Has Roger Goodell made himself clear? It’s “more probable than not.”

deflategateSay what you will about NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, but he finally figured out how to publish something clear on deflategate. Or putting it in the terms that the Wells Report used, it is “more probable than not” that you can actually figure out what Roger Goodell is saying.

Look, Goodell is a mess. It took him two tries to figure out what to do with wife-beater Ray Rice. The courts overturned Goodell’s decision’s in Rice’s case and the case of Adrian Peterson. The initial report against Tom Brady for deflating footballs was a masterpiece of confusion. And Goodell’s choice to hear Brady’s appeal himself is bizarre.

But the decision itself is pretty straightforward in its accusation that Patriots employees deflated footballs and Tom Brady tried to evade the blame. If the original Wells Report gets a D for clarity, yesterday’s Goodell decision gets a B+ (Clear enough, could be clearer). Here are some typical passages, where, as usual, I’ve highlighted the passive and equivocal parts:

I find that the full extent of the decline in pressure [that is, inflation of the footballs] cannot be explained by environmental, physical, or other natural factors. Instead, at least a substantial part of the decline was the result of tampering. [Clearer would be: “Someone tampered with the footballs enough to deflate them beyond what physics would predict.”]

. . . the testimony of Professor [Daniel] Marlow . . . was especially persuasive and credible. . . . His endorsement of Exponent’s conclusions [about the physics of deflation] and his rebuttal of Dean Snyder’s criticisms carried substantial weight. [The adjectives actually weaken these statements. Just say “My physics expert is smart and I believe him.”]

Among other things, the unusual pattern of communication between Mr. Brady and Mr. Jastremski [the equipment assistant manager] in the days following the AFC Championship game cannot readily be explained as unrelated to conversations about the alleged tampering of the game balls. . . .  [This is twisted syntax. When you untangle it, it says “Brady and Jastremski never talked so much before. There’s no reason that they should have talked after the AFC Championship.”]

The sharp contrast between the almost complete absence of communications [before] the AFC Championship Game and the extraordinary volume of communications during the three days following . . . undermines any suggestions that the communications addressed only preparation of footballs for the Super Bowl, than than the tampering allegations. [“What the hell could they have suddenly been talking about? Must be my investigation.”]

There is no question that Mr. Brady declined to make available to investigators electronic information, including text messages and emails, related to the subject of the investigation. [That’s pretty clear.]

. . . Mr. Brady gave the cellphone . . . to his assistant for destruction on either March 5, or, more likely, March 6. . . . March 6 was the date on which Mr. Brady was interviewed by Mr. Wells and his team. [Goodell could have just said it flat out: “Tom Brady asked his assistant to destroy his cell phone within 24 hours of his first hearing on the deflation issue.”]

Rather than simply failing to cooperate, Mr. Brady made a deliberate effort to ensure that investigators would never have access to information that he had been asked to produce. [Sounds pretty bad for Brady.]

The evidence fully supports my findings that (1) Mr. Brady participated in a scheme to tamper with game balls after they had been approved by the game officials . . . and (2) Mr. Brady willfully obstructed the investigation by, among other things, affirmatively arranging for the destruction of his cellphone. [“I may be both the prosecutor and the judge in this case, but I find my own prosecution persuasive.”]

Like everyone else in this sorry mess, Roger Goodell is immersed in poor writing, wordiness, passive voice, and equivocation. He’s not immune from stating his conclusions in equivocal and twisted ways. But he finally rose above those tendencies and made actual clear and damning statements. This is going to federal court, but when it gets there, clarity is no longer going to be the issue.

Cartoon licensed from New Yorker cartoonbank.com.

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