We are, of this week, one year removed from the strange Kabuki theater that was Deflategate. That the case is still pending seems somewhat improbable, but it's true. (The NFL's appeal of Brady's four-game suspension getting overturned in federal court is scheduled for March 3.) What is clear, looking back, is not so much Brady's definitive guilt or innocence but rather how much smaller this controversy likely would have been if it hadn't involved Brady. (The Vikings and Panthers, for instance, were both issued warnings for using sideline heaters to warm footballs on a cold day just a month and a half before the AFC Championship Game.) The error-filled media leaks; the pearl-clutching concern about the integrity of the game; an investigation that seemed determined to find guilt as much as facts; a comedy of circumstance interwoven with league politics; all of it is surreal, in retrospect.
If you believe that the NFL and the media tried to break him -- and you can bet plenty of people believe these things, and not just those who reside in New England and practice their shirtless Rob Gronkowski spikes in front of the mirror -- you can't help but feel a sense of satisfaction that he is still standing, determined as ever.