NFL's 'Deflategate' appeals raises a question or two

Stray thoughts and random observations on this and that while waiting for the next cleat to drop in aimless, pointless, and endless “Deflategate.”

And there remains a pair of salient questions, one of which logically needs be answered eventually.  If the NFL loses its appeal, does Bob Kraft get his draft picks back? And if the NFL wins, does Tom Brady get his four-game suspension back?

I say take it to the Supreme Court where, given the current situation, it stands a swell chance of ending up in a four-four deadlock with Justices Kennedy, Alito, Thomas & the Chief tilting to the NFL (the corporate behemoth) while Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor, Kagan, and Breyer (the local boy) giving the Pats the nod.  

Hey, with any luck, this dumb thing could go on forever. It would be perfectly consistent, given that the highest councils of America are reveling in nonsense these days.

Moving on: That another baseball season opens with a torrid media meltdown over the length and breadth of Pablo Sandoval’s slobby waistline is again hilarious. The Sandoval case is open and shut. He’s one of those odd baseball characters gifted at waving a bat who can get by while still young because he can nail a fastball with his eyes closed but is sure to burn out early and should never be awarded a $100 million contract as the Red Sox ridiculously chose to do. That’s Sandoval in a nutshell. Live with it!

Too bad Pablo never had the pleasure of knowing, let alone playing for Dick Williams, orchestrator of the Red Sox 1967 Impossible Dream that paved his way to the Hall of Fame. Old-fashioned in his approach to managing, Dick may deep in his heart have believed John J. McGraw was a bit too liberal. He was despotic on many issues. But none raised his considerable ire quicker or higher than the sight of a pudgy ballplayer gracing his roster.

Dick’s persecution of Joe Foy and George Scott on the issue remain legend although both, the “Boomer” in particular, were contrite about their weight problems. How Williams might have dealt with a recidivist butterball like Sandoval, who seems to enjoy compounding the aggravation by treating his problem with a certain flippancy, boggles the imagination. The gall of the fellow!

Alas, Dick is no longer with us or I’d run the question by him. Let’s put it this way. I’d have paid dearly to witness that confrontation.

It says here that not enough attention was paid to the way the Packers lost to the Cardinals in the NFC quarter-finals of this year’s turgid and otherwise dissected-to-death NFL tournament. Because it was absurd. And the huge problem it dramatizes continues to be totally ignored. Nobody even talks about it because, presumably, the gilded NFL can do no wrong and it borders on the unpatriotic to suggest otherwise. Balderdash!  

Essentially this pivotal game, two rounds before the Super Bowl, was ludicrously decided by a coin flip, and a flawed one, at that. You’ll recall the ref had trouble doing the bloody flip properly as overtime commenced. It was finally determined that Arizona should receive, and if the Green Bay folks, who had dramatically tied the game in regulation’s waning seconds, looked confused, who could blame them? Four downs later – highlighted by a 70-yard pass-play – it was over, with Green Bay never having had the chance to touch the football on offense.

If something comparable were to take place in Baseball, all hell would break loose. Say the World Series combatants were tied at the end of nine innings in Game Seven, necessitating extra innings, i.e., overtime, and the rules decreed a coin should be flipped to determine who hits first and as soon as a run is scored the party is over. Would it not be scorned as downright goofy? In a nano second, Mister, believe it!

But isn’t this what the NFL is essentially doing? Sure, had the Cardinals only kicked a field goal the Packers would have gotten the chance to go on offense. It’s what the rules , which seemingly only adds to the silliness of the situation. “We’ll give you a chance to score a touchdown to win, but not a chance to score one that would tie it and thus keep the game going until you (or the other guys) get another chance to win.” Hello!

The point is that at minimum both teams should have at least one chance to move the ball. That, it seems to me, is as simple as it gets.  A full extra period complete with time outs and a two-minute warning, giving both sides sufficient opportunities, would be the fairest way to do it, with sudden-death to follow if need be. But the NFL doesn’t want longer games nor does, more importantly, network television, which rules the NFL with its iron commercial fist.

The Cardinals, of course, went on to lose to Carolina, which in turn lost to the Broncos in the finale, so it gets a bit convoluted trying to argue the ultimate outcome could have been different had Green Bay been given a fair chance. But if they’re still seething in otherwise frigid Green Bay, again, who can blame them?
Even more to the point remains the question: How does the NFL get away with this stuff?

Some quick hits, if you will:
• Little noted but of huge consequence, NHL owners have quietly extended the contract of Commissioner Gary Bettman another six years, through 2022, which means he’ll have ruled longer than the legendary Clarence Campbell, who brought nothing but honor and glory to his game. In his latest obsession, Bettman is clearly determined to land a franchise in Las Vegas, meaning he believes the desert is a better location for his ice game than the Province of Quebec. Case closed!

• ‘Nobody asked me, but…’ as the late, great Jimmy Cannon used to like to say. But isn’t it time for Rob Gronkowski to grow up?

• Apparently we’re being asked to conclude that the Patriots would have won the Super Bowl had it not been for the failings of Dave DeGuglielmo. So far, only the promptly banished (and quickly hired elsewhere) offensive line coach and a couple of medics have been made to pay for the season’s crash-landing. Of course, if one recalls correctly so decimated was their O-line the Pats might have been obliged to hustle Jon Morris and Hog Hannah out of retirement to protect Brother Brady had it lasted any longer. But apparently such factors don’t obtain; at least not in Foxborough.  

• How good are the Celtics? It’s the question that might be the talk of the town come merry May. The Ainge-Stevens axis clearly has them ahead of schedule in the grand renewal scheme as they run freely with the playoff pack, actually ahead of the vaunted likes of Miami. But will Joe Johnson, the free agent bonus prize having now been snared by the Heat, make the crucial difference? Could be the question we’ll be asking, come May.

• Lastly, among the pleasant moments of the recent Soupey Bowl festivities  were cameo appearances by Jim Plunkett and Drew Bledsoe, two old New England favorites from past eras who ought not be forgotten, however distant. As a past Soupey MVP (with the Raiders) Plunkett, now well into his sixties and looking terrific, got to parade with the other MVPs while Bledsoe, ramrod straight and stoic as ever, was featured in a CBS pre-game feature.

Neither had an easy time, nor a sweet ending here. Both were charged with the heavy responsibilities of leading this long woe-begotten franchise through some of its more arduous transitions. And both did so with abundant class, personal strength, and nary a whimper, qualities clearly not diminished in either with advancing age.
Nice to be reminded there was pro football here before the Age of Belichick dawned in all of bluster as well as eminence and that it was not without its considerable charms. It’s not always about who won or lost, you know.