Locals weigh in with their thoughts on the big game
Imagine this very possible Super Bowl scenario: quarterback Tom Brady stands near NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell – the man who slapped him with a four-game regular season suspension – while New England Patriots team owner Robert Kraft is handed the game’s championship trophy.
Hudson resident Patrick Duffy said many people he knows think this scene, very likely if the Patriots defeat the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday night, is "comical."
They’re not alone, and several other fans who live or work in the Nashua area, think it would be ironic or a sweet form of justice.
Brady has recently said publicly that he does not draw any additional motivation for winning by the "deflategate" saga – his team’s underinflated footballs cheating scandal and the punishment against him that followed. He said that his teammates are all the motivation he needs.
"(This) was probably one of his best seasons, I believe," Duffy said. "Deflategate didn’t hurt him."
"Deflategate" began with allegations that the Patriots tampered with footballs used during the AFC championship game against the Indianapolis Colts in January, 2015.
The NFL announced in May, 2015, that it would suspend Brady for four games during the regular 2015 season for his alleged involvement in the scandal.
Following an internal appeal, Goodell upheld the suspension.
In September 2015, a federal court judge threw out the suspension, citing what he called a lack of a fair due process to Brady.
But last April, the 2 nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the suspension for the 2016 regular season. Brady lost a request for a rehearing, and announced in July that he would accept his punishment.
Many other local fans agree with Duffy that the suspension didn’t hurt Brady’s performance when he returned to the game, and may have even helped.
"I think it was phenomenal given the turmoil that he went through, the first four games," said Dana Drouin, who manages a fitness gym in Merrimack. "I think it lit a fire under him."
"The suspension didn’t hurt (them), I’ll say that," said Tyler Linscott, 16, a Nashua High School South student who didn’t miss watching a game this season and was at Gillette Stadium when the Pats beat the Rams in early December. "It was another great season – many more to come, hopefully."
The Patriots went into the recent playoffs with a 14-2 season record, and earned the AFC championship in a 36-17 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Falcons were 11-5 when they entered the playoffs, and claimed the NFC title with a 44-21 win over the Green Bay Packers.
"It was a good performance," said Connor Mack, a Souhegan High School senior, of Brady’s post-suspension play. "He came out like he had something to prove."
Super Bowl LI will be played at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. The Patriots will be making their ninth Super Bowl appearance, the most of any team, and it will be their seventh time competing in the championship game under the leadership of Brady and head coach Bill Belichick.
"I’m a huge fan of Mr. Belichick," Bill Cassedy, a Londonderry resident said while visiting a Hudson restaurant. "(Brady’s) ability to react in the sport is unique."
Cassedy is one of the many fans who believe that Brady was treated unfairly by Goodell and that his handling of "deflategate" was a way to "make up" for the way he handled "Spygate" – the 2007 controversy in which the Patriots were disciplined by the league for videotaping opposing defensive coaches’ signals from an unauthorized location during a game.
"The commissioner really wanted to teach the Patriots a lesson and he used ‘deflategate’ to do that," Cassedy said.
"This was to make up to the other (team) owners who were upset," he said.
In addition to Brady’s four-game suspension, the Patriots paid a $1 million fine and lost two draft picks as a result of the "deflategate" allegations.
"I think they went over the top," Patriots fan Nate Koch, a Hollis resident, said of the NFL’s actions. "The court confirmed Roger Goodell’s right to do it. Let’s just get on with football."
Koch plans to enjoy the Super Bowl with his wife, Lori, and their two sons, at home. A huge inflatable Pats football player will stand in their living room.
Koch is not worried how the Patriots, its owners and Goodell will interact with each other if the Pats win and they share the stage for the presentation of the Lombardi Trophy.
"It may be a little uncomfortable for them, but they’ll all be professional," said Koch, while shopping in Milford. "I think they’ll just be civil and get on with their day."
Linscott, the Nashua South student, thinks Brady will not let the deflategate controversy affect him if he finds himself standing near Goodell after the game.
"I think he’s going to do it with a smile on this face," Linscott said. "Accept it, and let not it bother him."