Column as I see ‘em:
• One TV talker has suggested that Roger Goodell’s ruling on Tom Brady would be more staggering than the decision by Kenesaw Mountain Landis to give eight White Sox players a lifetime ban for plotting to throw the World Series.
That’s a bit strong. But Brady is almost certain to get a suspension for his role in underflating footballs before the AFC title game. Circumstantial evidence in the Wells Report makes it clear that Brady knew about the deflated footballs.
According to Gary Myers of the New York Daily News, Goodell has sufficient evidence to sanction Brady. Myers said the commissioner will probably announce a suspension this week.
The NFL will not tolerate cheating. But it is a thriving enterprise that owes much of its popularity to gambling. So as always, I’ll defer to the oddsmakers in Vegas.
According to Jimmy Shapiro of Bovada, the over/under on a Brady suspension is 3ø games. That’s a fair line. I’ll go under. Give me Brady and three games.
There are plenty of outraged fans who want a longer ban, even a year. But the product is the ultimate concern in the NFL. TV ratings are bigger than moral rectitude, sportsmanship or the physical well-being of players.
Three games won’t cause undue harm to the TV partners. Brady would miss the Thursday night opener against Pittsburgh. But the national TV audience for the opener will be huge regardless. Fans will be curious to see how the Pats play without Brady at quarterback.
The Pats’ next two games are at 1 p.m. against the Bills and Jaguars. No big deal. The NFL might want to see Rex Ryan beat the Pats, creating more drama later in the season. Jacksonville at home? It doesn’t matter who plays QB.
The bye comes in Week Four, an ideal time to end Brady’s suspension. It would give the Pats an extra week to get Brady ready for two big national games that would attract big national TV audiences.
Brady could return on Oct. 11 for a 4:25 game at Dallas. I suspect Jones would rather stage Brady vs. Tony Romo than get a cheap win by having his customers watch Jimmy Garoppolo under center.
A week later, the Pats play a Sunday night TV game at Indianapolis. Brady vs. Andrew Luck, a rematch of last year’s AFC title game, will be one the top-rated telecasts of the year if Brady is back.
You have to be naive to think TV doesn’t matter. Ultimately, this is why the owners paid Goodell $44 million last year. To look out for their bottom line.
• Evidently, I stirred debate last week by comparing the playoff statistics of Patrick Kane and Gilbert Perreault, the best NHL player from Buffalo and the greatest forward to play for the Sabres.
Kane passed Perreault in career playoff points Thursday with a third-period goal against the Wild. Kane has 104 career playoff points in 103 games; Perreault had 103 points in 90.
A check of the numbers showed Kane has been a much greater goal-scorer in the playoffs than Perreault was with the Sabres. Kane averages .36 goals a game in the regular season. But he has raised it roughly 20 percent - to .43 goals a game - in the postseason.
Perreault’s numbers were the exact opposite. He averaged .43 goals a game in the regular season and .36 in the playoffs. He never scored an overtime playoff goal. Kane has four, including a Stanley Cup-winner and another that put Chicago into the final.
Kane, who is 26, plays in a much tougher scoring era than Perreault. Defenses are more sophisticated and goals harder to come by. He has won a Smythe Trophy and could win a second before these playoffs are through.
Buffalo fans have great affection for Perreault, who was the city’s first NHL superstar and made the Hall of Fame. But the record says Kane has been far better at raising his game in the playoffs.
• Before the season, Bryce Harper was voted the most overrated player in baseball in an ESPN poll. It might be time for a new poll.
Harper, who made the cover of Sports Illustrated at age 16, is coming into his own at 22. On Wednesday, he hit three home runs in a game. He hit six in three games, including a walk-off against the Braves on Saturday.
As of Sunday, he had 11 homers in 133 plate appearances. A year ago, Harper hit 13 home runs in 390 times up and had a .767 OPS, the lowest of his first three years in the Majors.
But Harper is learning to be patient at the plate. He had 27 walks in 31 games; he walked 38 times all last year. He needs 34 homers to become the first player since Tony Conigliaro to reach 100 career bombs at age 22.
• Anyone taking the Grizzlies seriously now? Memphis leads the mighty Warriors in their NBA Western Conferenced semifinal, two games to one, and has stifled Golden State’s long-range shooting attack in successive games.
The two Griz wins were remarkably similar. The Warriors shot 31-for-74 from the field and 6-for-26 from the three-point line in Game Two. They shot 32-for-74 overall and 6 of 26 from behind the arc in their third game loss.
Steph Curry, the league MVP, is 15 of 40 (37.5%) from the field after three games and 4-for-21 on threes. Tony Allen, a quiet presence in the regular season, has been a defensive marvel as usual in the spring. Allen has been a force on the perimeter and has four steals in each of the Memphis wins.
Defense by big guards on the perimeter is a huge factor in the playoffs. Just ask the Bulls. Jimmy Butler, their 6-foot-7 off guard, harassed LeBron James into 36 percent shooting in Chicago’s first two wins over the Cavs in their series.
• Who is the most unhittable pitcher in baseball? Yankees closer Andrew Miller. Opponents are 3-for-51 against Miller this season, a microscopic .058 average.
It’s not a recent phenomenon. In the playoffs for the Orioles last fall, opposing hitters were 1 of 22 against Miller. In the O’s last 10 regular-season games, batters also went 1-for-22.
So in his last 30.1 innings, opposing hitters are 5-for-95 against the Yankee closer (.053). He has walked 10 and struck out 51 in that stretch. He hasn’t allowed a run this season.
Do you think the O’s and Red Sox wish they still had him?
• Half the teams in the NBA conference semifinals (Hawks, Warriors, Clippers, Wizards) haven’t reached a conference final since before Larry Bird and Magic Johnson entered the league in 1979 - or in the case of the Clippers, not at all.
The Clippers are out to make a conference final for the first time in franchise history. They lost twice to the Celtics in the Eastern semifinals when they were the Buffalo Braves.
• What is it about big shots banking in off the backboard in key moments of NBA playoff games?
Derrick Rose beat the Cavs at the buzzer on Friday with a banked-in three at the buzzer. Paul Pierce banked in a fallaway at the horn to give Washington a win over the Hawks on Saturday. Marc Gasol banked one in from deep in the late going as Memphis held off Golden State.
I assume they all yelled “Glass!”
• Tampa Bay must be nervous after seeing its 3-0 series lead shaved to 3-2 by Montreal. Yes, he had the best defense in the world around him, but Canadiens goalie Carey Price showed at the Olympics how good he can be on the biggest stage.
It wouldn’t be a shock to see Price rise up and lead the Canadiens to a stunning come-from-behind win in seven.
• The Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera has 396 homers and is hitting .320 for his career. You might recognize the five guys with 400 homers and a career .320 average: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams, Jimmie Foxx and Stan Musial.