• May 11, 2015
Deflated Football

Photo by Steven Depolo. Flickr/Creative Commons License.

I understand from an avid football fan that I talked to over the weekend that many fans are disappointed with the Ted Wells’/Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison LLP Report on footballs used during the January 18, 2015 AFC Championship Game.

Apparently, they are disappointed that the Wells Report is 243 pages long but it never states conclusively that Tom Brady (the quarterback for the Patriots) participated in a conspiracy to deflate footballs below the allowable minimum pressure allowed by the National Football League. (It finds that “it is more probable than not that Tom Brady… was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities … involving the release of air from Patriots game balls.”)

I disagree with the criticism of the Wells Report. I see it as reflecting an unfair, if completely understandable, drive that we all have for certainty and a failure to appreciate what lawyers actually do.

Lawyers do not and cannot tell you what reality is. They weren’t there — at the scene of the crime, in the marriage, at the business negotiation, and so on.

What lawyers can do, and what the Wells Report did thoroughly, is collect evidence, a defined term which means that the presented information reaches a certain standard of veracity, and lawyers can, based on collected, organized, and (if needed) interpreted evidence, express an opinion (or advocate a particular point of view) as to what happened or did not happen.

In my opinion, Ted Wells and Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison LLP appear to have done a superb and thorough job at doing exactly that. (And, yeah, Tom Brady knew and he is guilty as far as I am concerned.)

That we live in a culture that is willing and able to spend millions of dollars to have some of the most talented lawyers on earth study whether a professional football team deflated footballs to pressures lower than the football league allows, and the league surely did pay millions — that I can (and do) regret and celebrate at the same time. This fact reflects our society’s huge wealth and, at the same time, the absurd misallocation of its wealth. But criticism of Wells and his team is off the mark. It’s just what we do.

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