Tom Brady vs. Gaylord Perry – On Doctoring Balls to Gain an Advantage, and Lying About It

Over the past few days, I’ve kept wondering if Tom Brady secretly stole Pentagon documents […]

Howie Espenshied / 5.15.15

espnapi_dm_150512_Jets_Fan_Brady_wmainOver the past few days, I’ve kept wondering if Tom Brady secretly stole Pentagon documents – the sin appears to be THAT egregious.  Scandal, thy new name (apparently) is “Deflate-Gate”.  ESPN and sports talk radio have been covering the New England Patriot ball deflation scandal on continuous loop. The story, which first broke in the weeks prior to this year’s Super Bowl, is that the Patriots’ equipment staff (per Brady’s orders) stuck needles in the team issued footballs and took the air pressure below NFL mandated levels before the 2015 AFC Patriots-Colts Championship Game. The suspicion was originally raised by the Colts’ staff, who further claimed that the Patriots “do this all the time”. Memo to sports fans: if it’s true, that’s cheating. It is.  An investigation ensued.

Guilty. The findings were released this week, and penalties have come down on Brady and the Patriots – four game suspension for Brady, million dollar fine for the Patriots, and the forfeiture of (2 future) first and forth round draft picks. Ouch. Direct Evidence shows that Brady had full knowledge of (and was complicit in directing) the doctoring of the footballs. Tom Brady, to date, has denied both direct involvement and any wrong doing. Meanwhile, TV radio and sports pundits have been talking endlessly about “Brady’s tarnished legacy”. Consensus is that Brady’s big sin isn’t the cheating, it’s the denial of involvement, which amounts to lying. No one appears to be suggesting that Brady’s Hall of Fame status is in question. Rather, they’re suggesting that his “reputation” and “legacy” have taken a potential unrecoverable hit.

No such discussion took place about another,  more perpetually infamous, ” ball-doctoring Hall of Famer” (Gaylord Perry) who augmented and perfected baseball’s “spit-ball” during his 20+ year career that spanned from the early 60’s to the mid 80’s. Perry, like Brady, deflected and denied any direct involvement in doctoring balls throughout his career.  He now (30+ years post retirement) freely owns up to his indiscretions, though it’s interesting that he still thinks that culpable baseball players from the steroid era “should not” see the Hall of Fame for the foreseeable future.

On the surface, this kind of frustrates me. Perry lived in denial of ball-doctoring for an entire Hall of Fame career. So why all the intense scrutiny of Tom Brady?, when meanwhile, Gaylord Perry sits in the Hall of Fame in relative obscurity, even though he spouts a lot of nonsense about how using steroids should exempt a player from the Hall.  His “cheating of choice” though, ball-doctoring, should be graciously overlooked?

PerryThe answers are fairly obvious. Brady has won more championships – 4 Super Bowls. Gaylord Perry never played in a World Series. Brady has made more money in a single season than Perry made in a lifetime. ESPN, sports talk radio, and the internet were nearly non-existent during Perry’s career. Finally, Perry didn’t have a supermodel wife who made more money than he did.

Ultimately, the answer is even more simple. “To whom much is given, much is required” (Luke 12:48). The corresponding axiom has to be true. To whom more is given, more is required. Brady’s just more famous. Championships are earned, but the resulting trophies and accolades are given. Add in the famous wife and the gazillion more dollars, and Brady ends up more squarely under our microscope, or maybe in this case, more centered in the hot spot of our magnifying glass.

When I think about Perry lying about cheating for his entire career, and Brady lying now, hear, near the end of his career, both about the same thing (basically) I can’t help but believe that Perry was the bigger offender.  His sin spanned more time. He kept the lie going longer. Heck, he did the doctoring himself! Then, he said that others who cheated playing baseball shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame? That’s not fair.

However, Brady has been given more.  It’s that simple. It’s one of those universal laws. Universal laws show us “the way things were designed to work”. God set it up this way.  You have much? Much is expected. You have more? More is expected… coming clean when you’re caught in a lie. Odds are though, this will all blow over. Brady’s “legacy” won’t see much tarnish. Fifty years from now, he’s likely to be seen as one of “the greatest” Hall-of-Famers, while Perry will be regarded less as a Hall-of-Famer and more as a “character of the game”. Right now though, the heat from the magnifying glass is burning a hole in Brady (the person) in ways that Perry never felt.

The point? It’s that we live in a world in which judgement falls most harshly (in the short term) on those who have been given more, even if those who have been given less may be more guilty. I’d say that sounds about right.