Published in the April 26, 2019 edition.
By MARK SARDELLA
WAKEFIELD — Whether in person or in print, Casey Sherman is a man who knows how to weave a story. And at last night’s 2019 Sweetser Lecture Series finale, he did just that.
As advertised, Sherman talked about his 2018 book, “12: The Inside Story of Tom Brady’s Fight for Redemption.” But Sherman spent as least as much of the evening talking about the subject of another of his books, Pete Frates, initiator of the ALS ice bucket challenge. Sherman’s co-author for both books was former Boston Herald columnist David Wedge.
In addition to “The Ice Bucket Challenge” and the Brady book, Sherman is the author of “The Finest Hours,” which was made into a movie by Disney Pictures, and “Boston Strong,” which was the basis of the film, “Patriots Day.”
“I write hero stories,” Sherman told the Sweetser audience. “I’m going to continue to harvest those types of stories.”
Sherman related the story of “Deflategate,” the incident that earned Patriots quarterback Tom Brady a four-game suspension at the start of the 2016 season for allegedly deflating game balls to lower than regulation pressure.
Sherman explained that Deflategate was a trumped-up scandal over what was at best a minor violation. NFL teams and quarterbacks routinely deflated or overinflated footballs according to personal preference.
According to Sherman, after Roger Goodell’s mishandling of the Spygate scandal in order to protect his one-time mentor Robert Kraft, the NFL Commissioner was under tremendous pressure from other NFL owners to nail the Patriots for something. So, Goodell concocted a sting operation to catch Patriots personnel in the act of deflating footballs – a violation of rules that few players, including Brady, even knew existed.
Sherman described how Kraft, in a scene reminiscent of “The Godfather,” said that he would reluctantly accept Goodell’s four game suspension of Brady and a hefty fine. But like Vito Corleone protecting his son Michael, Sherman said, Kraft warned the other NFL owners that if anything happened to Brady, he would be looking for someone to blame.
Still, according to Sherman, Brady felt betrayed by Kraft’s decision and their relationship was damaged.
In the meantime, once Goodell realized he had beaten Brady, Sherman said, the NFL Commissioner offered Brady a way out of the four-game suspension: pay a fine of $1 million and throw the Patriots equipment managers under the bus.
Brady returned after the four-game suspension at the start of the 2016 season to have one of his greatest years, culminating with a dramatic comeback Super Bowl win after being down to the Atlanta Falcons 28-3 in the third quarter.
Sherman noted that some believe that the Patriots later trade of up-and-coming backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was ordered by Kraft in an effort to make up for his abandonment of Brady during Deflategate.
Switching gears, Sherman talked about Peter Frates, the former Boston College baseball star who later contracted ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and who ultimately has been instrumental in raising over $220 million for ALS by making the “Ice Bucket Challenge” a viral sensation.
Sherman described how he met Pete Frates after the Frates’ family called and wanted him and Wedge to co-author Pete’s story.
Sherman talked about how Frates’ symptoms gradually developed and how devastated his family was when the diagnosis was officially delivered.
According to Sherman, Frates went to tell his girlfriend of eight months, Julie, the bad news. He was prepared to let her walk away, rather than have her watch his inevitable decline.
Instead, Julie moved in with him that day. They later married, Sherman said, and one of the last times Frates walked was when he walked his bride out of the church after their wedding ceremony.
Sherman said that Frates decided not to hide but to let the world see his body deteriorate over time as a way to get attention for the need for a cure for ALS.
Sherman said that Frates firmly believes that he will walk again and is determined that he will walk his young daughter down the aisle someday when she gets married.
Sherman said that a feature film based on his book is being developed and Casey Affleck will play Pete Frates. One half of all proceeds from Sherman’s book, “Ice Bucket Challenge,” and the eventual movie are going to Pete Frates.
“It was the right thing to do,” Sherman said.