The hammer came down on Tom Brady on Monday afternoon.
For his role in Deflategate, Brady, the New England quarterback, was suspended for by the NFL for the first four regular-season games in 2015.
The Patriots were also stripped of a first-round draft pick in 2016 and a fourth-round draft pick in 2017. The team was also fined $1 million, the largest team fine in NFL history.
Despite the punishments, Brady, the league's Golden Boy, got off easily for cheating and messing with the integrity of the game. And while Deflategate might be a done deal in the eyes of the the league, it won't be in the court of public opinion.
Brady, once in the same class as Derek Jeter for their squeaky-clean careers both on and off the field, is no longer there.
His resume is dirty. Worse, Brady is now a punished cheater. He's no different than Roger Clemens or Barry Bonds.
In wake of his punishment, so many - mostly Pats' fans and close friends of Brady - have many excuses for Brady. The bottom line remains that Brady instructed ball boys to alter his game balls below league-standards. He broke the rules.
Giants quarterback Eli Manning - who has beaten Brady in two Super Bowls - said it perfectly in his reaction to the four-game ban.
"I think it's about integrity and you have to follow the rules," Manning said to the New York Daily News.
Apparently Brady thought he was above the law and could jeopardize the game's authenticity. But no one, not even a star quarterback, is bigger than the game.
Plus, after getting caught, Brady clearly refused to be a stand-up guy and own up to his actions. Brady didn't fully cooperate with the Ted Wells investigation, failing to turn over texts and emails. Even worse, Brady threw the ball boys under the bus to save his own neck.
The ball boys have been suspended indefinitely and will probably never work for an NFL team again.
Former NFL receiver Keyshawn Johnson, now an ESPN analyst, said on cable on Monday that the league missed the mark. Johnson, as did I, believed the offense was serious enough that Brady should have been suspended for eight games.
"Make him suffer a little bit more," said Johnson, who hates that Brady lied about deflating the footballs.
Johnson added, "it's all about this, 'I'm perfect. I'm never wrong. .."
Johnson isn't alone. Shannon Sharpe, a former NFL receiver and former CBS analyst, had no confidence in NFL commissioner Roger Goodell - who has botched so many suspensions the last two years.
Sharpe tweeted: "Surprised the NFL did anything at all to Brady."
That's sad and speaks volumes, and I'm sure that Sharpe's comments echoes the sentiments of many NFL players and fans.
After all, the Ted Wells report, no matter how lamely worded it was, put the blame on Brady after 11 of the 12 of the Patriots' footballs in the AFC Championship against the Indianapolis Colts came in under-deflated and not up to standards.
Although Brady said he didn't know anything about it, also saying that he didn't even know who the ball boys were, texts from those ball boys in this scandal painted Brady in a poor light.
Some of the messages even suggest that not only was Brady the ring leader in the deflation of the footballs, but that he was signing footballs in exchange for special treatment.
In a text exchange between Jim McNally (the officials locker room attendant) and John Jastremski (a Patriots' equipment assistant) after the Pats played the Jets on Oct. 17, 2014, Brady complained about the ball pressure.
McNally text, "Tom sucks. im going to make that next ball a f---in balloon."
Jastremski replied via text: "Talked to him last night. He actually brought you up and said you must have a lot of stress trying to get them done. ..."
These texts show that Brady, the one-time Michigan star QB, lied in his press conference in trying to clear his name when the story first broke.
With all these details out front now, many NFL fans - not Patriots fans who refuse to look at this objectively - aren't cool with Brady's action.
All a sport has is its integrity. Once that's gone, the sport becomes scripted reality entertainment programming, similar to the WWE.
MLB legend Pete Rose's crime against his sport was gambling. Rose got a lifetime ban for his actions. Sean Payton, coach of the New Orleans Saints, received a season long ban for the 2013 season for trying to hide the team's crush-for-cash bounty system that targeted key opposing players. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, in regards to Payton and the Saints at that time, called their actions "particularly unusual and egregious" and "totally unacceptable."
Goodell also went to say "We are all accountable and responsible for player health and safety and the integrity of the game. We will not tolerate conduct or a culture that undermines those priorities. No one is above the game or the rules that govern it."
Again, it's a matter of integrity.
That's why Goodell had to make an example of Brady and simultaneously put others on notice that skirting the rules won't be tolerated.
It messes with the game and the trust fans have as to believing that it is played fairly for both sides.
Brady's action reek, especially since this franchise already went through allegations of cheating and an actual cheating scandal with Spygate.
Brady might have escaped a harsher penalty, but he didn't get away with anything. That blemish on his career is here to stay.
After all, Brady earned it.