Yesterday, Ballghazi reached its stunning climax when Ted Wells—the lawyer tasked by the NFL with finding whether or not the Super Bowl-champion New England Patriots intentionally deflated balls below regulation pressure to make it easier for quarterback Tom Brady and his teammates to grip and throw—found out that, yes, the Patriots probably are cheating cheaters. Conspiracy! Coverup! Takes!

The hordes of columnists and journalists paid to cover and opine on the NFL are almost always bad. This is likely true about many workers in many fields, but many NFL writers consider it part of their duty to defend the league and its appeal to the high moral calling of football. Generally, like when a football player is known to have knocked his fiancée out with a single blow, the threat is outside; but in times like these, the threat to the shield comes from within, and then these hordes of Hemingways with rifles for dicks and boxing gloves for heads are called upon to rise up, to turn their pens inward, to mete out swift justice to those who would dare compromise the integrity of the game. These motherfuckers have Takes. These motherfuckers want Blood.

1) “Tom Brady, like A-Rod, Barry Bonds, Lance Armstrong, is just another sports cheater” —Mike Bianchi, Orlando Sentinel

How hot is the take?

You can cook crack on it.

What is the take?

During the investigation and answering questions from the media, Brady denied tampering with footballs or having any knowledge of those who did. However, he declined to make his text messages and emails available to NFL investigators.

Why, Tom?

Why?

You know why.

I know why.

The NFL knows why.

Because Brady cheated, that’s why.

Just like A-Rod.

Just like Barry Bonds.

Just like Lance Armstrong.

Another one of our nation’s most beloved sports heroes – a true Patriot – has flushed his integrity down the toilet.

Bye, bye, Mr. American Pie.

2) “Tom Brady lied, cheated, and now he must pay” —Steve Serby, New York Post

How hot is the take?

The heat you feel when you accidentally place your hand on the stove, then recoil, then put it back on the stove because you forgot what pain feels like.

What is the take?

Belichick has told us for so long there isn’t a quarterback he would rather have than Tom Brady. Now, sadly, we have another reminder why.

Legacy deflated.

3) “Tom Brady’s punishment should be long enough to put Patriots at disadvantage” —Tim Cowlishaw, The Dallas Morning News

How hot is the take?

As hot as the tears of a lover who’s been lied to one too many times. Cowlishaw is telling New England to kick rocks, and Cowlishaw means it.

What is the take?

But the organization should be hit hard (fine, draft picks), and Brady should be sat down for two games. That will place a stain on his legacy that a handful of rings and the appearance of the perfect life can do nothing to remove.

4) “NFL must hammer Tom Brady, Patriots in Deflategate aftermath” —Jarrett Bell, USA TODAY Sports

How hot is the take?

It’s a slow burn, pleasant enough before falling off a cliff, like jerking off with ghost peppers.

What is the take?

But imagine the stain that a Brady suspension would put on the NFL’s kickoff game in September, when the Pittsburgh Steelers — minus suspended all-pro running back Le’Veon Bell — open the season at Gillette Stadium against the defending Super Bowl champions. Brady’s potential absence would be so much worse — and more symbolic — than him skipping the team’s recent visit to the White House.

5) “Tom Brady’s Legacy Forever Scarred by Damning Wells Report” —Mike Freeman, Bleacher Report

How hot is the take?

This take can warm the world’s oceans, but only just. Freeman’s a good reporter, but in an effort to get his take out first just after news broke yesterday, he doomed everything in his wake.

What is the take?

The NFL can’t have players and teams simply re-engineering the rules as they see fit. This is not a silly issue, as the owner, Robert Kraft, has always tried to portray it. This is not a joke. This is bad. Really bad.

6) “More tarnish on Patriot legacy, this time tainting Tom Brady” —Dan Shaughnessy, The Boston Globe

How hot is the take?

Not that hot! Shank almost made it through, but had to finish with a Strong Kicker.

What is the take?

It’s about systematically breaking the rules of competition. It’s about a loss of institutional control.

And a legacy tarnished again.

7) “Roger Goodell must suspend Tom Brady to protect league integrity”—Mike Lupica, New York Daily News

How hot is the take?

If you scroll down any further, your iPhone may need to power down and cool off for a while.

What is the take?

There is no elevator video on which to convict Tom Brady on Deflategate, for having less-than-perfect footballs to throw around in the AFC Championship game even though he said later, in a dream moment for headline writers everywhere, that his balls were perfect.

8) “Tom Brady sacked like never before by Deflategate findings” —Ian O’Connor, ESPN

How hot is the take?

This is cleansing fire that heals a community after the witch is burned at the stake.

What is the take?

Brady deserves to be suspended for his actions, and four games sounds about right. You get caught tampering with the equipment and running a flea-flicker on the game’s integrity, you have to pay a price.

The good news? Brady gets to keep his fourth Super Bowl ring and his standing among the greatest quarterbacks of all time. He didn’t need to cheat to beat the Colts or anyone else, but the evidence says the 199th pick in the 2000 draft — the long shot out of Michigan who burned to prove everyone wrong — couldn’t resist the urge to seize a competitive edge.

Tom Brady should go ahead and tell his fans the truth about that, the whole truth and nothing but. It would pump up a dynastic career that looks a lot more deflated now than any Patriots game ball.

The hottest takes, of course, are forged in haste. Writers either are denied or by their own choice waive the time to adequately parse a particular issue, and as a result, say things without knowing precisely what the fuck they’re talking about. This results in grand proclamations, as writers substitute grandiosity for reason, or perceive connections to seemingly related events when, in fact, there are none.

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It follows, then, that the hottest takes can be found on Twitter. Many writers use Twitter to beat their contemporaries to the takes, forfeiting necessary time to get their shit together, their thoughts in order. For our purposes, these takes generally are the most fun.

And of course, leave it to Jon Heyman to cut straight to the heart of the matter:

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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