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My Take: A full-blown, three-ring circus

I’ve got to hand it to the National Football League. While already the unquestioned king of the sporting landscape, the NFL is once again dominating headlines despite being right in the middle of its own offseason.
    This year’s highlight grabber –—‘Deflategate’.
When the notion of the New England Patriots — and specifically, quarterback Tom Brady — illegally deflating footballs first came to light, it seemed likely to be a just a speed bump. It was merely a talking point to bridge the off week between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl.
And even when some evidence leaked out that there really was something weird going on with the balls and that opposing teams had complained about as much in the past, it hardly seemed like any of those sparks would catch fire.
And yet, here we are.
Four months after some headline writer first patted himself on the back over his creative ‘Deflategate’ moniker. The scandal has produced staunch party lines among fans, a 238-page investigation into the Patriots and — at least for now — a four-game suspension of the league’s most recognizable player.
And honestly, that’s exactly where it should stop. It seems as though everything that needed to be found out has been found out.
    There was likely some sort of conspiracy put in place by the Patriots to not only play with underinflated balls, but to intentionally thwart the league’s protocols put into place to test the balls before the AFC Championship game. It’s also probable that Brady was aware of that scheme, whatever the details were.
    It makes no difference that there is no ‘smoking gun’ that many Patriots supporters cite as a reason to call Brady’s punishment too severe. The investigation proved guilt up to — and very likely beyond — the standard of proof that the NFL requires before jumping in with punishments.
    Brady has every right to an appeal and would be crazy not to do so in hopes of lessening his suspension. That said, the way that Brady, his legal team and Patriots owner Robert Kraft are going about the process is making a joke out of the entire issue.
    And maybe that’s exactly what the Patriots want. The more they press the issue, the more tired average fans grow of having the scandal cut into their prime SportsCenter viewing time. Similarly, those who do soak up every ounce of discussion seem to be getting tired of the pretty shoddy excuses that the Pats are offering to explain away the findings of the Wells report. But that’s just fine with the New England camp, as the ‘everyone-is-just-out-to-get-us’ card plays well to keep their fans clamoring for a reduced penalty.
    I mean, this is the fan base that picketed police stations and courtrooms to call for the release of now-convicted murderer Aaron Hernandez. Is it really any surprise that everyone associated with the franchise is trying to move heaven and earth to aid their Hall of Fame quarterback?
    The investigation had to be done, and it was. Tom Brady’s appeal must be heard, and it will be.
    But the threat made by Kraft to take the NFL to court over the matter is just absurd. The stakes may have been higher in this matter seeing as how Brady is the face of the league, but that’s not Roger Goodell’s fault.
    The same process of interviews, investigations and deliberations were used to hand down Brady’s punishment.
    The hyperbole and borderline sense of martyrdom coming from the Patriots in response to the entire matter just feels like a whole mess of hot air. And that’s funny, because saving just a bit of that air for a dozen footballs back in January could have saved the team all of this trouble.

    Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9408.