During a wacky, woeful day on Capitol Hill in D.C., how did the New England Patriots' past "Deflategate" get dragged into the hearings about the Washington Commanders' present investigation?
Grandstanding, that's how.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell appeared via video conference at a House Oversight Committee hearing Wednesday focused on Washington and owner Dan Snyder's workplace conduct. Serious business, right?
Well, to most of us. Yes.
While Snyder - who was criticized for failing to appear for the hearing while aboard his luxury yacht in France - was subpoenaed to testify, the hearing eventually jumped the shark.
The more members of Congress that spoke, the less the hearing became about finding the truth about Washington and instead simply about commanding media attention and making a name for oneself.
To wit, Texas Congressman Pat Fallon, a Republican who represents the Lone Star state’s 4th district, and was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Fallon used his time at the microphone to chastise Goodell for his handling of New England's 2015 "Deflategate" scandal and resulting punishment for former Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady.
The Congressman monkeyed with the language in his question for Goodell, so it’s hard to tell whether any of it was tongue-in-cheek. However, this all came in an actually congressional hearing, so any room for levity is limited.
Fallon started out his question by stating that he was angry with Goodell and invoked the 50th anniversary of the Watergate scandal before bringing up "Deflategate."
“A scant seven and a half years ago, another scandal rocked our nation, threatening the very core and foundation of our Republic,” Fallon said during the hearing. “That being, of course, Deflategate, where, in an AFC championship game, the NFL footballs - the pigskins, the rock, the pill, they hand-egg, the melon and the leather - was mysteriously under-inflated by two PSI - pounds per square inch.”
We've never heard a football called a "hand-egg", but Fallon was just getting started.
“This led to a multi-faceted investigation, months-long, thousands of dollars spent, where the GOAT, Mr. California Cool. The Real Slim Brady, the Master of the Tuck, the Lord of the Rings. Tom Terrific, Tom Brady was suspended by the league,” Fallon said. “Mr. Commissioner, I’m sure you’re aware that many in New England worship Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr. as a demigod of sorts, and being a New England native myself. I don’t blame them.”
Snyder and the Commanders are being investigated for some awfully ugly stuff. Sexual harassment. Secret budgets. Shadow investigations. Some are even calling for the owner to be forced to sell his team.
Yet somehow Fallon seized on this poignant moment as merely and selfishly an opportunity to try out his grade-school stand-up act. "The Real Slim Brady"? Seriously?!
Sophomoric comedy notwithstanding, how did the Congressman's diatribe aide this investigation and hearing toward its intended goal of finding the truth and holding those responsible accountable? Answer: It didn't.
Fallon finally discussed the details of "Deflategate", stressing that the league did not have policies in place to account for temperature when measuring the PSI of footballs, noting that the pressure could change, due to the ideal gas law.
Said Fallon, “So how can we, commissioner, guarantee the consistency of the PSI levels of footballs moving forward?”
In typical Goodell fashion, the NFL commissioner dodged the question by stating the league’s procedures.
“Well, Congressman, it’s been quite a while since I focused on this issue,” Goodell said. “But I’ll tell you our procedures now are that our game officials make that check prior to the game. So they are the ones to do that individually and then the balls are under protected order from that point on. They are not allowed to be tampered with from that point on. So hopefully we found that consistency and make sure that the rules apply to everyone and they’re applied equally.”
Fallon dismissed the seriousness of the hearing altogether, calling it a “farce.”
“I’m angry and upset, because this hearing is a sham, and it’s a farce, and it’s a clown show,” Fallon said. “It’s a terrible waste of your time as the CEO of a multi-billion-dollar, privately held enterprise. It’s a waste of this committee’s time and worst of all it’s a waste of the American taxpayer’s time.”
Fallon went on to inexplicably emphasize that inflation, high gas prices and Mexican drug cartels fueling the opioid crisis are more significant problems in America than an NFL scandal. But even if everything - or anything - he said was true (spoiler alert: it wasn't) what did "Deflategate" have to do with the facts of the investigation into Washington?
Fallon got what he desperately wanted: his 15 minutes of fame in the NFL spotlight. Here's hoping his constituents realize who the real "clown show" was Wednesday on Capitol Hill.