What many think of today’s release of the controversial House intelligence memo largely depends on which political “team” they’ve been rooting for, but let’s put this in terms of something only slightly less partisan: professional football.
Three years later, almost everyone in America still remembers “Deflategate”: The scandal leading up to Super Bowl XLIX that rocked the sports world for months and ended with a four-game suspension for superstar quarterback Tom Brady.
But just for a moment, as we gear up for another national championship, let’s imagine a different, completely hypothetical, cheating scandal.
Imagine a Super Bowl in which two teams highly disliked by the American public – we’ll call them red team and blue team for simplicity’s sake – made it to the final championship game. (With this year’s Patriots/Eagles showdown, it shouldn’t be that hard.)
Now imagine that reports started to leak out of the highest levels of the NFL that employees within a certain department largely unaccountable to the shareholders and board of directors had gathered information gathered on red team, possibly against corporate policy.
The information gathered here came out of an investigation that was made possible only because of an outside agent who worked with the blue team to produce a dossier of information that was presented to the league. Senior employees at the department knew of the biased nature of the information, but not about the funding behind it and still used the info to launch a clandestine probe on the red team’s players and staff.
Then imagine that there were strong indications that actors within a related and also largely unaccountable department had access to that nefariously gathered information during the weeks leading up to the final showdown, while trading messages about influencing the outcome of the game and keeping the disfavored team from taking home the Lombardi trophy.
These employees apparently did all this while communicating on company-owned devices while also trying to figure out how they could keep these communications hidden from the board of directors, the shareholders, and the fans.
Now imagine that despite all this (and some serious errors on the field), the actors’ less-preferred team – the red team – had won, in one of the most stunning upsets in football history.
After all this, months after the game, some members of the NFL’s board of directors had gotten information on how some of this went down (much to the department’s consternation) and they wanted to make that information known to the shareholders and the fans for the sake of transparency.
However, other members of the board of directors who are normally okay with exposing abuses committed by departments within the league’s corporate offices, but who have a vested interest in proving that there was no cheating effort because of their relationship with the losing team, do not want that information brought to public knowledge.
Rather, those opposition members of the board have been trying for over a year to prove that the coach of the winning team had gotten outside help from a foreign league, hoping to negate the victory, despite an investigation which had yet to reveal any concrete evidence to that effect.
Such a scandal would not only make fans and shareholders alike rightfully wonder about what really happened before the big game; it would also give them reservations about the impact that these largely unaccountable employees have on the integrity of the sport as a whole. Not to mention that there are, in this metaphor, still questions about how one of the departments handled its investigation into how blue team managed its equipment during the regular season.
Had the outcome of the game been different and had the other team won, these questions about the integrity of the league and the leadership of this department would still hang heavy in the air.
Loyal fans and patrons would have every right to question what in the world is going on over there if they plan to keep buying tickets and merchandise, while spending their precious weekend time driving ad revenue, wouldn’t they? It really doesn’t matter at that point which team won, or which teams were even involved, when the real question at hand is the overall integrity of the system.
Now you understand the FISA memo controversy and why the contents of the document declassified today should deeply concern American citizens, regardless of their ideological tribe. Unless your tribe is full of deep-state defenders who think that powerful, unaccountable government agents should be able to toy with free and fair elections like this.
Certainly there’s partisan skin in the game. There always will be. But the questions raised by the behavior of career government officials in this case point to a much bigger and deeper problem than the outcome of a single election. And regardless of whether your jersey is red, blue, yellow, or nonexistent, the citizens of this republic deserve to see the bottom of this.