A season in hell for the NFL

Tim Smyczek – the 112  th  -ranked tennis player in the world and a genuine sportsman.

Tim Smyczek – the 112th-ranked tennis player in the world and a genuine sportsman.

A year that began badly is ending badly for the NFL. It’s a cliché to say that there are no winners here, but there are no winners here, just liars, cheaters, abusers and deniers.

It’s fitting that the Baltimore Ravens should be the ones to tip off the Indianapolis Colts to the New England Patriots’ use of deflated footballs, which makes it easier for the quarterback to grip the ball and the receivers to catch it. The Ravens, after all, are the people who gave us two troubled Rays – Lewis, who pled guilty to obstruction of justice in the fatal stabbing of two men; and Rice, who coldcocked his fiancée in an Atlantic City elevator, setting the year of crisis in motion. (The Ravens also win the award for tweet of the year when they had Mrs. Rice say she was very sorry for her part in being coldcocked by her husband.)

Bitter losers and no lovers of the Patriots, the Ravens seemed only too happy to pass along knowledge of the Pats’ cheating ways to the Colts. But the Ravens aren’t to blame here anymore than the Adderall-using Seattle Seahawks are or Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is. Rodgers, to borrow from his State Farm Discount Double Check commercials, likes to pump (clap) footballs up. Which begs the question: Was someone on the Pats trying to achieve yogic balance by deflating theirs?

Several wrongs cannot make a right. The only questions that really matter in this Nixonian narrative is, What did the Patriots know, and when did they know it?

According to head coach Bill Belichick and QB Tom Brady, the answer is “Nothing.”

So we move on to another question: What is NFL commissioner Roger Goodell going to do about it? This may be the most important question of all, for the key to the NFL’s season in hell has been its lack of leadership, along with its paramount interest in winning and, of course, money.

Contrast this to American Tim Smyczek, who at a crucial moment in his second-round Australian Open match against an ailing Rafael Nadal allowed his opponent a do-over on his serve. Class act.

Vince Lombardi always said, “Nice guys finish last.” That’s probably true.

But there’s something to be said for being a nice guy.