Boston's weeklong battle with sports corruption


After more than a year of sketchy antics from a small but powerful sect of corporate hot shots, the city’s bid for the 2024 Olympics was torched.

In not so many words: The people won.

In the speech that fired the nail into Boston’s coffin, Mayor Marty Walsh condescendingly referred to the opposition as “10 people on Twitter” but it was obviously much more than that. The anti-Olympics opposition was a bonafide movement, and that movement served as an important reminder that the voices of the many can be stronger than the wallets of the few. Basically the Olympic committee counted on people not caring enough or being smart enough to latch on to the hypocrisy and pratfalls of the bid. When that didn’t work the committee thought the people were feeble enough to be swayed by cheesy videos starring the likes of David Ortiz. But ultimately the joke was on Boston 2024, and when the ax came down on Monday afternoon, Boston rejoiced. The city had delivered an upper cut to corruption’s pointy chin and it felt damn good.

Then Tuesday rolled around and corruption dusted itself off, donned a blond wig and a clown nose and landed a haymaker of its own:

Roger Goodell upheld Tom Brady’s four-game suspension and snatched the wind out of Boston’s sail.

The funny or not-so-funny thing is that Boston 2024 and the NFL used similar tactics in their respective initiatives. It’s corruption 101. It’s leaking misinformation. It’s hiding or planting key information within footnotes deep inside painfully long reports packed with more confusing and superfluous verbiage than an episode of "True Detective." It’s dangling flashy headlines and smiling faces to distract the media and win over the lowest common denominator. It’s having the next smoke screen ready just as the previous one fades — and it’s garbage. In the case of Boston 2024, that garbage was sought out and destroyed, and again, it was beautiful. It was empowering. It was a victory for standing up, speaking out and the influence of relentless journalism; and in turn it makes everything that’s happened with Goodell and Brady all the more frustrating. The question everyone on New England’s side keeps asking: How can Goodell get away with this?

Well, by comparison (and on its own) Boston 2024 was serious business. The result could have taken a major toll on the city, and the people who live in and around it. The issue was so bigger than sports, to the point where not even the biggest trolls in this market were willing to sell their souls to argue that contrarian point of view. The city may not have been entirely unified but it was enough that dissenters were drowned out and ultimately defeated. It was also a local issue. No one outside of this region cared enough about the Olympics coming to Boston to argue the other way. There was only one group Boston 2024 had to answer to — and they weren’t having it.

Meanwhile when it comes down to it, Deflategate really is just about footballs. The worst case scenario is that a multimillionaire with a super model wife and a charmed life has to miss four games. That doesn’t make it right, or OK, and it sucks beyond belief, but that’s what it is. It’s about football. It’s something that only affects Patriots fans on an immaterial and emotional level, and while it would have been morally reprehensible to fake support for the Olympics, guys like Dan Shaughnessy and Felger & Mazz have long relented caring about Boston fans’ emotions; even more they get off on local fans’ misery. In the radio’s case, the dissenting opinion gets people angry and calling in and helps ratings. In the column writing’s case, the dissenting opinion pushes clicks and comments and leads to national TV and radio gigs. After all, the rest of the country hates the Patriots, and if they can find a local who takes their side while simultaneously “speaking for Boston” then that’s perfect: Get him on the air!

It’s the same selfish motives that drive Goodell and drove the leaders of Boston 2024. It’s people with power abusing that power for their own benefit and without a lick of respect for the people they should respect most. And it’s sad, but that’s life. That’s corruption. It’s been around forever and it affects this country on levels so much deeper and more harmful than a football game that it’s almost embarrassing that we care so much. Especially when that caring is so futile; when the rest of the country is so ready to jump on board with anything that kills the Patriots, and so willing to leech onto Goodell’s flashy headlines and misinformation. It’s a losing battle. It’s a helpless feeling. Even with the small handful of media members — people like Sally Jenkins at the Washington Post, and our own Tom E. Curran — who have been steadfast in exposing Goodell for abusing his power on levels that would make Kim Jong-un blush. It’s not enough. There are too many dissenters and people too willing to ignore the truth.

The truth is that from the start Goodell has counted on that very thing. He counted on people (or an adequate number people) not caring enough to latch on to the hypocrisy and pratfalls of the Wells Report and the proceeding punishment. He assumed the general public was feeble enough to be swayed by misleading and irrelevant headlines. And worst of all, he’s right. He’s getting away with it, and now all New England can do is hold its collective breathe, put its faith in the court system and hope for the best.

In the meantime, it’s good to know that if Boston could only land a single punch in the face of corruption this week, they connected on the right one.

Follow me on Twitter: @rich_levine


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