Welcome to Trojan town, Mr. Brady

USC fans have been down this road the NFL is taking Tom Brady and the Patriots.

Maybe Tom Brady should have been warned. Maybe he shouldn't have worked out at USC last year.

Sure, he's a Northern Californa guy by way of Michgan and New England but from now on, Tom Brady will understand what it means to be a Trojan.

As has already been noted here by a few of our perceptive Peristyle posters, the NFL, playing the part of the NCAA, has done that whole guilty verdict first, and the penalty -- and then we'll just say we have the evidence we need, whatever it is. Trust us. Why else would we whack Brady with a four-game suspension and the Patriots with a million-dollar fine and a couple of top draft picks?

Ridiculous, really. This isn't about Brady, who no one in this investigation can say with any sort of certainty that would justify a penalty like this, did anything other than make it clear he likes his footballs at the lowest possible level of inflation. So what?

Until and unless we know more than we now know, this investigation and decision is a bigger stain to the NFL's integrity and credibility than underinflated footballs.

And of ourse this is partly about NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell trying to show he's the in-charge administrator worth ever bit of the $79 million he's knocked down from the league over the past two years and not the equivocating jurist who missed badly on Ray Rice in his first swing at the domestic abuser.

Just another agenda-driven dispenser of sports justice that will earn him points with 31 teams, at least. And all the outraged columnists and sports talk hosts who can't get anyone to notice them unless they yell REAL LOUD "OFF WITH HIS HEAD."

And sure, it's easy not to like the inscrutable Bill Belichick, or his history of tiptoeing up to and crossing the line that separates competing fairly and not-so fairly. Or the insider Robert Kraft and his Super-Bowl-winning Pats. But that's not what this was about.

No one liked USC either. How'd that turn out? Folks here, above all, should understand how this works.

Because what else could it be? Jealousy? Stupidity? Equal parts of each, I'd say. You couldn't call a penalty in the NFL with this little certainty and keep your job. And you absolutely couldn't overturn a call on replay without more evidence.

If anybody should be penalized here, it's the whole NFL apparatus that botched this so badly. Ted "Billable Hours" Wells will get plenty of callbacks from the NFL now but if you believe his 249-page report was either independent or settled anything, well, then you probably believe Missy Conboy, Josephine Potuto and Paul Dee were impartial arbiters in a case involving USC.

Let's start with the fact that the NFL went into this without telling the Patriots there was an issue with the footballs but did let the Colts in on it. They tried to catch them in the act but then used two differently calibrated air pressure gauges and then had to watch as the game referee, Walt Anderson, admit he couldn't recall which one they used when.

Because if you used one before the game and the other at halftime, the differences in deflatedness might be minimal. But that's hardly the least of the NFL's problems here.

If the plan was to make sure the Patriots couldn't deflate the footballs, how in the world did the gameplan allow the Pats' equipment guy to take the balls for eight minutes before the game and have them 100 seconds in the bathroom. Oh wait, he wasn't supposed to be able to do that. Then why was he able to pull that off?

That's malpractice so egregious that it makes whatever Brady did, as long as he wasn't the one jabbing the needle in and lettng the air out, far less culpable than the NFL clown patrol.

Sure, Brady didn't give the NFL his cellphone. Would you? Here's a question for the NFL as they take Brady's refusal to turn it over as proof of his guilt. What if there is a message on there that confirms someone else's guilt?

Or at least someone else who was trying to be helpful and just went and did something and told him later. Maybe he was trying to protect some poor minimum wage guy who was -- foolishly -- trying to be helpful.

Maybe that explains the phone calls and texts between Brady and the equipment guys. That we don't know if that wasn't the reason for those calls and texts tells you why you can't drop the hammer on Brady. You just don't know. You can't know. And you can't act if you don't. But the NFL did act. They said those calls meant something. And surely they did. The NFL just doesn't know what.

And maybe this is where we're a bit prejudiced here after answering the phone at home one Saturday morning in the 2013 season and it was Tom Brady calling. A friend had asked him to. So he did. I like that about a guy.

And I say this after Peter King's tweet Sunday that noted how Brady has more TD passes in his career in road games -- where his team has no control of the balls or the ball boys -- than at home. And he hardly needed under-inflated footballs in either of the final two games this season.

Now is there an issue of the fact that maybe the reason the Patriots fumble far less than anybody else because it's harder to punch a softer football loose and easier to hold on to it? Good for the Patriots figuring that out.

Not unlike the way National League teams watered down the basepaths when Maury Wills came to town. Or Lou Burdette and Gaylord Perry did whatever they did to the baseballs. In an NFL where teams are allowed to use their own footballs in games after practicing with them all week, this was the most venial of venial sins.

The worst part of all this was having to listen to and read people pontificating on 'deflategate" who wouldn't know where to put the needle if you gave them the football with directions on it.

For every minute of the uninformed discussion we've been hearing here, you could lose an IQ point. "Dumb and Dumber" in real life. Just what the NFL was apparently hoping for.

In baseball, it's one thing to steal signals from the dugout, another if you have a guy with binoculars and a walky-talky in the center field scoreboard. This was the guy in the dugout.

And pardon us if we're cynical here but this has to get whittled down by an arbitrator who will have to ask where the evidence is. And the Wells Report will earn little more than a chuckle. And then get chucked.

Some people think the penalty gets halved. Or dropped down to just one game. We're betting on zero. Which may have been the plan all along.

Goodell and the NFL look like they're on the case. The Patriots get slapped down. And then Brady gets back -- as he should.

Because otherwise you'd be hearing the howls from the NFL's TV partners paying those billions of dollars for the rights that are worth a lot less for the first four weeks next season if this holds up for the defending Super Bowl champs. Which it won't.

Sad and stupid, this case makes the point that Condoleezza Rice would be a far better commisioner than Goodell. This whole process has been a bad joke from start to a finish that can't come too soon.

You can follow me on Twitter at @dweber3440 or email me at weber@uscfootball.com.


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