STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Here's a question to ponder over your morning coffee. Why? Why would the New England Patriots' Tom Brady get involved in a scandal? Brady has been suspended four games for his apparent involvement in lowering the pressure in the footballs he threw. He seemed to be the kind of player who did not need to cheat to win. Though Brady denies doing anything wrong, commentator Frank Deford has no doubts.
FRANK DEFORD, BYLINE: Bill Belichick, the Patriots' coach, we can understand easy. It's, as they phrase it in sports, all about winning. So he cheated and stole the Jets' signals, paid the half-million-dollar fine and moved on. And geez, some people think maybe that Belichick's Patriots only just got caught the one time. Remember the game played the week before, the infamous deflatable AFC championship? In that game, the Patriots barely beat the Ravens with the help of a screwy formation that was technically legal that had an ineligible receiver suddenly eligible or something or other. Never mind the particulars, just good old Bill Belichick scheming. And no, it wasn't technically cheating, just dirty pool. For as the quarterback who made it work said smugly when the Ravens complained, maybe those guys got to study the rulebook.
The quarterback, of course, was Tom Brady. Now there's a man who knows the rulebook. And what intrigues me is why would he do it, he who'd become a football immortal - immortal. That's what we call his kind. So did Tom Brady cheat, put his legend on Skid Row because it's only all about winning - a la Lance Armstrong - or was it perhaps more personal? He's 37 years old now, and football players at 37 are simply physically not up to what they once were.
It's interesting, but a few years ago, it was Brady and his contemporary, Peyton Manning - they, the divine divas of the 21st century NFL - who successfully petitioned the league to let teams use their own balls. We can say now, perhaps, that by doing so, Brady would eventually hoist himself on his own petard. But the larger point is that even then, Brady was looking for a little hedge against growing older. But then you start to search for other edges and you find an accomplice who will call himself the Deflator and doctor Tom Brady's pig skins in a lavatory.
Sure, deflating the balls must've helped the Patriots but maybe more it helped pretty Tom Brady, the Golden Boy, hang onto that immortality mode for an overtime. It would surely drive Belichick crazy to think that it was vanity as much as victory that drove Tom Brady, but I have to believe that that is so, that Brady might not have cut a deal with the devil only because it is all about winning. Oh, well, he still has his looks. I wonder if it'll be just as difficult for him when his beauty starts to fade as it was back when he realized that his skills were beginning to deflate.
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