason writes a weekly column for CBS Local Sports. He is a native New Yorker, sans the elitist sensibilities, and believes there’s a world west of the Hudson River. A Yankees devotee and Steelers groupie, he has been scouring the forest of fertile NYC sports sections since the 1970s. He has written over 500 columns for WFAN/CBS NY, and also worked as a freelance writer for Sports Illustrated and Newsday subsidiary amNew York. He made his bones as a boxing writer, occasionally covering fights in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, but mostly inside Madison Square Garden. Follow him on Twitter @JasonKeidel.