Legacy is a buzzword that gets trotted out often in the sports media these days—especially when the subject has Hall of Fame credentials—and when legacy meets scandal at the corner of Eyeballs Boulevard, you end up with headlines such as “Is Tom Brady's legacy on the line because of Deflategate?” (SI.com), “Whatever Happens With Appeal, Brady's Legacy Will Survive' (ESPN.com) and “Deflategate May Wind Up Mere Footnote To Tom Brady's Legacy” (USA Today).
I initially planned to lead this column with a piece on whether the findings of the Wells Report (and the still-to-be-determined suspension length) would impact how longtime NFL media members covered Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the upcoming years. I was curious whether sports media staffers would judge Brady’s future actions and words differently in the wake of significant circumstantial evidence in the 243-page report released in May, which found that it was “more probable than not” that the Patriots deliberately circumvented the league’s rules of play before the 2015 AFC Championship game, and that the four-time Super Bowl champion quarterback was at least “generally aware” of these activities.
But extending that thought further and given the fervor that exists for Hall of Fame voting, I wondered if Brady (a first-ballot lock for Canton based on his play) would suffer at all in the minds of Pro Football Hall of Fame voters. So last week I contacted eight of the 46 Pro Football Hall of Fame voters (SI voters can speak for themselves in their own columns) to ask if their evaluation of Brady for the Hall had changed at all with the Wells Report. As you might have predicted, based on this sample, Brady appears to be in little trouble as a first ballot Hall of Famer if nothing new comes to light. Here’s how the group answered:
Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: I’ve always said that’s why they give us five years, because you can put things in perspective. But I don’t think there is a lot to put into perspective here. I don’t think it has changed my opinion. I think he is a great quarterback and while he might have had what he perceived as an advantage if it’s true, I don’t think it's that big a deal.
Jason Cole, Bleacher Report: I still think Brady is a first-ballot Hall of Famer even if this accusation is true. I realize that throwing a slightly under-inflated ball is an advantage. I remember doing the same thing in intramural football in college so many decades ago. However, to say that the main reason Brady has been so great over the course of 15 years is that he has occasionally thrown an under-inflated [ball] ... well, that's just idiotic. From accuracy to decision-making to toughness to all the other qualities that go into being a great quarterback, Brady is at the top of any list. The conversation about his candidacy for the Hall of Fame should take about 30 seconds.
Bob Glauber, Newsday: I don't think the Wells Report will ultimately stand in the way of Brady being selected as a first ballot Hall of Famer. I'm sure the subject will be discussed, although the intensity of the argument will certainly be lessened by the time that has passed before he's eligible five years from the end of his career. Because the focus of the Wells Report was so narrow, we're not going to get any answers about how long this might have been going on, or if there was more definitive proof that it was happening. Brady's accomplishments on the field will carry the day with the Hall of Fame selectors, and I believe he will be—and ultimately should be—voted in the first time his candidacy is discussed.
Rick Gosselin, The Dallas Morning News: "Brady is still going into the Hall of Fame. He won his first three Super Bowls before the NFL turned over control of the game balls to the quarterbacks in 2006. But I think his status as a first-ballot Hall of Famer could be in jeopardy. If he misses any games from this suspension, he's been deemed a cheater in the eyes of his league. That said, there will still be a bust for him in Canton regardless whether he goes in on the first, second or any ballot thereafter. His career accomplishments match those of any quarterback already in the Hall of Fame. That makes him Canton worthy."
Ira Kaufman, Tampa Tribune: In terms of Brady’s credentials for Canton, Deflategate will not substantially alter my view of him as a certain first-ballot Hall of Famer. If he retired tomorrow, his body of work would stand with the iconic quarterbacks of the modern era. Whatever role Brady may have played in this controversy is not a game-changer for me in terms of his Hall of Fame resume. While I believe it’s fair to consider Deflategate in assessing Brady’s NFL legacy, his place among the all-time greats is not tarnished from my standpoint.
Jim Trotter, ESPN: My evaluation of Brady for the Hall of Fame hasn’t changed at all. If he were listed on the ballot today, he’d get my vote without hesitation. It’s arguable whether any quarterback has consistently done more with less than Brady. Hall of Fame-caliber QBs typically are connected to, or associated with, at least one Hall of Fame-caliber wide receiver for much of his career. That hasn’t been the case for Brady, who had Randy Moss (a future Hall of Famer) for just four seasons. The argument that he had a competitive advantage by playing with an under-inflated footballs is specious considering he was more efficient and productive in last season’s AFC Championship Game AFTER officials brought in properly-inflated game balls. Bottom line: Brady’s greatness isn’t about the air pressure in a football; it’s about the competitive drive in his heart. It’s about never forgetting he was the 199th player — and seventh quarterback — selected in his draft class. It’s about hard work and football intelligence. It’s about elevating the play of those around him and consistently coming through when the clock is winding down and a play needs to be made. Few have done it as well as Brady.
Mike Sando, ESPN: For HoF purposes, I think the report would work against Brady's candidacy if it showed he relied on illegally deflated footballs in order to be a HoF-caliber QB. I don't think the report even tried to address that. Note that HoF bylaws ask selectors to consider on-field performance. The Wells Report could fall outside the scope of that. Fortunately, there is no rush to form lasting judgments as selectors. We'll have five years following Brady's eventual retirement to figure out what it all means.
Charean Williams, Fort-Worth Star Telegram: What Brady has done on the field far outweighs "Deflategate." He is not a borderline candidate. We are talking about a no-brainer, first-ballot Hall of Famer. Four titles. 21 postseason wins. 53,000 career passing yards. Almost 400 touchdowns. That makes him one of the greatest quarterbacks in history, regardless. PSI isn't responsible for all of that.
THE NOISE REPORT
1. On the subject of whether NFL writers would view Brady through a different prism heading forward regarding week-to-week coverage, most echoed the thoughts of Trotter.
“My perception of Tom Brady hasn’t changed in the least,” Trotter said. “Teams and players have always — and will always — push the boundaries in search of a competitive advantage. This case is just another example. I would need irrefutable proof that Brady instructed someone to deflate the footballs beneath the legal limit for my perception of him to change, and neither the league nor the Wells report has provided that proof. Do I believe Brady has been 100% truthful? Not for a moment. But the next person I meet who has never played with the truth will be the first.
“Maybe I'm too jaded by now, but I think every athlete is looking for some type of edge/advantage,” added Cole. “Some of those are innocent, like Gaylord Perry throwing a spitter, Greg Maddux wanting to throw a scuffed ball or Sammy Sosa using a corked bat. Some of those efforts are sinister, like PED use. In the worst case, I think this is a pretty innocent infraction of the rules. Frankly, I think this is one of the most overwrought controversies in the history of sports. If this is true that Brady had [Jim] McNally deflate the balls, the NFL is just as much at fault as Brady. The NFL thought it was a good idea to have a team employee handle the footballs after the refs had already checked them. So the league allowed the most essential piece of equipment in a football game to be subject to the whims of a team/player. That's not exactly genius.”
Williams said that the story would stay with Brady throughout the rest of his playing days. “The Patriots won by 38 points, rushing for 177 yards and holding the Colts to 209 total yards in the AFC title game,” she said. “So, no, I don't know that it changes my perception of Brady, but I do think it's something that will follow him all the way to Canton. As with Brett and Pine Tar, Brady will have "Deflategate" forever associated with his name.”
Glauber said that the incident would impact his opinion on Brady. “I still view Brady as the most accomplished quarterback of all time, with a body of work that is just incredible, especially over such a prolonged number of years,” he said. “But sure, this whole thing has affected my opinion of him. Something happened here with the footballs, and I believe he knew of any tampering that was going on before the AFC Championship Game—and possibly before that. Quarterbacks make it very clear how they want their footballs prepared, and the fact that just about every former quarterback weighing in on the subject has either criticized Brady, or at the very least not come to his defense, speaks volumes. It is also noteworthy that Bill Belichick has mostly steered clear of the whole thing, too. What really bothers me is that none of this had to happen, that he would have had just as good a career without obsessing about the PSI of the footballs. That's the maddening part of the whole thing. That this subject has to enter into the conversation—and it does have to enter into the conversation, because it does affect his legacy—is unfortunate. I'm just disappointed in the guy."
2. The guest for the eighth episode of the SI Media Podcast is Tom Verducci, a Sports Illustrated senior writer, an MLB analyst for Fox Sports, and a studio and game analyst for MLB Network. In the podcast, Verducci discusses his preparation for different mediums (broadcast and print), the best questions to ask for interviews, how to get subjects to speak with you, why Jackie Robinson is the player from the past he most wishes he could profile, why he’s not on Twitter, the challenges of covering a member of your family, how growing up as the son of a high school football coach shaped his journalism and why he loves talking to pitchers such as Max Scherzer.
On thoughtful people in baseball:
“When I did a story on the great [New Yorker] baseball writer Roger Angell, he said something that stuck with me: He said he was so appreciate of all the subjects he had who shared their lives with him. That was a really interesting way to look at it rather than ‘Well, I need quotes from this guy.' Like Roger I try to seek out people, if they are not sharing their lives, who at least inform you like most people can’t… I think Max Scherzer is a guy who sees the entire game. I have always been drawn to pitchers especially who see the game beyond themselves whether it is David Cone or Greg Maddux or Pedro Martinez. They see big picture things. Managers are also great sources, people like Buck Showalter and Joe Maddon. I judge a lot of people in baseball by when I am done talking to them, how much did I learn, and I can honestly tell you every time I talk to Buck Showalter and every time I talk to Joe Maddon, I walk away knowing more about baseball.”
3. Fox said the five U.S. national team matches for the Women’s World Cup on FOX and FOX Sports 1 have averaged 4.7 million viewers, an increase of 114% over the 2011 WWC tournament average through the quarterfinals (2.2 million) on ESPN.
3a. The entire 2015 Women’s World Cup tournament had averaged 1.142 million per match across all networks (FOX, FOX Sports 1 and FOX Sports 2) through Saturday, up 42 percent over 804,000 averaged on ESPN and ESPN2 through the quarterfinals in 2011.
3b.The 2015 NBA Draft averaged 3,738,000 viewers, up eight percent from the 2014 NBA Draft. The telecast peaked with 5,131,000 viewers from 8-8:15 p.m. ET. ESPN said it was the most-watched NBA Draft in history.
3c. The top-rated TV markets for NBA Draft 1. Louisville 2. Philadelphia (T) 2. Greensboro (T); 4. Indianapolis; 5. Raleigh-Durham; 6. Memphis; 7. Columbus, Ohio; 8. Milwaukee; 9. Oklahoma City; 10. Cleveland.
3d. Here's Yahoo! Sports NBA columnist Adrian Wojnarowski, (to Fox Sports Radio’s Jason Smith) on the subject of reporters (who work at ESPN, NFL Network) not reporting draft news during a draft:
“Nobody allows me to do it, I’m going to do it. No one is going to tell me what to do. I’m not going to ever work at a place where I could be told [otherwise]. Listen, this is what it is. When I have news, I’m going to report it. I don’t care about ESPN’s television show, I could care less about it. The draft is a ceremony; the decision to draft a player has already been made. Should I sit around a wait for teams to send out press releases when they’ve traded for a player or signed a free agent? I’d be out of work. So I just look at the draft as an extension of free agency or the trade deadline. When I have the information and it’s accurate, that’s when I’m going to report it, whether or not they’ve had their ceremony where they announce it. I can’t even imagine not reporting news when you have it or being told by somebody. I don’t know how they do in the NFL, but come on, if you have news, you report it.”
3e. The New York Times writer Zach Schonbrun profiled Fran Fraschilla, who consistently does excellent work on the NBA Draft:
3f. Fox Sports World Cup reporter Julie Stewart-Binks has logged more than 16,000 miles during the tournament, including 17 matches, six cities and five time zones. This week marks her 22nd flight since the start of the Cup.
4. Sports pieces of note:
•This video by Norway's women's soccer team is fantastic.
•The Washington Post’s Kevin Blackistone on the sanctuary sports has given the Confederate flag.
•Eaton, Colorado, lives and dies with baseball. By Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post.
•Nicholas Dawidoff, for the New York Times, examines the triangle offense.
•Susan Reimer on covering sports in Baltimore in the 1980s.
•The Washington Post’s Chuck Culpepper talks to Vin Scully.
•Very funny response from Fox Sports Live hosts Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole to Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler's most recent 'Really?!?' segment, which was a very appropriate response to a work colleague tweeting nonsense absolutes about the viewership of women’s sports.
Non-sports pieces of note:
• Bravo to my old colleague Jaime Lowe for her honesty and courage with this piece. "My 20-year struggle with bipolar disorder"
•Erika Swyler writes with poignancy on the death of her mother.
•Via Detroit News: How a whistle-blower doctor uncovered a nightmare.
•The Guardian, on a man who has quietly amassed the world’s largest collection of Nazi memorabilia.
•The Merriam-Webster site on the "Lie" vs. "lay" debate.
•Jeff Pearlman interviews Norma Shapiro, 95-year-old great-grandmother to his kids.
•If your journalism career began at a college newspaper, you'll want to read this.
•The Washington Post’s J. Freedom du Lac on how newspapers played the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage.
•ESPN’s Jason Wilde writes poignantly on losing his daughter.
•Fortune Magazine examines the Sony Hack in a three-part series.
• What the aftermath of the Charleston shootings looked like through the eyes of a little girl.
•How one young American was groomed by ISIS.
•The Cincinnati Enquirer on the funeral for Officer Sonny Kim.
5. On Thursday Tim McCarver will call his first national game since the 2013 World Series when he joins Bob Costas for the Padres at Cardinals telecast on MLB Network Showcase. It’s the first time that McCarver and Costas will call a game together in more than three decades since the two teamed for a pair of “Game of the Week” broadcasts on NBC in 1980. The MLB Network said that over the last 35 years, there are only four World Series in which neither Costas nor McCarver were part of the game broadcast team ( 1980, 1981, 1983 and 2014).
5a. I asked six golf watchers how Fox can improve its U.S Open coverage next year.
5b. After announcing at its annual upfront presentation for media buyers that the Mike & Mike radio show would be moving to New York City as part of a larger plan to cross-platform with Good Morning America, ESPN announced it was shifting plans and keeping the show in Bristol. Staff only learned about the change last week and it's unclear what this means for the talent makeup of the show after the two hosts. ESPN initially planned for Molly Qerim to be a fulltime member of the show in New York City; she’s now being slotted as an interim host of First Take.
5c. Cris Collinsworth made the MMQB 100 Most Influential NFL People in 2015.
5d. Chicago-based sports broadcaster Jen Lada is joining Colin Cowherd’s show.
5e. Former ESPN SportsCenter anchor Bram Weinstein discussed his move from ESPN with the Washington Post.
5f. This podcast with ESPN’s Ryan McGee and Marty Smith on confederate flag and its place in sports is an interesting listen.
5g. Denver Post writer Tom Kensler retired from his newspaper after 26 years covering every sport imaginable.
5h. Rare to see a broadcaster issue a mea culpa but that’s what Costas did with Cubs pitcher Pedro Strop.
5i. Good Q&A here with Andy Roddick as he talks about calling Wimbledon for the BBC, his work at Fox Sports, and tennis memories.
5j. Fox Sports Women’s World Cup analyst Kelly Smith is 10-1 at picking games during this year’s tournament. (The lone game she missed was Australia-Brazil.) The company should keep her around to pick NFL games against the Fox NFL Sunday crew.