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Nation & World

After 'Deflategate' Legal Victory, Brady Triumphs Over Steelers

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Somewhere out in Mudville, our colleague David Greene is depressed. He's a cheerful guy, but also a Steelers fan. And Pittsburgh lost last night to the New England Patriots 28-21. More to the point, the Steelers lost to Tom Brady who wasn't even scheduled to play at first. He played after getting a four-game suspension overturned for his role in the Deflategate scandal. What a way to begin the NFL season. And we're joined now by ESPN commentator Kevin Blackistone, welcome back to the program.

KEVIN BLACKISTONE: Thank you. How are you?

INSKEEP: I'm doing OK. I had to go to bed early, but it sounds like Tom Brady did awfully well.

BLACKISTONE: He did spectacularly well. Of course, he's the central figure in a seven-month drama that started back in January just before the Super Bowl, charging him in particular and the Patriots in general with deflating footballs, which is a violation of equipment rules in the League. And as we know, it went all the way to a federal judge. The federal judge threw it out the window of his office. And last night, in front of his home fans and with a new Super Bowl banner being unfurled, here came Tom Brady, and he won the game in Tom Brady fashion, which is spectacular.

INSKEEP: You know, I'm just thinking about this. If you're Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner, maybe you're unhappy that the court overturned your authority. But maybe you're not so unhappy that Tom Brady's back in prime-time in this way.

BLACKISTONE: Exactly, I mean, it has two edges to the sword. I mean, on the one hand, you're absolutely correct that you did all you could as Roger Goodell to get your rules that were negotiated enforced and to keep Tom Brady out of the game for four weekends. But on the other hand, I'm going to be surprised if the ratings that come in from last night’s game aren't through the roof. Everybody wanted to see how Tom Brady was going to perform under this pressure.

INSKEEP: Mr. Blackistone, can I ask you about a conspiracy theory? Your conspiracy theory - maybe that's a pejorative way to put it, but you have an idea as to how it was that the Deflategate scandal got so inflated and why.

BLACKISTONE: Sure, well, by accident or by purpose, this worked out to be a fantastic thing for the NFL as I wrote in my Washington Post column the other week, in that this seemingly pointless debate that went all the way to the federal court about PSI and football eclipsed the really critical issues in the NFL. Most particularly, that about concussions for which the NFL had to pay out through a court order more than a billion dollars in settlement payments just back in April. And then, of course, we remember how the League has tussled with the issue of domestic violence involving its players and now even some of its coaches, which brought that issue to the spotlight of the nation unlike it had ever been before. But yet, we're not talking about either of those issues anymore. We're talking about Tom Brady, and interesting enough, last night you had Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers quarterback, who several years ago, faced discipline by the League office for an alleged sexual assault that he had been involved in.

INSKEEP: Goodness, well, with all that said, we just got about 10 seconds left. Do you think the NFL is in position for a less disastrous season then?

BLACKISTONE: Well, maybe less disastrous off the field - you never know - but on the field, I suspect it will set another record for revenue.

INSKEEP: There you go. Kevin Blackistone, thanks very much.

BLACKISTONE: Thank you.

INSKEEP: He's a commentator for ESPN. He also teaches journalism at the University of Maryland, and he's a regular guest here. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.