It’s time to put the general public on notice. You have about 48 hours to get “Deflate Gate” and the latest re-boot of “Spy Gate” out of your system.

Once the ball kicks off between the Steelers and Patriots at Gilette Stadium Thursday night, this whole thing is over.

The NFL had the rare opportunity to catch a team cheating twice within a decade. Twice.


And that team got away with it. Twice. Once because commissioner Roger Goodell let them get away with it by destroying the evidence and slapping them on the wrist, and the other because Goodell failed once again as self-appointed judge, jury and executioner.

The NFL didn’t lose this case in court. They didn’t lose it in an arbitration meeting.

They lost it before they walked in the door. Thanks to Goodell’s ineptitude, the fix was already in.

Goodell had his own person Dave Kujan moment from “The Usual Suspects” by having the culprit, Tom Brady, right under his nose, but eventually let him slip out the front door without having gathered any pertinent information or making that big arrest he was chasing all along.

Brady then limped down the street, flexed his fake crippled hand, straightened out his Uggs-laden feet, slipped into the passenger seat of a car at the end of the block and Bill Belichick drove off, never to be caught again.

My capability of mustering up some kind of righteous indignation about any scandal involving the Patriots has fallen to the cold frozen ground with a harder thud than the ball that left Brady’s hand during the “Tuck Rule” game.

With the failed results from the suspensions of Brady, Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and the players involved in the “Bounty Gate” scandal, I have resigned myself to the realization that if Goodell hasn’t been sent packing by now, he won’t be before his contract ends in 2018.

And that has nothing to do with the fact that Goodell would be owed an insane amount of money even if the owners did decide to remove him.

It has more to do with the fact that Goodell won’t be fired by his bosses as long as he’s making them money hand over fist, and in turn cashing his own checks that total eight figures.

Despite any over-compensation Goodell may come up with for thinking that letting the Patriots off the hook the first time would make him the “cool parent,” any effort the other owners may come up with to seek retribution, or any new report that may surface, the results will be fruitless at worst and window-dressing at best.

Despite the low esteem Brady, Belichick et al may be held in by the general public, these incidents only helped to exhonerate them in the eyes of their fan base. It made them appear both innocent and even worse, untouchable.

But in actuality, is the Patriots dynasty any different from those that preceded them?

Aren’t allegations of steroid use by the 70s Steelers routinely dismissed with a passive wave? Wasn’t Jerry Rice’s admission of using Stickum drowned out by the “Deflate Gate” white noise?

So why should we expect this recent round of moral outrage to last?

Will the Patriots still be seen as cheaters in every other region of the country outside of the Atlantic northeast? Yes.

Will Brady still be celebrated as one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the game long after he has thrown his final pass? Yes.

Will Belichick’s reputation as a master strategist still be mentioned in the same breath as the outside perception of a man willing to do almost anything to win? Yes.

The NFL will keep the money machine churning, fans will keep watching and the world will keep on turning.

History could have written Goodell as the NFL’s version of Sam Gerard, catching the league’s miscreants and fugitives, but instead he’ll never be nothing more than Rosco P. Coltrane coming up with excuse after excuse for Boss Hogg about why he couldn’t catch those Duke boys.

In the meantime, Brady will suit up for another season opener, watch a fourth championship banner hung in his home stadium, and then likely blow the Steelers off the field in Foxboro, perhaps leaving one charred black and gold-clad witness behind, claiming to have seen the devil.

Thanks to Goodell, the script now writes itself: Brady rides off again unscathed with Belichick behind the wheel.

And like that, poof, he’s gone.

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