Though the Symmonds Matter has managed to leak into the public sphere, let there be no doubt as to which sport’s legal case the population is riveted. Deflate-Gate hit federal court today in Manhattan where the long unraveling of each side’s case began before Judge Richard M. Berman.
The judge had requested that the NFL and NFL Player’s Association meet prior to today’s hearing to discuss or even come to a settlement. That didn’t happen. So Judge Berman conducted an open court hearing followed by a closed-door session in an attempt to get the two sides closer to doing for themselves what he will eventually do for them if they can’t work it out for themselves.
Forget about the merits of the report, or Brady’s complicity, knowledge, or perceived lack of cooperation with the Wells investigation. Instead consider that Commissioner Roger Goodell carries the title “Commissioner”, as in “I have a dog in this hunt. I am that dog.”
So how in the name of Jiminy Cricket could he have served as an impartial arbitrator to a decision his own office commissioned and evidently had a hand in editing? That slipped the worm in the soup right there. By not recusing himself he tainted the process before the appeal was ever mounted.
Listening to attorneys who know about such matters, it seems you can sometimes read the tea leaves of the judicial mind by listening to which side he questions most pointedly. In today’s hearing all evidence suggests questions zeroed in on NFL attorney Daniel Nash more so than the NFLPA’s lawyer Jeffrey Kessler.
Though he said there were “strengths and weaknesses to both sides here,” among his other queries to Mr. Nash were, “what direct evidence does the league have linking Tom Brady to deflating footballs?”
Well, none, actually, said the Nash, but those emails between Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum…
Judge Berman further questioned the independence of the Wells investigation, which Nash thoughtfully chose to tell Berman he considered a red herring. Bold idea to link a judge’s query with a fish, if only a metaphorical one.
The commissioner’s office came under criticism this past season for making lenient rulings in the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson abuse cases. He seemed determined to be strong against the Glamor Boy Brady and the previously devious (see Spygate) Patriots. But as so often happens when we come to a predetermined conclusion, we have to fight like hell to find the circumstances and facts to back that conclusion. In doing so we reveal a closed mindset, and the outcome often doesn’t turn out well upon further investigation.
Seems no one at the league office had ever heard of the Ideal Gas Law, for instance. And not that they should until this issue arose. To a large degree it explains why both teams footballs had lost air pressure in the game in question after being used outside in colder conditions compared to when they were initially checked in the warmer locker room before the game. As Rick Perry might have said, “Oops.”
Throughout the process Brady has staunchly and unequivocally stated his innocence in the matter, essentially arguing, how do you to come to a settlement when you don’t feel you’ve done anything to settle for?
Both sides are dug in; it’s become overwrought. Judge Berman will conduct a final hearing next week, one last chance before the proverbial fan gets wheeled into the courtroom.
Why can’t we get Max and Nick in front of a federal court judge? Next thing you know we’d be on ESPN’s SportsCenter and have our own real sport to explain and defend. Damn, that would be good.