I dreamed the other night that Deflategate would never end. In my dream, Tom Brady was battling the NFL forever. Appeals went on and on. Now and then a new wrinkle would emerge. A locker-room attendant would come forward with new evidence, a valet would remember a snatch of overheard conversation in a Rolls Royce.
It was not a scary dream. I have no fear of Deflategate, professional football or Tom Brady. Nor do I have special affection for them, either. I am a very casual NFL fan, so casual I had to be reminded which two teams were playing in the Super Bowl.
Even so, I woke from this dream feeling empty inside. What was the meaning of success? What was the point of it all? Who cares how much air was in the ball?
And then I opened the Sports Page to find that Deflategate lives on.
There it was, right in the top banner: “Second Circuit Upholds Brady’s Deflategate Suspension.”
Reversing a lower court ruling, the Second U.S. Court of Appeals reinstated the quarterback’s four-game suspension, saying Brady had been given a fair shake in the arbitration process and that the NFL had broad authority to discipline its players.
That’s when it hit me. Deflategate was about more than the amount of air in a ball. It’s bigger than Roger Goodell. It goes beyond Tom Brady’s impressive pectorals or the whiteness of his teeth.
It’s about the nothing less than the majesty of the American justice system.
How else could such rules have been crafted governing pounds per square inch and other pigskin arcana, not to mention collective bargaining and labor law, rules screaming to be broken and flaunted and hauled before magistrates for interpretation.
Deflategate is for the public good. Our economy depends on it. Think how many lawyers, paralegals, arbitrators, investigators, researchers, mediators, court reporters, comedians, carnival barkers, journalists and bloggers would be out of a job if this news gusher dried up.
And we are on the front lines. We are the ones who make the rules that we also challenge and enforce. We lawyers are coming from all directions, and Tom Brady’s hair better watch out.