MIAMI — Nobody wins when this is over. No ties. Everybody loses.
When the NFL finally resolves this miserable, embarrassing Deshaun Watson saga, there will be no satisfaction to be found, not anywhere. The mess will have ended, but not really.
Watson could be suspended indefinitely, for at least a full season, over accusations by 25 women of sexual improprieties during massage sessions. Or he might also be suspended for just several games, part of a season, in what would be outrageous leniency but lessen the chance of an appeal and this mess going on.
No matter what, nobody will win in this.
The women will lose.
His accusers who stepped forward — the only ones in this mess who deserve to win — might get some closure from his suspension but will have been denied seeing Watson criminally prosecuted. Instead they will have seen themselves called liars and gold diggers. Instead they will see Watson slither through this with his NFL future and $230 million guaranteed contract protected and intact.
The NFL and football fans will lose.
If unsullied by this tawdry scandal, Watson would be one of the league’s brightest young quarterbacks and biggest, most exciting stars embarking on a new chapter in in his career. He would be the talk of football for the right reasons. The NFL would be enthused to have him high on its marquee. Instead he wears a permanent stain and is an image liability to the sport.
Houston will lose.
The Texans could boast one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks for the next 10 years in Watson. Instead it all unraveled first by their own mismanagement that caused Watson to become estranged from the club and demand a trade. And then by Watson’s own unseemly sexual deviance — at least if you believe the women. And now the Texans are implicated in enabling and abetting his serial creepiness in massage sessions.
Cleveland will lose.
The Browns could have a top-five QB for the foreseeable future to lead a resurgence. They still will, eventually. But now, instead, they will have that with embarrassing, permanent baggage that will make cheering for him a bit uneasy for plenty of fans. Cleveland will forever be the franchise that spent an obscene amount on a player accused of obscene misbehavior.
The Texas grand juries will lose.
Two grand juries could have given the accusers their day in court. Instead they took the word of one famous man over the consensus weight of more than two dozen accusers giving corroborating and oft-lurid details of what they say Watson did. (Perhaps disgraced Olympic gymnastics team Dr. Larry Nassar would still be a free man had the same disregard been given his accusers).
Sue Lewis Robinson and Roger Goodell will lose
The punishment of Watson, when it finally is determined by Robinson, a retired federal judge and now the NFL’s chief disciplinary officer, will not please everybody and could anger many. The NFL will be seen as having been either too lenient or too harsh by almost everybody.
Deshaun Watson will lose — him most of all.
It seems strange to say, because, even if the hammer comes down hard, a waiting $230 million guaranteed contract is quite the solace.
But Watson will lose here. He already has lost seven figures paying hush money to the 20 women who agreed to settle their civil cases against him.
Now, he still faces going to trial, under oath, in the four lawsuits not settled (the 25th accuser dropped out before settling or taking it to court). The player could lose those civil suits. The plaintiffs could be rewarded huge amounts of money, be declared courtroom winners and have that vindication.
But it would not undo any of what Watson has dragged them through.
And now, If the pending league punishment is an indefinite suspension of at least one season, the quarterback will have lost a chunk of his prime and serve his sentence in shame.
But even if the punishment is light, say, six or eight games, or even if the remote possibility of no punishment at all happens, he still will lose.
His reputation won’t ever shake this; well, except to those who believe two dozen women all lied. Watson has lost his good name, and it is irretrievable.
He is sentenced to a career of boorish opposing fans shouting “What, no happy ending!?” taunts as he leaves the field after losing.
His only hope of beginning to mend all of this is a combination of admission, truth and remorse. An apology to the two dozen women he has steadfastly accused of lying as he maintains his innocence against repeated and detailed accusations.
This is the week in America when the U.S. Supreme Court stripped the personal freedom from untold millions of Americans by telling them they no longer have control over their own bodies.
In microcosm, the female victims who came forward in this case numbered 25, a number 25 too many.
This sordid mess will be over soon, but not really. The damage is done. To the women, first. To a star quarterback’s name. To a football league.