NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks to reporters during the NFL's spring meetings in San Francisco last month. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks to reporters during the NFL's spring meetings in San Francisco last month. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Roger and out: If Goodell lets Brady off hook, he should resign

Maybe it’s summer apathy, a basic loathing of Roger Goodell or the sudden realization that The Golden Boy Of Our Time might not play football for an entire month (OMG!). But something weird is happening in America: A whole lot of people suddenly are defending Tom Brady when it’s pretty damned clear he participated in a flim-flam game of football-tampering, rules-breaking and cover-upping.

Save Tom, they cry.

Screw Tom, I reply.

As one who has admired Brady’s career and lifestyle, I wish Deflategate didn’t happen. It did, though. He is guilty of lying and cheating and, worse, trying to win an appeal now with more lying and cheating. Need I remind the Save Tom peeps of a certain smoking gun — the text messages that suggest these ball-deflation tactics had been in place for months or years in New England? Need I remind them that a low-level Patriots employee, Jim McNally, not only referred to himself as “the deflator” in those texts but snuck the balls into a side bathroom before the AFC championship game before handing them to the game officials?

Need I remind them that the very evidence of such tip-toeing screams of intentional deceit, realizing there’s no need for clandestine efforts if football protocol is being followed on the up-and-up? Need I remind them that Brady is on record as preferring that his footballs be softer — and thus easier to throw — which therefore shouldn’t surprise anyone that so many balls that day were deflated below the NFL minimum of 12.5 pounds per square inch?

And need I remind the Save Tom Society that the Patriots have a way of circumventing league rules in underhanded and wormy ways, going back to the Spygate scandal? The football dynasty of the 21st century has cheated and lied twice. And while cheating and lying may help people get ahead in your workplace, those of us who care about the integrity of what purportedly is honest athletic competition — impacting consumers who devote substantial amounts of money, time, energy and passion to sports — fully understand why Goodell must protect his ethical paradigm and not give Brady a break because he’s the league’s most celebrated, decorated and marketable player.

If anything, Goodell was wise to swing the hammer harder on Brady than he would on, say, Derek Carr or another fair-to-middling quarterback. The four-game suspension demonstrates, in this turbulent time in the commissioner’s kingdom, that favorites are not being played, even if it means the end of Goodell’s relationship with Patriots owner Bob Kraft — his biggest ally and defender during the Ray Rice debacle — and if it means he’ll be ousted from a job that pays as much as $44.2 million a year. Though Kraft stood down in announcing in San Francisco last month that the Patriots won’t appeal Goodell’s decision, he is fighting back via Brady’s phalanx of lawyers. The hope is to rally public opinion and force Goodell, who is serving as judge and jury for Brady’s appeal, to either reduce the suspension to two games or wipe the record entirely.

“I think we put in a very compelling case,” said Jeffrey Kessler, Brady’s lead defender and an attorney who has successfully battled NFL rulings.

Should Goodell choose to buckle amid this pressure and lift the ban entirely, only one more act would remain for the nation’s most embattled sports figure.

He would have to resign.

Because nothing galls us more about Goodell than his flippant wishy-washyness, his alarming inclination to change his mind after it becomes obvious that he didn’t throughly investigate an important matter. He lost the American people when he didn’t do his necessary due diligence on Rice, didn’t try hard enough to locate the elevator tape — or, much worse, saw the elevator tape and thought nothing of it — and gave Rice a meek two-game suspension, only to embarrassingly change course and issue an indefinite ban when the public heat was blasted too high. That isn’t robust leadership. That isn’t understanding the gravity of a sensitive issue in the world, then reacting not because his conscience was tugging but because he walked out onto Park Avenue, stuck his finger in the air and realized the wind wasn’t blowing in his direction.

The Save Tom Society claims Brady’s four-game ban is too harsh when compared to the original Rice wrist slap and other penalties related to personal conduct. The categories should maintain a separate exclusivity — while Rice’s domestic violence guilt is far more punitive in the perspective of everyday life than the deflating of footballs, integrity-of-game issues also deserve severe penalties within a commissioner’s jurisdiction. How Brady can claim he didn’t deliberately break the rules is beyond me. He tried to gain an illegal competitive advantage, then refused to cooperate with Ted Wells and his investigators.

Does he believe he’s above the rules because he’s Tom Brady? Is his new ballgame trying to charm and smooth over Goodell? ESPN quoted a source who attended the 10-hour hearing Tuesday as saying, “Tom Brady’s greatest ally today was Tom Brady,” describing his explanation of the Deflategate details as “an A-plus performance.”

I didn’t realize we were judging Brady on his acting skills.

Aren’t we trying to get to the truth?

Kessler is trying to show that evidence in the Wells report bears no direct connection to rules-breaking. So why were two team flunkies, McNally and John Jastremski, texting back and forth in different parts of two calendar years with the obvious goal to surreptitiously doctor balls so they would be deflated for Brady’s competitive needs? Athletes have been convicted on far less evidence. When a pitcher doctors up a baseball, he serves an ample suspension.

Why not Brady? And if you think four games is too much, consider how long this has been going on.

To refresh the collective memory of the Save Tom Society, here’s one of the text exchanges:

McNally: “Tom sucks…im going make that next ball a [bleeping] balloon”

Jastremski: “Talked to him last night. He actually brought you up and said you must have a lot of stress trying to get them done”

Jastremski: “I told him it was. He was right though”

Jastremski: “I checked some of the balls this morn… The refs [bleeped] us… a few of then were at almost 16 [psi]”

Jastremski: “They didnt recheck then after they put air in them”

McNally: “[Bleeping] tom …16 is nothing… wait till next sunday”

Jastremski: “Omg! Spaz”

Here’s another:

McNally: “You working”

Jastremski: “Yep”

McNally: “jimmy needs some kicks….lets make a deal…..come on help the deflator”

McNally: “Chill buddy i’m just [bleeping] with you … im not going to espn … . yet”

Is Brady trying to claim that these two goofs were working on their own?BFor what purpose? Why would they be texting about deflating footballs if Brady didn’t want them deflated?

We are not stupid. Brady thinks we are. More to the point, he thinks he can sway Roger Goodell because, aw shucks, he’s Tom Brady.

Don’t let him, commissioner. Or vacate your job immediately.AFC championship gameBob KraftDeflategateDerek CarrJeff KesslerJim McNallyNew England PatriotsRay RiceRoger GoodellTom Brady

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