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Spite ends up making the NFL look very foolish in Deflategate

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell

I think most of us operate under the assumption that the people who run the NFL have some modicum of intelligence. You don’t lead an operation that makes billions of dollars a year by being dumb.

But then the curtain is pulled back on how the league does business and you think maybe commissioner Roger Goodell and the rest of the boys were left behind when brains were handed out.

ESPN The Magazine reports that the NFL’s simmering anger over the 2007 Spygate scandal led the league to come down hard on the Patriots and Tom Brady over Deflategate – even though it had thin evidence in the football-tampering incident.

In other words, spite took over.

An NFL investigation into whether the Patriots had deflated footballs before the 2014 AFC Championship Game found that it was “more probable than not” that Brady had been “at least generally aware’’ that balls had been doctored and were illegal under league rules.

Does any of that sound as if it would hold up in a court of law? No, it doesn’t, which is why a federal judge nullified the four-game suspension the NFL had given Brady. And that’s how the league finds itself where it is now, looking clumsy and ham-handed.

In retribution for Spygate, the league decided to aim a cannon at an ant of an infraction, and the ensuing blast blew up in its face.

According to the magazine story, Patriots coach Bill Belichick had for years run an intricate spying operation that videotaped opponent’s defensive signals. The NFL caught the team spying on the Jets in 2007 and, in the process, found out about its extensive espionage efforts. The league’s discipline in the matter – fines for Belichick and the team, as well as the loss of a first-round draft pick – were widely viewed as soft.

When Deflategate occurred, the NFL decided the “scandal’’ would be payback for its weak handling of Spygate. It turned out to be blowback. Dumb begot dumber.