By Dr. Mark Denison — Four-time Super Bowl champion and three-time Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady has been suspended for four games by the NFL, in punishment for “Deflategate.” Additionally, the Patriots were fined $1 million, lost two draft picks, and two equipment managers were suspended indefinitely. Was the suspension fair? Why did Brady do it? Did Brady do it? In the history of NFL suspensions we find names such as Ray Rice, who beat his fiancé, Adrian Peterson, who beat his son, and Michael Vick, who sponsored dog fighting. Does Tom Brady belong in this group? Let’s go back to December 17, 1925, the date of pro football’s first suspension. The player was Art Folz, quarterback for the Chicago Cardinals. In what became known as the Cardinals-Badgers Scandal, Folz paid his old high school football team to replace the Milwaukee Badgers in the Cardinals-Badgers game, so his Cardinals team would have an easy win, positioning them to unseat the defending champions, the Pottsville Maroons. Folz won the game, but lost his career to a lifetime ban.
But Tom Brady doesn’t belong in a list that includes Rice, Peterson, Vick, and Folz, does he? Certainly don’t mention him in the same breath as Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, and Lance Armstrong. But the NFL found that it was “more likely than not” that Brady instructed the equipment personnel to deflate the balls to a preferred level, and that he did it more than once. What are the lessons of Tom Brady? I see three. First, we are never satisfied. Brady already had three Super Bowl titles and two Super Bowl MVP awards. He was already considered one of the very best to play the game. He already had the fame, fortune, and family. His worth is estimated at $120 million and he makes $27 million a year. As for the game in question, they were playing the Indianapolis Colts for the AFC title. The Patriots were huge favorites, and went on to win, 45-7. They didn’t need to cheat. But we are never satisfied. History is littered with people who had it all, but for whom “it all” wasn’t quite enough. Second, we learn that actions have consequences. That is a law of the universe. We need look no further than David and Bathsheba. We get to choose our actions, but we don’t get to choose our consequences. Brady’s defenders argue that he wasn’t guilty, that all evidence was circumstantial. They miss the point. Actions have consequences. Clearly, the balls were underinflated. Clearly, that benefited the Patriots. Clearly, someone did that. And clearly, the balls were under the supervision of Tom Brady all week. (Each quarterback receives twelve balls to work with the week of the coming game.) The buck stopped with him. Someone had to be held accountable. If Brady did not personally order the balls to be deflated (an unlikely scenario according to league officials), he supervised those who did. Actions have consequences. Third, the problem is always the cover-up. Before the NFL suspended Brady, they made him an offer. They invited him to talk to them and explain his side of it. They asked to see his emails and text messages to the men handling the balls. They even allowed him to decide which emails and texts to share with them. He declined all offers. The league officials came to a pretty logical conclusion. Mr. Brady can face a four-game suspension and $1 million fine, or he can show us the clear evidence that completely exonerates him. He decided it was in his best interest to hide that information. He decided the texts and emails were more valuable than $1 million. To them, that sounded like a cover-up. It’s hard to read it any other way.
Either Brady had incriminating information he chose not to share, or he wanted to bless the NFL with $1 million of Patriots’ money. Clearly, this appeared to be a cover-up to league officials. It is still too early to tell if the suspension will stand. Brady can protest this, an arbitrator can be brought in, and the penalties may be lessened or even eliminated. But the lessons will still stand. You don’t have to be an NFL star and multi-millionaire to learn these lessons. They go to the heart of who we are. When we rely on the things this world has to offer, we never have enough. Actions have consequences. The cover-up is always the worst thing. Whether you are a fan of Tom Brady or thought we was the brother of Marcia Brady, let this be a learning point. Life is a lot better when we can learn from the mistakes of others before we make them ourselves.