(Photos courtesy of the New England Patriots)
By Clark Judge
Talk of Fame Network
Talk about timing.
If the NFL’s four-game suspension of Tom Brady holds up – and there’s no reason to think it won’t – then he returns to the field for the Sunday night, Oct. 18, game against … uh-huh, the Indianapolis Colts, the team that turned in Brady and the Patriots.
That contest – a reprise of the AFC championship game where Brady allegedly had footballs deflated for him – is the centerpiece for Sunday Night’s Football in America on NBC. Only now it becomes the centerpiece for the season, with viewers tuning in by the millions to see how Brady and the Patriots respond.
Well, here’s a prediction: With a vengeance.
We’ve been down this road before, people. In 2007 the Patriots were involved in “Spygate,” with their head coach caught in the middle of a scandal that cost him $500,000 and the team another $250,000, plus a first-round draft pick. That happened immediately after the first game of the season, and they took their punishment.
Then opponents took theirs.
The Patriots not only beat their next 17 opponents; they buried them, winning their next six by an average … an average … of 26.5 points per game, with nobody closer than 17. Granted, they lost the only game that season that mattered – Super Bowl XLII – but, hey, it happens. They lost Super Bowl XLVI, too, and there was no “Spygate” then.
All I know is that following that episode the Patriots were determined to prove they didn’t need videotapes to conquer the field. So they went out and proved it.
Then there was “Deflategate,” with the Patriots turned in by Indianapolis. Officials checked the footballs at halftime of the 2014 conference championship game and determined that New England was playing with underinflated footballs. So they removed them. Then the Patriots removed Indianapolis, outscoring the Colts 28-0 in the second half, with Brady completing 12 of 14 passes and two touchdowns.
When reports of wrongdoing leaked the following week, Brady and owner Robert Kraft maintained their innocence, coach Bill Belichick turned into a meteorologist and we were told there was no way the Patriots did anything wrong – when a 234-page report says they did.
“Deflategate” dominated Super Bowl week, with both teams asked about it and an irate Kraft demanding an apology from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell if there was no “definitive proof” of wrongdoing. It was supposed to create a distraction that would finish New England.
Except it didn’t. The Patriots not only won Super Bowl XLIV, but they did it the hard way – overcoming a 10-point deficit in a fourth quarter where they scored more points (14) than Seattle’s previous eight opponents (13).
Tom Brady was America’s hero then, but he’s not now. Now he’s considered a miscreant by many outside the 617 area code, and I don’t care what you think of what he did – whether it’s nothing more than a pitcher scuffing up a baseball or it’s a blow to the “integrity of the game” that commissioner Roger Goodell tries to protect.
All I know is how the Patriots – and their quarterback — respond when accused of wrongdoing. Indianapolis, get ready to rumble.