Amazing that our initial reaction (and Florio's, and other) about the phone being a red herring could now gone 180 in the opposite direction -- suspension being upheld because of the destruction, regardless of whether there was actually ball deflation or what.
Not go all V&N here, but it's reminiscent of guys like Scooter Libby getting convicted for obstructing the investigation rather than whatever the investigation was supposed to find in the first place. Or President Clinton's impeachment, which was not about lying in the Paula Jones deposition but about obstructing Kenneth Starr or the other investigations.
I would put a slight gloss on this -- the distinction between the trier of fact (original hearing) and the reviewing court. Under ordinary trial cases, the trier of fact has the right to find facts, unless those facts are clearly incorrect. However, in arbitration, the discretion is even wider, because the arbitrator was selected by the parties to conduct an even less formal fact determination. For example, one side issue that illustrates this is that the Supreme Court has held arbitrator can even disregard the law, but that is not a basis for reversing the arbitration. Think of it like caveat emptor -- the parties can pick the arbitrator, and if they pick an idiot, that was their choice.
So, where an appellate court will review trial findings by the judge or jury as whether the fact is "clearly erroneous," the Court will not vacate a decision unless the award is "completely irrational."
It is the duty of the reviewing court therefore to create or credit ANY basis for the award not being "completely irrational."
Under that framework, it is not "completely irrational" for Goodell to think that destroying a cell phone is evidence of guilt. While 999 of 1000 would question that conclusion if there is little other evidence, or if the evidence of a violation also is based on a further conclusion that 999 of 1000 would not make, the fact that .0000001 % would find this fact still means it is not "completely irrational."
So, Chin and Parker saying the evidence is compelling doesn't really matter, other than perhaps reflecting their motive for finding a way around the decision. What they are really saying is there is "sufficient" evidence to justify what Goodell found.
edit: That is also why Kessler was in such a hard position in responding. In essence, to go down that rabbit hole means you are wasting precious time arguing facts when you know that will get you nowhere -- and would merely confirm the other side's argument that you are asking to reargue facts. I've faced that similar choice several times, and it is hard to bit one's tongue and say something to the effect of "we disagree and could tell you a lot more, but for purposes of this appeal we accept the findings, but the decision is still wrong because....." It is never satisfactory.
edit 2. However, Kessler made that choice at the front end of the appeal, in writing his brief. If you sign off on not arguing facts, then you are stuck with that. You can't focus on narrow technical issues in the brief (without hinting about how screwy Goodel's facts were) and then complain that the appellate judge doesn't seem to share your view of the facts.
edit 3, from Bongo's link, I see that Kessler was invited down that road, and was being careful to stress that he was not arguing facts. I read his comment as misunderstanding why the Panel led him down that path. He seems to be saying "I will argue the facts because you seem to want me to convince you of them." Katmann stops him, and Parker then slaps him down saying "if you wanted to argue the facts, you should have put them in the brief."
"I would say here this adjudicator was motivated to create this issue and wanted to justify the fact that generally aware could not support discipline. And that's what happened here. This was an issue that was seized upon, and this goes back...I'm only arguing this because you seem interested in merits issues which are not really for you to decide. That we both agreed to
"That's not part of..."
"It is not, and I'm reacting only
, your honor, and I'll be very honest, because I sense that you all are influenced by your view of the facts. And I just want you to know we can test those facts."
"We're influenced by the briefs you gentlemen wrote."