Tom Brady is a lot of things. He's a Super Bowl-winning quarterback, a sure-fire Hall of Famer, Mr. Gisele Bundchen, a spokesman for Uggs, and now a low down, dirty cheater.
The Patriots may be the most dominant NFL team over the last 20 years, but after the 243-page Wells Report claimed that it was "more likely than not" that Tom, the Patriots, and equipment assistants John Jastremski and Jim McNally were "generally aware" of inappropriate activities involving deflated football, they've now been caught cheating twice, which is something not a lot of other scandalous squads and fraudulent players can claim.
Pete Rose got pinched once for betting on baseball and was banned forever. The Chicago Black Sox got caught cheating once and earned a place of infamy in the halls of sports history. Ben Johnson was caught once for using PEDs, Rosie Ruiz cheated in the Boston Marathon once. The truth finally caught up with Lance Armstrong once after all those years of cheating. And City College of New York was busted once for point shaving.
All of the above were nailed just once for their crimes, which, by all accounts and metrics, are much more serious than playing with purposefully deflated balls, which Brady did for at least half of the AFC Championship Game against the Colts. "More than likely," he and the Patriots did it more than once, because that's what miscreants do: they cheat until they're caught, and we're led to believe that it was a singular transgression.
Except the Patriots have now been found guilty of cheating twice. Remember Spygate, when New England was outed by Eric Mangini for illegally videotaping opponents and stealing their signals? The Patriots now have a history of breaking NFL rules to gain an edge, they have a track record, a reputation, and a new meaning for what exactly the "Patriot Way" is.
Tom Brady is the Alex Rodriguez of football. That's not to say the QB turned his body into a science project to try to gain an advantage. It's to say that Brady, like A-Rod, looks just as goofy after getting caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
In January, Brady stood in front of the media and lied straight-faced that he didn't know anything about their balls being deflated, that he had no idea how it could happen, and publicly challenged why anyone would want to play with balls that had just a little less air in them (apparently it makes them easier to grip and catch, and less likely to fumble).
The Patriots are serial cheats. Their crimes may not tamper with the law, may not jeopardize the integrity of the game to the extent that baseball's juicers did, but they now have a reputation for playing fast and loose with the rules of the game.
The Patriot Way is to win at all costs. The Patriot Way is bend the rules, to find strategy in rule book wrinkles. But at the end of the day, the Patriot Way is ultimately to lie and cheat. They've made a reputation out of it.
The NFL is obligated to hand down fines and suspensions in the aftermath of the Wells report. What's a fair sentence for the equivalent of scuffing a ball or corking a bat? Two games? Three? In all likelihood, the punishment will come in the form of a fine levied against the Pats. In the end, deflating balls is pretty childish but probably not worth a serious suspension. Look for a slap on the wrist (hey it's not like TMZ has a video of Brady letting the air out of those balls).
Once a liar and a cheat, always a liar and a cheat.