More Probable Than Not
Thursday, May 14, 2015
The suspension of the New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady from the start of next fall’s NFL season is one of the best things to happen to sports since Tivo let us all go to the bathroom.
Professional sports get a little boring after a while when the athletes simply win and lose the way they are supposed to. Do you hear anyone talking about the basketball and hockey playoff? The real fun as a fan is arguing about a bad call and getting thrown out of your local bar for throwing a beer bottle.
Here in the off season, the National Football League has fans and even non-fans arguing about whether Brady should have been suspended for his part in deflating footballs for the AFC championship last January. And let me say here, just to feed the fun, he did it. No doubt about it.
Lots of people are in denial, including the Patriots organization, which has posted a “truther” website arguing with the minute details of the so-called “Wells Report.” That’s the 243 page tome that determined it was “more probable than not” that Brady knew one of the Patriot locker room guys let air out of the game balls. It’s that word “probable” that is the gift to the sports fan. It leaves so much to argue about. It’s better than a rumor that Brady is a Muslim born in Africa.
Sports fans love certainty. They want the ball in bounds or out. Caught or dropped. Over the wall or not. No one “probably” scores a goal, but in the eyes of the NFL, you can “probably” cheat. We can debate what it means until Gisele Bundchen is no longer good looking.
I’ve been party to a Facebook discussion in which a lawyer argues that the proof in the NFL report would never hold up in court and a scientist says the ball inflation science was also shoddy. Over inflated, you might say.
My high school teacher and coach joined in with “‘Probably’. Huh? Since when do we punish for this?” Now, I love and revere this man, but when I played hockey on his team, if he saw you punch another player he’d pull you out of the game faster than the referee. He didn’t care if the guy on the other team “probably” deserved it.
One man in the Facebook debate says the teams should be allowed to show up with any ball they want. Does that include real softballs? It’s also devolved into discussion about deflated balls vs. inflated muscles. Which deserves more severe punishment? And one guy says the NFL is taking revenge on the Patriots because they win so much. Sports arguments are so refreshingly stupid.
Sports fans secretly like their cheaters, especially when they play for the home team. You didn’t hear many complaints in San Francisco about Barry Bonds hitting homers on juice. He may have been a cheater, but he was their cheater.
Tom Brady is Boston’s cheater and they love him for it. He’s brought home the Super Bowl trophy four times. He’s taken us a long way since the little boy pleaded with Shoeless Joe Jackson to “Say it ain’t so.” The Chicago Black Sox cheated for pocket change; Tom Brady cheats for millions, “more probable than not.”