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It’s past time to wrap Deflategate

When the NFL announced that Tom Brady would be suspended four games for his starring role in Deflategate, I was gratified. Unless you’re a fan of Brady’s New England Patriots, I suspect you were, too.

You know that haughty guy you work with, live near or are related to who always seems to get his way? That’s Brady. Why is he haughty? He’s haughty because he wins.

Deflategate occurred Jan. 18, when it was discovered that in the AFC championship game against the Indianapolis Colts the balls Brady threw were not properly inflated. They failed to meet the league’s standard.

The culprits apparently are two lower level New England functionaries who were never selected in the NFL draft. They acted independently or, you know, had some input from their team’s quarterback.

Of course Brady was complicit. But if I had the powers NFL commissioner Roger Goodell does, which is to do what I want, when I want, to whom I want, I would not have suspended Brady.

I wrote when the story broke that the NFL should suspend him. But I was wrong. There’s a better way.

The NFL fined the Patriots $1 million, and, much more importantly, seized their first-round pick in 2016 and fourth-round pick in 2017.

In retrospect, the punishment of the team should have been more severe. In addition to the picks the league already has claimed, I’d grab a second-round pick in 2016 and 2017.

Penalize the quarterback’s team but not the quarterback. Because Goodell did, he’s turned one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time into, depending on your perspective, a martyr or a villain.

New England beat Indianapolis 45-7 in the game with the deflated balls, and the game was not as close as the score. No matter how much air was not in the footballs, the Patriots would have won.

That’s not the point. The point is that a team is entitled to go into every game believing that officiating will be fair and equipment will be equitable. New England violated that.

Also, it’s not as if Deflategate is out of character. The Patriots lead the league in Gates.

Eight years ago they were caught videotaping coaches of the New York Jets where filming was not allowed. Spygate cost the Patriots a $250,000 fine and a first-round pick. Coach Bill Belichick was fined $500,000, the largest fine with which the league could tag him.

Belichick is as good as any coach at any level of football, so it’s tough to envision Deflategate taking place behind his back.

Belichick reminds me of an all knowing and successful NASCAR crew chief for whom the rules are suggestions.

Can you see him as a crew chief in a sport where cheating is more expected?

“He’d be a great one,” Jeff Hammond says Thursday. “He wants to win at all costs. He’d push as hard as he can.”

Hammond was a championship Cup crew chief and provides fine racing analysis for FOX sports. He also played football at East Carolina.

I like the image of Belichick the crew chief. There he is in the pits with headphones and a hoodie. Son, you might want to check the tires of his driver. They look a little low.

Hammond says underinflated footballs can confer the same advantage that underinflated tires do. A quarterback has more control when he throws a pass. A car has more control when it grips the track.

Last week three NASCAR teams were penalized at Bristol Motor Speedway for doing what New England did. Their equipment failed to pass inspection. Drivers weren’t punished individually. Their teams were.

Maybe NASCAR is onto something.

Like the NFL, NASCAR has scandals. But there’s a difference. NASCAR’s eventually end.

Brady’s four-game suspension is now in federal court, where lawyers for the NFL and NFL Players Association tangle.

The BatTom Death March might not have a finish line.

“This has already gone on too long,” Panthers’ coach Ron Rivera says. “It’s time for it to end.”

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