... a Boston sports fan scorned? After the NFL handed down the harshest penalties ever imposed on a franchise, The MMQB shipped up to Boston to capture the pulse of the city where the Patriots were recently feted with a confetti-strewn parade. Are they on to Super Bowl 50?
BOSTON — Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey gave a speech to local business leaders at the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday morning, and was just about to leave when a reporter asked what was seemingly on everyone’s mind throughout greater New England: What did she think of the Deflategate punishments?
Healey is the state’s top law enforcement official and an athlete herself: a former Harvard basketball captain who played professionally in Europe for two seasons before going to law school. She’s also a huge Patriots fan, so rather than saying “no comment” or a bland “I find it disappointing,” she didn’t hold back.
“I just wish that the NFL would spend about a tenth of the time that it’s spending on this on issues of domestic violence and sexual assault,” Healey said. “I’m just struck by the fact that somebody like Ray Rice gets a two-game suspension and Tom Brady, over deflated balls, faces a four-game suspension. It doesn’t add up for me.”
Later, Healey clarified her stance to The MMQB. No, she has not been in contact with the Patriots, Robert Kraft, Tom Brady or anyone’s legal representatives. No, the state won’t pursue anything either. “Come on,” she said with a laugh. The issue is out of her jurisdiction and the NFL’s problem.
“But as a Patriots fan and as a civil rights attorney, I just offered my view,” Healey said. “I was really frustrated by the league’s treatment of these issues. The time, the money, the investment of investigating the issue of the air pressure of balls—and compare that to the time and effort going into the issue of domestic violence and sexual assault—it really gave a message about priorities.”
A day after the NFL handed down the harshest penalties ever imposed on a franchise, The MMQB went to Boston to capture the pulse of the city’s streets where just over three months ago the Patriots celebrated their Super Bowl XLIX victory with a confetti-strewn parade.
5:45 a.m., near the train station in Back Bay
Joe Willis sets fresh stacks of newspapers on two rusty racks. On one rack, the local dailies. The Boston Globe has the headline, “Brady suspended; Patriots punished” stretched across A1 accompanied by two related stories above the fold. The Boston Herald has a photo of a Brady, in uniform with his hands on his hips and the headline: “NFL AIR HEADS!”
The second rack contains the New York tabloids. The New York Post features a large photo of Brady wincing and the headline: “BALL BUSTED!” The New York Daily News screams, “KICKED IN THE BALLS,” with an inset picture of Brady.
Willis does this every day, and by 11 a.m. he reports that sales are “about usual” for a Tuesday.
“The only exception,” he said, “is that people have stood by the New York tabloids a little more, and just stared at them.”
With a shrug, he added, “I guess they like the controversy.”
7 a.m., the airwaves are pulsating
Hell hath no fury like ... a Boston sports fan scorned?
In a town where sports talk radio’s default setting is sports scream radio, everything is covered from Brady’s golden boy image, to the merits of circumstantial evidence, to defamation lawsuits, to the Patriots kneeling every play in protest (an idea presented with utmost sincerity), to the beginning of the “Jimmy G Era”, to the logistics of firing Roger Goodell, to the possibility of Robert Kraft going rogue, to Troy Vincent’s integrity, Brady’s integrity and the Webster definition of the word integrity.
Also this: “the NFL’s god complex.”
Callers range from whimsical to enraged to delirious. Nearly all believe the NFL’s punishment went too far.
Al in Boston: “What if Brady says, ‘Screw it, I’m hanging it up and retiring.’ ”
Mark in Medford: “Imagine when the Patriots win [the Super Bowl] next year. That is going to go down as the most awkward moment in television history.”
Vinnie in Worcester: “Kraft gets off easy on this. If Brady is suspended four games, he is going to save $2 million dollars!”
Chris in the car: “Goodell hired a dung-beetle of a person, Wells, to dig up dirt on Brady.”
Another Chris: “Roger Goodell is a complete hypocrite.”
At 10 a.m., host Marc Bertrand offered this sentiment on 98.5 The HUB: “You’re not going to find anyone in this market that will find this punishment appropriate.”
Noon, walking through Boston Common
“Brady, no!” shouted Jessie Carr. “Bad boy!”
This Brady, a 2-year-old miniature labradoodle, is gnawing at the tulips. Carr, a part-time dog walker, has about two dozen regular clients. No less than five have canines named Brady.
This is one of many subtle reminders of Brady’s influence and likability. Lucy’s League, a female sportswear store in Faneuil Hall, is fully stocked with navy Brady jerseys and red Brady T-shirts (there is plenty of other Patriots team gear, but none for other players).
“Not a day goes by where I don’t see a No. 12 walk through here,” a security guard named Jimmy said near Fenway Park.
2:15 p.m., a fiery Ted Wells holds a conference call with reporters
“It’s wrong to criticize my independence just because you disagree with my findings,” Wells said in response to Brady’s agent, Don Yee, questioning his objectivity.
A few questions later, Wells is asked how he bills. “I bill by the hour,” he said. “There’s no question it’s in the millions of dollars.”
Meanwhile, Patriots fans have concerns about money, too. A GoFundMe drive headlined “Paying the bill of the PATRIOTS,” had been created on Monday. The online campaign includes this description: “We obviously know we won’t reach One Million Dollars, however we do believe the fine is bulls**t and want to help anyway we can. So whatever is donated will be donated to the New England Patriots in help with the fine!”
As Wells spoke, the account had reached $4,644, with pledges from 322 donors.
“I know it’s not much and they have way more but it’s principle!!!” wrote Tammy Wylie, who gave a $25 donation. “The NFL is just picking on the Patriots and true fans needs to stand behind them.”
A $50 pledge from Linda Newell included this message: “cuz Eli doctors his and Aaron over inflates his. Come on, NFL ... get it right. Everybody want the play balls to feel ‘just right.’ ”
Jay Daignault sent $500.
“You idiots do realize this money will NEVER reach the Pats right?” wrote Rob Wagner. “THEY CAN’T ACCEPT IT. You’re all just donating money to the guy who created this page. Morons!!!!”
Even still, Wagner donated $5.
2:30 p.m., four protesters march outside the NFL’s league offices in New York City
They’re all in Brady jerseys, and two are wearing Patriots ski caps despite it being 85 degrees. They hold signs and march in a circle before walking in the door, according to Tiffany Blackmon, an NFL Network reporter who was on the scene. Other media reports have them handcuffing themselves in the lobby and demanding to meet with Goodell. Then the NYPD arrives and escorts them to Central Booking.
It is apparently a stunt by the blog Barstool Sports, and according to Boston.com, one of the protesters called into the Felger & Massarotti radio show prior to being arrested. “This is a one-sided bogus investigation from the beginning,” David Portnoy said on the show. “The NFL can tell as many lies as they want.”
On an equally warm day in downtown Boston, outrage had not yet manifested, at least publicly. There are no protests or demonstrations, though anger stewed on social media. A #NoBradyNoBanner hashtag had surfaced on Monday night and went mainstream on Tuesday. The goal: to not have the Patriots raise their championship banner when the season opens, thus robbing the NFL and its TV partners of hallmark programming. If Brady doesn’t play four games, wait for his return.
6:30 p.m., commuters shuffle through the South Station concourse
At a sports bar called Tavern In the Square, men and women sit at tables still in their work attire. Except for Chris Duffy, 52, a financial analyst who added a bit of flair: a customized Patriots SB 50 hat—as in next season’s Super Bowl.
“I wore this on my way to work and I put it on when I left,” he said over a Sam Adams. “And I got a bunch of nods anywhere I went. A random high-five while riding the T, too.”
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