Let's be blunt. Roger Goodell is being too much Roger Goodell, and it's worrisome.
The pendulum swings between unnecessary leniency (see: suspending Ray Rice for 2 games for assaulting his fiancee) and overkill (see: Bountygate). There's no knowing how Roger Goodell will respond to any situation because he doesn't respond based on his own assessment of a situation. There's no organic response to stimuli with the Commish. Every possible response must be tested and gauged to see where it falls on a scale of acceptability among all parties. Common sense need not apply.
No, this is Game of Thrones. All that matters is power. Power begets more power. More enemies too, sure, but as the great philosopher James Brown said, paid the costs to be the boss. And in games of power, all that matters is timing the iron fist. Sometimes, it strikes so hard that your surrogates do your work for you.
The concern here then for all fans, Patriots or not, is that the penalties for Deflategate (a four-game suspension for QB Tom Brady, a team fine of $1 million, the loss of their first-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft as well as their fourth-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft) are not, ultimately, for the "crime." Tampering with footballs carries a $25,000 fine. The rule is relatively explicit. This isn't the first time the league has dealt with the issue, though the incentive certainly was different. No, the concern is the level of fealty required.
Everyone, even the President of the United States, must look up to see the Commissioner on his throne. I am less awestruck by the throne and more worried what he'll do the next time he descends from it. Or, as Drew Magary perfectly put it:
The NFL is now in the business of punishment, and with the completely arbitrary and stupid machine they’ve put in place, they can pretty much punish anyone for any reason in any way now. In the case of the Patriots, I find all this hilarious because the Patriots and their fans are entitled assholes and I want them to fail. But of course, it won’t be so funny when my team accidentally farts on a ref and tries to cover it up and then Goodell moves them to Alaska as punishment. There is no stopping this shit-eating moron anymore. You never know when he’ll strike or why. He’s almost like an act of God. Yes, yes I think he’d enjoy thinking of himself in precisely that way.