There are more scenarios to play out for final judgment, but it sure is becoming difficult to believe that Tom Brady didn’t direct balls to be deflated for last season’s AFC Championship Game and that he did cooperate with the ensuing investigation.

That’s where were are at the moment with Deflategate.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell upheld the four-game suspension after Brady’s appeal, charging the NFL star with destroying his cell phone the day before or the day of him being questioned by investigators.

It's getting hard to believe Brady.

It’s getting hard to believe Brady.

That’s the main sticking point when it comes, not in federal court where the players’ union will sue the NFL over the appeal process, but in the court of public opinion. The NFL said “Mr. Brady knew about, approved of, consented to, and provided inducements and rewards” to equipment managers to deflate the balls. That means the phone was evidence and the timing of its destruction is suspicious at best.

Brady says he always destroys his old phone when he gets a new one (he switched from an Android to an iPhone 6, so he’s acquired good taste). But the timing makes that hard to believe. (And the NFL says that Brady still has an older phone he didn’t destroy.)

Once the lawyers have had it (and who knows how long that process will take), many of us will start to wonder about the brand of Tom Brady. I’m not talking legacy because I still see this as a minor offense and I believe Brady is one of the greatest quarterbacks ever, regardless.

But the story of Tom Brady has always had its underdog charm. He shared the QB position in college with a baseball prospect, was drafted alarmingly low (sixth round) by the New England Patriots, become the Lou Gehrig to Drew Bledsoe’s Wally Pip by winning four Super Bowls and married a supermodel.

That’s the American dream, isn’t it?

Where we go from here.

Now, with the shadow of Spygate (the Patriots were penalized for filming opponents’ signals in 2007), we wonder if Brady and the Patriots foster a culture of cheating. For the fanatic anti-Patriot fan, that’s a no-brainer yes.

For the rest of us, who fall in the middle, there will always be that cloud of suspicion, whether Brady wins the lawsuit or not. The damage has been done.

We probably expect our sport idols to be perfect too much and for them to ignore their competitive nature when we deem it appropriate. But if the brand of Tom Brady (and the New England Patriots) is shadowy, then to repair the brand means being the opposite of that. To be transparent.

Brady has responded on Facebook, refuting the NFL’s claims, but it doesn’t quite hold water. (For one thing, the explanation for destroying the phone is hard to believe.)

The courts will take over now but it would behoove Brady, if he is interested in repairing his public image (and he may not), to be candid, open and honest. He will no doubt be lawyered up for the moment, but he’s still got some work to do.

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