Trying to make sense of NFL suspensions — and failing miserably

SHARE Trying to make sense of NFL suspensions — and failing miserably

I’m still having trouble understanding the NFL’s methodology when it comes to the lengths of player suspensions. The league obviously does not share my lifelong aversion to math, proven by its ability to add, multiply, divide and conquer its way to billions of dollars in profits every year. So this can’t be a problem with numbers.

It seems more like a moral deficiency.

Many people have lauded NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for his handling of the Deflategate “scandal.’’ He suspended New England quarterback Tom Brady for the first four games of next season, took away the Patriots’ 2016 first-round and 2017 fourth-round picks, and fined the team $1 million.

Considering the outrage directed at Brady, it shouldn’t be long before Sr. Helen Prejean visits him in his final hours.

What we hear most from the tough-on-crime crowd is that the penalties for deflating footballs needed to be harsh because the Patriots are repeat cheaters. In 2007, they were caught videotaping defensive signals from the Jets. And now here was Brady knowingly playing with deflated footballs, we’re told.

Sorry, but Spygate is to Deflategate what a forest fire is to static cling.

Last month, Goodell gave Greg Hardy a 10-game suspension for allegedly choking a woman, lifting her above his head and throwing her onto a futon full of assault rifles. Charges were eventually dropped when the woman intentionally made herself unavailable to prosecutors, officials said.

Some experts have suggested that Hardy, now with the Cowboys, is likely to get his suspension reduced on appeal, possibly to six games.

The early betting seems to be on Goodell reducing Brady’s suspension to three games.

Now I ask you: Does 10 games for choking a woman seem proportionate to four games for deflating some footballs? How about six games to three? Unless someone has been messing with my moral compass, the answer is “no” in both cases.

The league has gone after the Patriots and Brady harder for what is the equivalent of airing a tire than it has gone after hulking players who have abused women. It is not apples and oranges. It is apples and human beings, and the NFL has deemed that apples – “the integrity of the game’’ — are far more worthy of protection.

I would venture to guess that by the time Deflategate has run its course, it will have created more headlines and stories than the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson cases put together. Just to recap, Rice is the former Ravens running back who punched out his fiancée, and Peterson is the Vikings running back who whipped his four-year-old with a tree switch. Know your monsters, class.

But those are two of the more notorious cases of NFL players acting badly. There have been enough instances of domestic violence around the league to fill a Sunday newspaper. And those cases do more damage to the league’s reputation than a few deflated footballs.

(If I hear the phrase “protecting the shield’’ associated with the NFL’s logo one more time, I’m going to be violently ill. It gives the league’s emblem too much nobility, as if it were a nation’s flag or a lofty ideal. Let’s go with “protecting the brand.’’ Much more appropriate for the dollar-driven league.)

The energy with which Goodell went after the Patriots is particularly galling. Where is the same amount of zeal when it comes to making an example of someone who knocks out a woman? Goodell gave Rice a two-game suspension after seeing video of the running back dragging his apparently unconscious fiancée out of an elevator. Only after seeing video of Rice punching her in the face – what had been obvious to everyone without seeing it – did Goodell come down with the hammer and suspend him indefinitely.

The NFL is rife with cheaters. If you don’t believe that gobs of players are using performance-enhancing drugs, you are kidding yourself. Do you think that eating and weightlifting have created all these 320-pound piles of muscle? Remember this simple lesson from the Tour de France and apply it to football: The cheaters are always ahead of the testers in terms of science and technology. You have to be really stupid or Lance Armstrong-brazen to get caught.

Test positive for PEDs in the NFL, and you receive a four-game suspension. Tell me, which offers the greater competitive advantage: inflated muscles or deflated footballs? Which infraction comes with the possibility of serious health consequences? And which one is an aspiring young football player likely to copy?

There’s no time left here to bring up the league’s pooh-poohing of concussions. But the overall message is simple. Feel free to abuse women and brains. Just don’t mess with footballs.

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