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'Deflategate' As Seen Through The Prism Of Broadway's 'Hamilton'

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And when the NFL suspended New England Patriots all-star quarterback Tom Brady for allegedly having footballs deflated, the assumption was that the team's season was sunk. Three games into the season, that assumption is wrong - very wrong. And that got commentator Pablo Torre thinking back to one hit Broadway musical about patriotism.

PABLO TORRE: Twelve months ago, thanks to the kindness of a friend and the generosity of fate, I sat six rows behind NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell as he and his wife watched "Hamilton."

This was in the thick of the Deflategate saga. And after the show, I could not help but tweet Lin-Manuel Miranda, the show's creator and star, about how a man at war with the Patriots had clapped for the patriots at war on stage. Miranda replied with a question. How do you think "History Has Its Eyes On You" landed with Goodell? Now for those unfamiliar, that number sung by George Washington features the following lyrics.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HISTORY HAS ITS EYES ON YOU")

CHRISTOPHER JACKSON: (As George Washington, singing) I made every mistake and felt the shame rise in me. And even now I lie awake, knowing history has its eyes on me.

TORRE: Every time the Patriots have played this month, I've thought about Goodell thinking about that song. We already knew that history would look poorly upon the more serious mistakes of his tenure, from concussions to domestic violence, to name just two.

But in terms of sheer humiliation, there has been nothing as dramatic as the backfiring of Goodell's four-game suspension of New England superstar quarterback Tom Brady. With Deflategate, Goodell's entire goal was shame. Shame on the Patriots, who abetted Brady's alleged doctoring of footballs. Shame on Brady, who violated the integrity of the game. And shame on Bill Belichick, who'd have to coach one-fourth of the season without the best quarterback in the sport, which should have been enough to kill his team's playoff hopes.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum (ph). In week one, behind Brady's backup, Jimmy Garoppolo, the Patriots edged the Cardinals. Then in week two, despite an injury to Garoppolo, they beat the Dolphins by even more. And in week three, thanks to their third-string quarterback, rookie Jacoby Brissett, they shut out the Texans 27-0. Brissett, incidentally, got hurt in that game, raising concerns about whether a wide receiver would need to throw passes in week four against the Bills.

But such concerns don't even matter, really, not anymore. For one thing, the Patriots have become the single most impressive team in the NFL this season. And for another, they're now two full games ahead of second place in the AFC East. Which means that Brady, upon his return from exile in week five, will be leading the division no matter what.

New England, I should note, is not some rags-to-riches story. They've bent and broken rules while winning four Super Bowls in 15 years. But now, thanks to Goodell's own sword, the Brady-less Patriots have become populists. They're underdogs. They're rebels against the leader who lies awake, knowing history has its eyes on him.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HISTORY HAS ITS EYES ON YOU")

JACKSON: (As George Washington, singing) History has its eyes on you.

MONTAGNE: Pablo Torre is a senior writer with "ESPN The Magazine." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.