The deflated football "scandal" is a lot of nonsense that was probably incited by people jealous of the New England Patriots' success (either people in the NFL office who used to work for rival teams and/or people who are currently affiliated with rival NFL teams) and clearly fueled by the sloppy reporting/reckless commentary of "journalists" like Bob Kravitz, Mike Wilbon and Chris Mortensen, each of whom has played fast and loose with the facts while issuing broad, sweeping pronouncements that they are not qualified to make concerning issues of sport, fairness and the law (Peter King also filed a report that was subsequently debunked, but at least he had the good sense and grace to apologize, unlike the defiant Mortensen and the bizarrely proud Kravitz, who listed his self-promoting, bombastic coverage of the story as his "drops the mic" moment on his self-evaluation of his past year's work).
Federal District Court Judge Richard Berman just inserted some common sense--and sound legal principles--into the situation with a scathing 40 page ruling that eviscerates NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for the heavy-handed, sloppy and unfair way that Goodell and his cronies conducted the investigation and punishment of New England quarterback Tom Brady. After spending millions of dollars, the NFL could not come up with one piece of hard (or even circumstantial) evidence proving that the footballs in question were illegally deflated, let alone that Brady had anything to do with the alleged illegal deflation: the scientific analysis of the footballs in question is, at best, inconclusive, and there is no proof that Brady had anything to do with deflating the footballs even if it is true that the footballs were deliberately deflated in a manner that violates NFL rules. Nevertheless, Goodell suspended Brady for four games (under a bizarre theory equating ball deflation with illegal steroid use, a notion that an incredulous Judge Berman summarily dismissed) and media members dragged Brady's name through the mud, saying that Brady should accept the suspension (or at most bargain for a slight reduction) to just close the matter. I am sure that if someone punished Kravitz, Wilbon or Mortensen on the basis of no evidence those guys would just roll over and accept it.
Instead, Brady took the NFL to court and pounded Goodell even more soundly than Brady's Patriots defeated the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Game. Judge Berman expressed unconcealed disdain for the NFL's "independent" investigation (the mocking quotes are Judge Berman's) and chastised the league for refusing to grant Brady the opportunity to cross-examine his accusers and see relevant evidence. So, contrary to the incessant media bleating that we have been hearing for months, it is actually the NFL--not Brady--who obstructed the fair investigation of this matter; you can take the word of Kravitz, Wilbon and Mortensen about this point of law or you can take the word of a federal judge who comprehensively reviewed the matter and actually knows how a legal investigation is supposed to work. Goodell also repeatedly moved the goal posts on Brady, changing what Brady was being charged with doing and what basis was being used to determine Brady's punishment. Judge Berman waded through the NFL's sloppy investigation and bizarre, draconian discipline and voided Goodell's four game suspension of Brady. Keep in mind that federal courts rarely overturn an arbitrator's decision but in this case it is so obvious that Goodell neither conducted a competent investigation nor fairly served as the arbitrator of his own ruling that Judge Berman had little choice but to decide the case in Brady's favor.
The NFL has already announced that it will appeal the verdict. Maybe the league will achieve victory at the Circuit Court level, though that seems doubtful since the league's lawyers just lost in the District Court that they selected for this battle (they filed suit in New York because they felt that they would receive more sympathy in that jurisdiction than in any other one). The NFL's refusal to admit wrongdoing, accept defeat and move on brings to mind Grand Moff Tarkin's mocking dismissal of the idea that the Death Star should be evacuated right before Luke Skywalker blew it to smithereens: "Evacuate? In our moment of triumph? I think you overestimate their chances."
This saga could potentially drag on for years as it works its way through the federal court system but anyone who enjoys football, respects the legal process and values journalistic integrity hopes that when all is said and done we will no longer have to hear from Goodell, his "independent" investigator Ted Wells, Kravitz (whose most recent column about the Judge Berman ruling betrays a complete inability and/or unwillingness to understand what Judge Berman decided), Wilbon, Mortensen and everyone else who has added much heat but little light to the matter at hand.