Many of you have asked, and so I hate to disappoint. Here is my definitive opinion on the Deflate-Gate scandal and the New England Patriots defeat over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Game.
I will begin by addressing the opinion by the majority that the deflation of the football had little to do with the outcome of the game because of the lopsided score, and that the Patriots were the better team. I have played, been involved, and watched enough sports in my life to know that momentum plays a big part in any game. The fact that the Patriots had a competitive advantage at the beginning of the game, could have certainly impacted the first half, and certainly could have had some effect on Big Mo into the second half. Now, I’m not saying that it did, but I am saying that it could have – and if it could have, then the unfair competitive advantage affected the outcome of the game. Had the Colts remained closer or even taken a lead into half time with a level playing field – who knows what the second half might have brought.
So how did the 11 out of the 12 balls that were used by the Patriots in the first half lose up to 2lbs of pressure? The footballs used by the Colts did not lose the pressure, and were exposed to the same elemental conditions that the footballs that belonged to the Patriots. The only way that most experts agree that the balls could have lost that much pressure is by inserting the “inflation pin” into the nipple. But when did this occur and who was responsible?
There are now reports out of Fox Sports that there is video evidence of a Patriots locker rooom employee removing the footballs from the official’s room and taking them into another holding room before bringing them out to the field. The chain of custody has been broken. It is also not out of the question that the on the field ball attendants could have manipulated the balls on the sideline. Do I think that Tom Brady or Bill Belichek were personally responsible for inserting the pin in the ball? No – but If you think that the responsible party acted on their own – you are naive and myopic.
The official word coming out of the Patriots’ camp have been inconsistent at best. First the head coach said that he had no knowledge of the balls and what their pressure should be – then he became an expert about ball pressure and outlined the steps that his team takes and that he is fully aware of how well they adhere to the rules. You can’t have it both ways.
The NFL is not without fault in this entire affair, either. They have had a rough year, and this is the pinnacle of their incompetence. There are reports as late as yesterday that the NFL was tipped off of the Patriots potentially doing this, and they attempted to perform an elaborate “sting” operation to catch them in the act. If that is in fact found to be true and they allowed the AFC Championship Game to be played under potentially unfair conditions to one team, then the integrity of that game is shattered. But lets give them the undeserved benefit of the doubt and say that they were made aware of the ball issue after the D’qwell Jackson interception as was originally reported. When they confiscated and checked the 12 balls at half time and found them to be under inflated, they should have not allowed the game to continue without getting the league involved right then and there. They should have stopped the game, taken a look at all of the available evidence at the time, and they would have seen that the balls were inflated prior to the game to the proper PSI, they were not inflated properly at half time and the Colts’ footballs were still inflated properly, so environmental conditions did not play a role. Some manual manipulation had to have occurred, and they should have called the game right then and there. Yes, you heard me right, they should have stopped the game and awarded the victory to the Colts by Patriots forfeit for a blatant disregard for the integrity of the game.
But they didn’t, so what happens now. The NFL has proven time and again that is a business first and it is driven by business decisions. They will attempt to stall this for as long as they can, so that the Superbowl can go off with as little distraction as possible. That is why Tom Brady has not been interviewed by investigators yet – It is not reasonable to have the Patriots forfeit the Superbowl, nor to award the game to the Colts now and have them take the Patriots place in the Superbowl. There is too much at stake for the league and their business partners. (Think of all of the commercials that will go to waste)
Following the Superbowl, if the NFL has any integrity whatsoever, it will continue its investigation strenuously. And if the reports are found to be true that someone in the Patriots organization was involved in manually deflating the balls used while the Patriots were on offense, then it is a heads on pikes situation. At the very least, Bill Belichek should be suspended for the entire 2015 season ( a la Sean Payton), there should be a hefty fine and the loss of draft picks. (The Colts fan in me says that the Colts should be awarded those draft picks as compensatory picks, but that won’t happen, nor should it).
Lots of opinion out there that this is only a big deal because it is the Patriots and if it were another team accused of this, it would have been over already. I can acknowledge that to a degree, because there is a pattern of behavior. This is recividism at its apex. If you think that the only two times the Patriots have cheated is the two times they have gotten caught, you need to get your head out of the sand. Its the same sentiment I had for Ndamukong Suh, and his recent actions against the Packers. He does not get the benefit of the doubt for stepping on Aaron Rodgers because of his past behavior and it was a bigger deal because it was him. The same applies to the Patriots. They have cheated before and it now appears they have been caught cheating again – and don’t tell me that it wasn’t a big deal and didn’t affect the outcome of the game (see pg 1).
What is most troubling is the fact that they didn’t need to do it. By all accounts the Patriots were the better team and should have beaten the Colts without the extra advantage. They have been a great team for a long time, and Tom Brady is one of the best quarterbacks to have ever played the game. And I also believe that Bill Belichek is one of the best coaches to have ever coached, and he doesn’t need to play outside the rules to do it, but yet he does. (Some psychiatrist is going to write a paper or even a book some day about the psychosis involved in that line of thinking). They have tarnished their respective legacies – and will never get the full respect that they should for their accomplishments.
I am also not naive enough to assume that the Patriots are the only team that does this kind of thing – but if they are the gold standard for the NFL, they should be above it. I have no problems with their attempts to use the rules in their favor as they have with their special plays they have employed lately with the eligible / inelible receivers – that just proves that they again and again are smarter than the rest of us – and further proof that they shouldn’t need to go outside the rules.
Yes, I am an unapologetic Colts fan, but I am also a sports fan first and foremost. The fact that this event occurred against “my” team certainly impacts my emotional reaction to all of this, but not my intellectual one. I can separate the head and heart when it comes to my fandom.
And as my friend, Forrest Gump would say, “that’s all I have to say about that.”