The thank-you fruit basket is no doubt in mail, addressed to one Harold Henderson. The card attached will be brief and to the point: "Regards, Tom Brady."
Or so one assumes now that Henderson, an arbitrator called in by the NFL, has reduced Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy's suspension from 10 games to four games, exactly the number of games Roger Goodell deemed Brady worthy of in Deflategate. And if you're wondering here what the connection is, you'd do well to revisit the power of public perception, and how even the mighty Shield readily bows to it.
Because now Goodell and Co. are looking at the absurd prospect that Tom Brady's punishment for abusing footballs is precisely equal to Greg Hardy's punishment for abusing women, not a place the NFL likely cares to go right now. The league is already playing catchup from the notion, backed by plenty of corroborative evidence, that it's soft on domestic violence. Now it becomes a league in which knocking around women is regarded as no more heinous than the covert deflation of footballs. How's that gonna play in Peoria?
To be sure, the original penalty meted out by the NFL was 10 games, but appearances are appearances. And the NFL can ill afford this appearance. That's the price it pays for so long turning a blind eye to the its Greg Hardys -- who was originally convicted of throwing his ex-girlfriend around, then was freed after a settlement in civil court.
Whereupon the ex-girlfriend made herself scarce when it came time to show up in court, almost literally taking the money and running.
So how is this good for Tom Brady?
Because appearances are appearances. And so don't be surprised if the sudden (and embarrassing) equality of Hardy's punishment and Brady's doesn't influence Goodell's decision in Brady's own arbitration. He'll never admit it, but if Goodell reduces Brady's suspension to, say, two games, it'll be almost impossible not to make that connection -- and just as impossible to credibly refute it.
Perception wins again.