Tom Brady, quarterback for the New England Patriots, has a lot to learn from one of the sporting world's wisest men, New York Yankee great Yogi Berra. Brady has been suspended for four games, his team has been fined $1 million and they have lost two future draft picks because they played with footballs that were under-inflated.
The penalties were assessed as the result of a lengthy investigation by the NFL following the Patriot's victory over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship game this past January. After the game, it was determined that the footballs used by the Patriots were not inflated to the minimum standard required by the league.
A few days later, Brady addressed the allegations at a press conference. "I didn't alter the ball in any way," he said.
"I feel like I have always played within the rules," and he continued, "I would never break the rules." Later, in an interview with sports radio WEEI, Brady said: "I was very shocked to hear it, so I almost laughed it off thinking that was more sour grapes than anything," he said. "And it ends up being a very serious thing when you start learning the things that were ... just the integrity of the game."
Subsequently, the NFL hired attorney Ted Wells to investigate the incident. His report, which was released last week, slammed Brady. "It is more probable than not," that Brady was "at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities," of locker room attendant Jim McNally and equipment assistant John Jastremski, the report said.
Jastremski, who has been with the Patriots for 14 years, was in charge of preparing the balls. Under-inflated balls can make it possible for the quarterback to get a better grip. Brady threw for three touchdowns in the Patriots 45-7 rout over the Colts, and they went on to win the Super Bowl over the Seattle Seahawks.
The Wells report said that Brady answered questions from investigators over the course of one day, however, he did not turn over personal information such as texts and emails, and that he was not totally forthcoming about the incident. NFL Executive President Troy Vincent, in a letter to Brady, said the quarterback's actions were detrimental to the integrity of the sport.
Each player, no matter how accomplished and otherwise respected, has an obligation to comply with the rules and must be held accountable for his actions when those rules are violated and the public's confidence in the game is called into question.
Brady has won four Super Bowls, and he is considered by many to be the NFL's best quarterback. The man with the nickname "Tom Terrific" has won scads of awards in his NFL career. He is certain to be a Hall of Famer, although Deflategate, as it is now known, is likely to be a black mark on his career.
This week, Yogi Berra celebrates his 90th birthday. He was a baseball All-Star for 15 seasons, and is considered one of the best catchers in baseball history. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972. He is a sports icon who is beloved for his humility and integrity.
Brady can learn a lot from Berra, who once said of his sport, "90 percent of the game is half-mental." While Brady and his attorney, who says they will appeal the NFL's decision, may feel "It ain't over till it's over," another Berra quote, they should take Berra's counsel, "When you come to a fork in the road, take it." Then Brady can say, "Thank you for making this day necessary."
After all, Tom Brady, "You can observe a lot by watching."