We all saw the ruling from the NFL regarding Deflategate. The short version was, We’re not saying Tom Brady is a cheater, but we’re pretty sure Tom Brady was cheating. After it came out, Ed asked the question, If we can’t get accountability from our would-be political leaders, can we expect much from cultural leaders? Having the rather unique platform to do such things, I’ll take a shot at this one, Ed.
The NFL is the pinnacle of sports for many people. Players and coaches fight for their entire lives for a shot at just getting in the door. And once there, the drive to be the best, to make it to the top and grab the ultimate brass ring is the driving force in their lives. And when the stakes are that high, competitors seek out every possible advantage to achieve victory. This frequently means examining every rule and finding the loopholes and the gray areas to squeeze every ounce of juice out of your efforts. For examples of this, just look at the tenure of Buddy Ryan when he was head coach of the Eagles in the late eighties. (The revenge touchdown against Dallas was only one of many.)
Unfortunately, it’s human nature to be tempted to step right up to the edge of the line under that kind of pressure and, on occasion, to tiptoe over it. If a ball performs better for you when it’s inflated to 11.5 pounds, 11.2 has to be even hotter.
But this is the nature of man and the idea of the alpha male in general. There are certain things which we desire, and a segment of the population is hard wired to seek these things in abundance. Money is the easiest target for such discussions. Anyplace where you find large amounts of money piling up you’re going to run into people who will go to any lengths to grab as much of it as possible. Whether it’s dealing in illegal drugs, trafficking in commodities on Wall Street or the coffers of large charities, no institution which amasses great wealth is immune. (Just Google the Clinton Foundation.)
But it’s not only money that draws the highly motivated. Power is just as intoxicating, and Washington D.C. is the only example you need to see it. The more power there is to be had, the greater the lengths that people will go to in order to control it. Congressmen, lobbyists and influence peddlers of all stripes regularly turn up on the wrong side of the law in that particular quest. And perhaps just as attractive as power is fame. The human desire for admiration and a feeling of superiority is legendary and probably explains a lot of what drives NFL players and coaches.
Of course, one can validly argue that money, power and fame are all facets of the same gem. When you have enough of one, the other two tend to follow in short order. The real test of character is how you conduct yourself in the pursuit and how readily you will sell out your values or break the rules in order to achieve it. With that in mind, is the Tom Brady story really all that shocking? We should probably be more surprised that we haven’t seen many more incidents already.