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Editorial: A clear voice amid Deflategate noise

Last modified: 8/18/2015 12:22:08 AM
For New England Patriots fans and haters alike, the Deflategate investigation hasn’t exactly been an illuminating process. The “did he or didn’t he order the deflation of footballs” debate has long since entered the realm of the ridiculous.

On one side, you have Tom Brady, one of the best quarterbacks ever to play the game but a despised character outside of New England. On the other side is NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who isn’t exactly the guy in the white hat even among the most fervent Brady haters. Neither side has come close to mastering the art of transparency, which makes for some murky media coverage.

While there are many people who would rather read an outdated technical manual than another word about Deflategate, the work of UNH School of Law professor and Sports Illustrated legal analyst Michael McCann stands out as fresh and unique analysis amid mind-numbing noise.

McCann, who will teach a course on Deflategate in the fall, has been following the Brady case closely – even more so since last week, when the quarterback’s lawyers faced off against Goodell’s gang in a New York courtroom. Those hearings continue Wednesday, and McCann will no doubt listen attentively and weigh in with refreshing clarity.

What makes McCann’s analysis so compelling is the absence of emotional investment. In reading the national Deflategate coverage, it is not difficult to determine the camp in which the writer resides. ESPN has been perhaps the worst of the bunch, taking every opportunity to present as news the predictable opinions of opposing and former players.

While one-sided coverage is expected in the New York tabloids or among Indianapolis sports journalists such as Bob Kravitz and Gregg Doyel (both of whom strut about on purely imagined moral high ground), one would hope ESPN would rise above the muck rather than wallow in it. Not to be outdone, plenty of Patriot apologists have chosen a posture of arrogant defiance: “They hate us ‘cause they ain’t us,” as one popular slogan goes.

McCann, on the other hand, is intrigued less by the personalities involved than the subtleties of the case itself. He is like a passionate football fan without a favorite team who finds beauty in all of the little things that determine whether a team moves the ball forward or turns it over.

After last week’s hearing, for example, McCann offered five “legal takeaways” for Sports Illustrated readers that attempted to do a little mind reading of U.S. District Judge Richard Berman while also interpreting the actions of the attorneys on each side. The takeaway from McCann’s takeaways: Things are looking up for Brady, but those hoping for resolution before the season begins are destined to be disappointed.

Whether in sports or politics, the best analysis often comes from a source who is not rooting for a particular outcome but is intrigued by the game itself. So as the Deflategate saga drags on and on, well into autumn and perhaps months or years beyond, the sideshow that won’t go away is perhaps best viewed through McCann’s clear and discerning eyes.


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