Friday, March 4, 2016

Deflategate, Round 3 - Panel Beats Up On Both Sides in Effort To Understand Motivations

5:34am, somewhere between Lewiston and Augusta on Route 202...

Single digit temperatures in Maine this morning and the resultant squishiness of my brand new tires has me keenly aware of the ideal gas law - as proposed by Emile Clapeyron nearly 200 years ago, and rendered into complete irrelevance ever since.

It is too cold to get out to put air in the tires, plus I realize that they will reinflate to their proper levels once the sun comes out and warms the air temperature to a more moderate level. Besides, I'm kind of skittish about pulling into a gas station for any purpose after the harrowing dream I had in the initial stages of the Deflategate saga...

...pulling into a random station to get some gas when out of the dark garage bay NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell emerged with a menacing scowl on his face and wielding an air hose, ranting about proper inflation standards. I dodged Goodell and sprinted into the building and up to the service desk, where Mike Kensil was engaged in an immense amount of self love while looking at the Wells Report.

Throwing my money on the desk, I dashed to my car, jumped over the now-prone Goodell who was slobbering on himself while unscrewing the plastic caps from my tire stems and muttering about 12.5 pounds per inch, only to encounter Jeffery Pash, who was cleaning my windshield with a stack of court briefs and shrieking like a banshee about preponderance of the evidence.
NFL Attorney Paul Clement

The dream came to a sudden end when I was pulled over a few miles from the station by Dean Blandino, who began taking the pressure of my tires while his partner, Troy Vincent, just stared at me, arms folded and saying over and over, "You,re suspended, you're suspended, you're suspended"...

And, yes. We will just continue on our journey without stopping for air, particularly from one of these backwoods filling stations, where the things worse than that dream have probably happened. Besides, none of these people - neither in my dream nor anyone who would happen to be working at a filling station at 5:30am would really care about the Ideal Gas Law...

...and the only reason that anyone - besides scientists - really cares about it is because it is a central feature in the ongoing "Deflategate" saga, the third round of which took place in a Federal courtroom in New York on Thursday afternoon.

I was still mulling over in my head the awful manuscripts that I received late last night in regard to the NFL's appeal of Judge Richard Berman's order vacating the league's suspension of New England Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady, and it was good to be on the road. The solace afforded one on an early morning, high speed dash from Lewiston to the Maine state capital was necessary to break down what I had read in some cohesive fashion - to be alone with my thoughts and away from the influence of the evil media in order to draw my own conclusions from the text of the hearing.

And what I came up with is that the three-man appeal panel went into Thursday's hearing united in their quest to simply understand how this case came to be and, more importantly, why their valuable time was being used up in having to deal with it. As a result, the panel hammered both sides equally.

Now, the media has Patriots' Nation all tied up in knots by reporting that the panel seemed to favor the NFL in it's body language and tone of voice, and then hammering the point home that New England is probably going to have to start the 2016 season with their franchise quarterback in Goodell's dog house.

But there are two things that they fail to mention.

First, the Judges absolutely flogged both NFLPA lawyer Jeffery Kessler and NFL attorney Paul Clement, not just Kessler. And the tone taken with both matched the rhetoric being thrown about by both sides. Clement was treated like a child who didn't understand that it was wrong to cover up for a friend who lied, and, similarly, Kessler was treated like like a timid husband being given the fifth degree by an angered wife.

But in the end, it seemed that the three judges were united in their search for one thing, that is, why did commissioner Goodell feel so compelled to punish Brady, to the point that he completely abandoned his original argument in regard to ball deflation and focused his attention on Brady's destroyed cell phone to uphold his original suspension... which Clement hemmed and hawed and fell back on testimony that painted Brady as an unsavory individual with poor moral character, following that up with the all-inclusive Article 46 of the collective bargaining agreement which gives the commissioner full authority to pretty much do whatever he pleases.

This was the same argument that drew judge Berman's ire back in August, as if the NFL was rubbing executive immunity in the face of the court, and the panel on Thursday didn't seem to enjoy having it thrust in their faces either, as judge Parker wondered aloud if Goodell being "Judge, jury and executioner" was in such contrast to traditional arbitration that judge Berman was correct in not lending the normally high deference to arbitration findings.

Clement responded with his carbon copy response that the CBA gave the commissioner the authority to serve all three purposes, and that because of this, the deference shown to the commissioner's decision should have been proportionately higher, simply because judges that preside over such matters wouldn't be aware of the process, and therefore should not be inclined to overrule.

The questioning of Kessler was just as contentious, but instead of focusing on the rights of the commissioner to wear three separate uniforms in doling out and administering punishment, the judge instead peppered the NFLPA counsel with bitchy little points of order.

The ticky-tack feel of the questioning of Kessler commenced almost immediately when Judge Chin and Kessler bantered back and forth about why he felt that Brady should only have been fined on an equipment violation - that is, until Judge Parker had heard enough and blurted out that he saw nothing in the equipment rules that included footballs.

This was the most compelling statement of the questioning of Kessler. How in the world could tampering with a football be an equipment violation if the football was not listed as equipment? Then again, if a football isn't equipment, then what is it?  The initial argument set the tone for the rest of the allotted time, as the judges took turns nailing Kessler's feet to the floor on hypothetical situations.

Even more disturbing - as if the hearing going sideways from the start by not focusing on procedure and instead feeling more like a criminal trial - is that the judges all questioned Brady's integrity. The destruction of the cell phone and the "Bribing" of equipment personnel were brought front and center,

However, the fact remains that the panel of judges are not allowed to find Brady guilty of anything, as that has already been taken care of by Goodell. Thier job is to determine whether Judge Berman's decision to overturn Brady's suspension was appropriate, procedurally, which means that the hearing on Thursday seemed to be some sort of discovery hearing, with the panel trying to get a feel as to why Goodell invoked such a "Draconian" punishment on Brady in the first place.

So however these judges behaved in court has no bearing on what must be done, and shouldn't be taken as an indictment either way.

The second thing that the media fails to mention is that the judges could simply remand the entire thing back to Berman, who will not be compelled to change his own ruling. But if the panel decides to rule, whoever wins, there will be measures that can be taken by either side to further the appellate process.

So don't get your panties in a bunch, Patriots' Nation. All that the panel of judges were doing were questioning the appropriateness of the actions on both sides in an effort to understand why this case ended up on their respective desks, and the manner in which they did such suggests that they are not very happy that it did.

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