Fay Vincent: A 'Say It Ain't So, Tom Brady' Moment

Photo: Andrew Campbell

Retired baseball commissioner Fay Vincent has had his own experiences with tough disciplinary calls, but on his two most famous cases—those of Cincinnati Red Pete Rose and New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner—wrongdoing was never in doubt. “It was just a question of the punishment,” he says.

He worries the case, such as it is so far, being made against Superbowl Champion Tom Brady makes a far messier proposition for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.


Though he respects lead investigator Ted Wells, Vincent is unhappy with the “vapid” formulation the investigation of “Deflategate” has settled on in attempting to define Brady’s role in the apparent tampering with footballs used in the run-up to last year’s Superbowl: "More probable than not that he was at least generally aware" of efforts by equipment managers to reduce air pressure in footballs he would use on the field after they had been inspected by league officials.

“'More probable than not,'” Vincent grumbles, “'more probable than not'. That’s a really soft statement."

He says, “That does not lead to a comfortable resolution for the commissioner, for football, for the public.” 

The retired commissioner says if he could translate that phrase into numbers he would call it 51 to 49 on the likelihood of Brady’s participation in the ball tampering. But to be able to issue a strong decision that will satisfy the fans and the needs of the National Football League what NFL Commission Goodel needs are numbers closer to 80/20, Vincent thinks. 

“If you attempt to punish Brady [a hugely popular and talented quarterback] on that formulation, it’s going to lead to a messy resolution,” he says.

How much all this means to the public is another open question. Many, according to Vincent, think the “scandal” is a tempest in a locker room already. Deflate the ball a few pounds, Brady still has to put his superhuman, superbowl skills to work throwing strikes at fast-moving targets. Fans show a tolerance for some small degree of cheating in professional sports, he suggests. “Look at how many of them are clamoring for Pete Rose to be reinstated,” he says, “a convicted felon” who lied for years to fans about his baseball gambling.

Vincent allows the issue may have become a “Say it ain’t so, Tom” moment for football, meaning it would be refreshing for Brady to come clean and take his lumps if he indeed has anything to come clean about. But Vincent is not going to hold his breath. Brady, he says, is probably being strongly advised that his best course of action, professionally speaking, is to just keep his mouth shut as the investigation winds down, noting it took Pete Rose and Lance Armstrong years to admit their wrongdoing. Vincent expects that at some point the Patriots, Brady and Commissioner Goodell will have to have a sit-down and come up with some judgment that will deflate Deflategate just enough that they can all get back to the business at hand.

This the NFL after all, and in the end no one “wants to kill the golden goose.”

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J Cosgrove
3 years 3 months ago
The retired commissioner says if he could translate that phrase into numbers he would call it 51 to 49 on the likelihood of Brady’s participation in the ball tampering.
No, it 99.99% to .01%. Brady has gripped the football about 100,000 times and would know in an instant that the balls were deflated. While he may not have given a direct order, his sentiments were known and it is more like "Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?" He may have denial but no one will believe him. Oh, I am wrong here, there will always be some who will believe anything. The latest is that he will be suspended. How about a year. He influenced the outcome of a very important game while Adrian Petesron disciplined his kid severely. Which is worse? What if the gamblers knew abut the balls?
This the NFL after all, and in the end no one “wants to kill the golden goose.”
But who makes up the majority of the players, African Americans. Where Peterson and Ray Rice got the boot, will Lilly White Tom get a "pass?"
Larry Michaelis
3 years 3 months ago
Tom Brady orchestrated the tampering. To think that the equipment managers would undertake an effort to under inflate the footballs without Brady's knowledge is absurd. What would be in it for them? They were taking orders from Brady and that is 100% be clear in the texts. They clearly show the disdain that these equipment managers had for Brady who used his power and fame to put these workers in an uncomfortable position. They sensed that he would abandon them to save his own skin and that is exactly what he did. It is surprising to me why this is not obvious to everybody. He cheated and for that I think he should be suspended for a year and should not get into the Hall of Fame when the time comes for a vote. There are baseball players who are not getting HOF votes where there is no proof that they cheated. In addition the cheating in baseball was more rampant and the powers that be turned a blind eye to it.


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