Of deflated balls, exposed appendages and concealed identities

The Middle Ages’ answer to the hoodie, from James Robinson Planche’s “A Cyclopedia of Dress and Costume.” Would Bill Belichick approve?

The Middle Ages’ answer to the hoodie, from James Robinson Planche’s “A Cyclopedia of Dress and Costume.” Would Bill Belichick approve?

It’s been a great week for news – sporting and otherwise – of the games men play.

First, it’s ba-aaack – Deflategate that is. You will recall that last September, federal court Judge Richard M. Berman ruled that the NFL had overstepped its bounds in its arbitration of Tom Brady’s four-game suspension for allegedly masterminding the deflation of footballs in the New England Patriots’ 2015 A.F.C. Championship win over the Indianapolis Colts.

Now a three-judge panel for the United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, has said, Not so fast. Taking a view similar to my own from the start of this delicious story, the panel seems less interested in the NFL’s triple role as judge, enforcer of punishments and arbitrator of appeals – a strange trifecta that would automatically make the league vulnerable to the charge of overstepping by the Players’ Union – than it is in the cover-up that always trips you up. To wit: What of Brady’s destroyed cell phone that might’ve contained incriminating information about his altered balls?

“Anyone within 100 yards of this proceeding would have understood the cell phone issue would have raised the stakes,” said Barrington Daniels Parker Jr., the most critical of the three panelists.

At the time, Brady said he destroyed his cells periodically to protect his privacy and didn’t know that this was grounds for his four-game suspension from the league, which already had all the text messages it needed from him. Parker, unmoved, said, “Mr. Brady’s explanation made no sense whatsoever.”

Oh-oh, not looking good for Tommy Boy, who was pretty much thrown under the bus on this issue by the Hooded One, Pats’ Coach Bill Belichick.

Speaking of hoodies, Troy Patterson deconstructs the controversial garment in a provocative essay for the March 6 issue of The New York Times Magazine, although a poster chides him for his failure to mention Bellycheck.

“As far as striking a menacing hooded look,” poster PJU writes, “Belichick and Darth Vader are in a league of their own.”

A symbol of workers, athletes and rebellious youth, the hoodie reveals even as it conceals. In our time, it has become either the uniform of the criminal class or the presumption of criminality among the innocent. The hoodie is the Unabomber and Trayvon Martin. In my debut novel “Water Music” and the forthcoming “The Penalty for Holding,” it is worn by athletes who see it has a shield even as they recognize the way it exposes their vulnerability.

In “Water Music,” tennis star Alí Iskandar seeks to shrink inside one even as he intuits that fellow airline travelers might see in it, his name and his darkling beauty the calling cards of a terrorist. And in “The Penalty for Holding,” star quarterback Quinn Novak anticipates that the hoodie that hides the bruises of abuse at the hands of one of his lovers might also brand him an abuser.

“Perhaps an uncomfortable truth,” poster M Street writes, “but if you follow any inner-city police blotter, it seems nine times out of 10 the armed robberies, shoplifters, assaults feature young males wearing hoodies with raised hoods to conceal their faces. This is the source of the stigma; it's not some conspiracy.”

Perhaps, then, clothes do not make the man but rather the man makes the clothes.

Context. Context drives perception. I remember a stunningly beautiful photo of the swimmer Ryan Lochte in a dark hoodie. It’s an image that inspired a moment in “The Penalty for Holding,” in which Quinn poses for photographer Elliott Gardener – a kind of male Annie Leibovitz – similarly attired. It’s a sensuous scene in what I like to think of as a sensuous work.

My novels are erotic and even homoerotic, but I despise vulgarity. It’s one thing to depict private parts in a sensual manner. It’s another thing to brandish them – conversationally – as a kind of threat and power grab, as we have seen recently in the political arena.

Because they interpret the visual through the verbal, novels by their very nature leave something to the imagination.

Public figures should do the same.