Friday, June 19, 2015

Goodell Could Learn Something From Military Protocol

What is the sense in even holding a hearing?

Once upon a time when I was in the Navy, I once missed ships' movement, a victim of being bumped from my flight from Salt lake City to Oakland.  When I finally did make it to Oakland and, eventually Naval Air Station Alameda where my boat was home ported, I was arrested immediately and confined to the barracks, under guard, until a helicopter taking mail to the boat was set to depart the air station.

As if the helicopter trip to the USS Enterprise wasn't enough punishment, I stood to possibly be restricted to the boat or even fined and broken to a lower rank if the Captain found my behavior to be egregious and purposeful.
Balls being tested before an NFL Game

I was taken off the helicopter in handcuffs and escorted straight to the Executive Officer's stateroom, where he was holding XO's mast, sort of a one-man Grand Jury who decided if your offense warranted wasting the Captain's time on - and if it was, you could pretty much count on being found guilty and spending the next 30 days confined to the ship, scrubbing toilets for a couple of hours a night...

...but since I could present evidence that missing ship's movement was caused by something other than my negligence, I was set free, but not before a stern warning from the XO that further episodes wouldn't be tolerated, and that I needed to give myself some cushion when returning from leave, and particularly if the boat was leaving port.

By the time two hours elapsed after the Enterprise pulled into Pearl Harbor two days later, I was sitting in a place called the Monkey Bar in Pearl City, swigging rum and bottled Primo beer with my shipmates, dodging whatever those filthy monkeys decided to throw into the bar from behind their fishnet prison - just being a squid and acting appropriately...

Ah, the Monkey Bar.  The monkeys are enclosed behind glass now, perhaps due to the obvious health code violations inherent with having wild animals flinging their own feces around in a place that sold food - but many happy hours have been spent there, quite a few on that week in port, in fact, courtesy of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), and an Executive Officer that understood the difference between evidence and pure bullshit.

So does Bill Belichick, but unlike my old XO, he isn't bound to a code of justice, and is the final word in discipline for the players on his team - and though cornerback Malcolm Butler found himself in a similar pickle a couple of weeks ago, that's a story for another time - or maybe never - because this lesson is more related to how the National Football league should conduct themselves in the next couple of days in order to save a little face in the ongoing and increasingly laughable Deflategate saga...

...because NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is bound by precedence and by rules adopted through the last Collective bargaining Agreement in regard to dishing out punishment of the employees under his charge - and where the punishment in the case of the New England Patriots' allegedly deflating footballs below the legal standard set within the NFL guidelines was shockingly harsh and unreasonable beyond precedence, he should know enough to amend the sentence.

But there is another little thing in play here, that of the question, was there even a crime committed?

Increasingly, even the most critical of journalists and news sites have come a full 180 degrees regarding the Patriots' innocence in the Deflategate scandal, the rags that called for quarterback Tom Brady's head and called out team owner Robert Kraft for not having his star signal-caller's back not even a month ago are now busy plotting how the Commissioner is going to weasel his way out of a very tight corner that he's painted himself into.

The drama is as thick as the air on a hot New England mid-summer day, rife with hints of sabotage and notions of dark malfeasance wafting like smoke from an opium hut - only in this case, that opium hut is the National Football league offices in Manhattan, and the ones doing the sabotaging and are engaged in malfeasance are none others than vice president of game operations Mike Kensil and vice president of officiating Dean Blandino...

...and Ted Wells, who went all Howard Hughes after he issued his paranoid rant on NFL Network in response to intense criticism of his aptly-named Wells' Report, going into about seven layers of deep cover immediately afterwards because he knew it was just a matter of time before someone picked his monstrous report apart.

That time was Friday and that someone was an investigative team from the American Enterprise Institute, who stopped just shy of calling the Well's Report an outright fraud on the document, but then qualifing their findings on sports-talk radio and podcasts all over the country by calling it exactly that.

"This was terribly executed." said AEI's Stan Veuger, co-author of the damning report that discredits the Well's Report. "I don't think he (The Commissioner) can sustain the punishment he put in place for Brady in the first place because that punishment was based, at least in part, on a report that at least, in part, has been discredited."

Veuger was very careful in selecting his words, saying that columnists are being overaggressive with the substance of the report he helped write, saying that he "wouldn't have chosen the same tone." as Washington Post reporter Sally Jenkins, who jumped on the story like a ravenous wolverine, stating that he does take into account that it's not possible to know other people's motivations...

...but then goes on to explain what may have happened for the investigators in the Wells Report to come up with the conclusions that they did, as they seemingly ignored the fact that the Patriots' footballs were measured immediately upon being brought inside from the cold, while the Colts' football, according to the Wells Report, had to have been measured 10 to 13 minutes after the Patriots' ball were measured, making the Patriots' footballs to appear to have been deflated at a higher rate.

"If you account for the Colts' balls to warm up, the statistically significant difference they found disappears." Veuger states, then, "I think they believed the story they were telling, and you deemphisize things that don't fit the story if you want to present a coherent narrative."

Which, in lay terms, means that he feels that the Wells Report investigators "deemphisized" the time difference between the two teams' footballs being measured in order to present the evidence that they needed to corroborate their intent - which was enough to start the shit-storm of anti-Patriots sentiment on close to a universal scale.

Veuger then went on to address the "In part" caveat to his statement, saying that his group's statistical analysis didn't cover the fact that Brady declined to hand over his cell phone nor did he address the circumstantial evidence recovered from the cell phones of Patriots' equipment staff Jim McNally and John Jastremski because, as he puts it, if things had been done properly, there would have been no reason for an investigation to take place.

"If there's no deflation to begin with, then none of circumstantial evidence matters," Veuger said, "In the way that if there's no dead body, then there's no need for a murder investigation."

Veuger stayed away from the topic of whether the entire matter was, in fact, a sting operation as many claim, but that hardly matters at this point - what does matter, however, is that if Brady is not fully exonerated in his appeal hearing with Goodell on Tuesday, his attorney, Jeffrey Kessler will immediately file motion in Federal Court challenging the Commissioner's ruling...

...and if that happens, it becomes a matter of full cooperation on both sides, which means not only will Brady have to turn over his cell phone to an independent arbitrator, but pertinent members of the National Football league offices will have to submit to that as well as a matter of discovery and, in fact, making any kind of correspondence fair game and relevant to the case.

If that happens, all hell will break loose, as the paper trail that tells a story of prior knowledge of the Colts' General Manager Ryan Grigson's initial accusations lodged against the Patriots with the league office stemming from suspicions raised during a November meeting between the two teams - a knowledge flatly denied by Blandino, even though the Wells Report cites him telling the head referee in the AFC Championship game to make certain that proper ball inflation protocol was followed for the game.

This entire episode has a certain cloak-and-dagger quality to it, something that is not lost on the bureaucracy and red tape inherent with the Navy, and the government in general, an entity that always needs to find a scapegoat for everything - that is, except for the service level, where Captains of sea-going naval vessels can't be bothered with such trivial things, especially when the evidence suggests that he doesn't need to be...

...leaving the stern warnings to his second in command, which is exactly what should happen in this instance, Goodell's number one issuing a warning to the Patriots and, indeed, the other 31 franchises within the purview of the NFL, that such behavior will not be tolerated going forward - and then be done with it.

No hearing is needed, perhaps a league-wide email and a personal letter of apology to Brady, then all members of the NFL upper hierarchy retreating to wherever Ted Wells disappeared to, where they should remain until Goodell is forced to make an appearance at the season-opener, which happens to be in front of 70,000 rabid Patriots' fans at Gillette Stadium in early September.

That gives him a good two months of separation from the controversy, which should be enough time to identify a scapegoat and to conduct all necessary means of damage control - but if he takes the other route and stands behind his flawed report or even clings to his assertion that Brady's refusal to hand over his cell phone as being detrimental to the investigation then he'd best be ready for a wild ride on a boat that he certainly doesn't want to be on.

1 comment:

  1. Michael, it's simply amazing how The NFL's referees are never held accountable for managing the minutiae of football management. And twice as disappointing how NFL execs conistently drop the ball on problems they create themselves.