New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s battle against the NFL in the shadow of scandal.
If you’re a fan of the Patriots, you likely believe there’s nothing to Deflategate, the investigation that resulted when opposing teams charged that Brady had an unfair edge with an underinflated ball during the 2015 AFC championship game. If you don’t like the Pats, you’ll likely endorse the charge. Sherman and Wedge, who teamed up on Boston Strong: A City’s Triumph over Tragedy (2015), write that they “were committed to write this book fairly and accurately,” but their account isn’t likely to settle the matter in the minds of fans, even if it was adjudicated and analyzed meticulously. Though the charges came mostly from the hated Indianapolis Colts, they were taken seriously enough that the league suspended Brady for four games—even though, Sherman and Wedge write, “the proper inflation of a football had never been an issue in the long history of the NFL, as teams and quarterbacks often deflated or overinflated balls for personal preference,” and with no statistically significant effect on outcome. Given Brady’s championship record and the blotch the affair put on it, it’s small wonder that Deflategate became an important matter for top management and a phalanx of lawyers. The authors give Brady plenty of room for vindication with their extended, almost play-by-play account of Super Bowl LI, with all its sportswriterly conventions: “Dwight Freeney, a veteran defensive end who won a title with the Colts ten years earlier, had haunted Brady for years….Now [he] was lined up on the opposite side of the ball wearing a Falcons helmet.” Brady proved himself worthy that day, but a bitter denouement came the following year when, after losing to the Philadelphia Eagles, he conceded, “I mean losing sucks…you show up and you try to win and sometimes you lose and that’s the way it goes.”
Not definitive, but a readable companion to the more insightful Collision Low-Crossers (2013), by Nicholas Dawidoff, as a behind-the-scenes look at the NFL.