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Deflategate — Or Ballghazi? — Throws Shade On The Week In Sports


And it's time now for sports.


SIMON: What did Tom Brady know and when did he know it? An NFL investigation says New England Patriots personnel deflated footballs below the league-mandated pressure level before their AFC championship game against the Indianapolis Colts. And they found it more probable than not that Tom Brady, their marquee quarterback, was at least generally aware. Two Pats employees broke the rules to give him a better grip. Howard Bryant of espn.com and ESPN the magazine joins us.

Howard, thanks for being with us.

HOWARD BRYANT: Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: First, a correction. Yordano Ventura was at the center of a Royals brawl a couple of weeks ago. We didn't get all the details right though.

BRYANT: No, he wasn't - well, he was certainly at the center of it, but I said that he had hit Adam Eaton when he did not hit Adam Eaton. Those two got into an exchange that led to the benches clearing. But actually, Ventura had hit Jose Abreu earlier. Bottom line is that the Royals are still one of the most despised teams if not the most despised team in baseball because of it, despite being the darlings last year.

SIMON: On to Deflategate. I found a better name out there, by the way, for it - Ballghazi.

BRYANT: Ballghazi. Yes, yes - better than gate. No more gates.

SIMON: Tom Brady told a group of fans at a fan event the other night in Massachusetts that he's digesting the report. What do you make of that?

BRYANT: Well, what I make of the report is that this is part of the job that we have, where you spend a lot of time sifting through all of the different false narratives and the red herrings that go with it. Essentially the Patriots were accused of deflating footballs to their advantage because the ball has to be at a certain PSI - certain pounds-per-square-inch. And as it turns out, that the balls were below this - it was a ridiculous 243-page report by Ted Wells. But at the end of the day, whether or not the Patriots gained any advantage, they won the game 45-7, so that's obviously not a big deal there. Obviously, if you're looking at the pounds-per- square-inch, how much it affects the ability to throw a football when you're crushing the other team and you win the Super Bowl, that's not the big deal. But what is the big deal is that the Patriots intended to deflate the footballs to manipulate the game. That's - everything else sort of has to go away and this is what you focus on now. The severity of it - they're saying that Tom Brady's going to be suspended next week and maybe for two games, maybe for six games, somewhere in between. But the bottom line is, is that the NFL is going to have to decide how they're going to discipline him for manipulating the footballs.

SIMON: Howard, I've got to tell you, as a fan I love Tom Brady. But he's beginning to irritate me because - only answering questions surrounded by a clack of adoring fans, you know, who drown-out the questions. He can go on our show today, he can go on Weekend Edition Sunday, he can go on "Jon Stewart," "Oprah," any place he wants to and say, I didn't break the rules. But he doesn't.

BRYANT: Well, he's not going to say that because he did break the rules. And the other thing is that I don't think it matters. I think that they - the Patriots and I think most sports teams now recognize the power that they have, that all of these controversies and such go away because they say so. I think the arrogance and the power that they have is incredible, that there's no real accountability. And that goes for the NFL as well because let's face it, their investigation was incredibly self-serving. And I say that there are two words that describe the big winner of all of this and it's called billable hours. Everything else is sort of in between. But yes, the Patriots have to pay a price for this. Let's not forget that in 2007 they were accused of spying on the opposing teams when they won the Super Bowl three times. So - at least the first two Super Bowls - so the Patriots have this culture, they are not a popular football team because of this. And you're looking at this team being, you're so good, you've got one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, why do you need to do this? But once again, the bottom line is that they're going to have to face the fact that they did try to manipulate the game, and that is cheating. Regardless of what degree it is - is it steroids? No. Is it gambling? No - but you did try to do something to alter the outcome of the game.

SIMON: I mean, it's a team that should be known as just about the greatest of all time, certainly the greatest of this time, and yet now you've got this big, dark asterisk, cloud - whatever you want to call it.

BRYANT: And it will stay there.

SIMON: Howard Bryant of espn.com and ESPN The Magazine, thanks so much for being with us.

BRYANT: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.