As another Super Bowl looms in the not-so-distant future, so does another scandal rear its ugly head. Of course, if I’m towing the party line of non-legacy media I should probably write it as “scandal”, since so many people seem convinced that every single facet of DeflateGate (the more popular, and less awesome version of Ballghazi) is ridiculous.
To recap, after the New England Patriots gave the Indianapolis Colts (oh yeah, I forgot to state up top that this is about football) a sound thrashing this past Sunday in the AFC championship game (45-7 was the final tally, I believe), it came to light that 11 out of the 12 footballs that the team had been using while on offense were deflated well below league standards for psi. The upshot of this (depending on who you want to believe/how much of a homer you are) is that the Pats were playing with balls that were easier to grip and catch, especially in the rainy conditions that existed in that evening.
The fallout has been big. First there were waves of speculative reports, followed by stories claiming that this type of ball-tampering was pretty common within the league, despite being blatantly against the rules. Then the NFL ruled definitively that there was foul play involved, and are now debating the extent of the penalties the Pats will undoubtedly face.
Predictably, most of the MSM is going apeshit. This is the second time Bill Belichick has been caught with his pants down, following the “SpyGate” scandal of 2007, for which he was fined half a million bucks and the Pats lost their first round draft pick. The narrative now has mainly been one of “if this is what we know about, imagine what we DON’T know about”, which strikes me as a little Glenn Beck-esque, but may be more or less accurate, going by my gut feeling.
To be sure, the media, and ESPN in particular, has beaten this story to death (inasmuch as a story can be “beaten to death” over the course of three days), but the reaction from football fans and Patriots fans especially has been nothing short of mindboggling. The mood on the ground seems to be that the entire thing is ridiculous because…well, no real reason has been given, other than a lot of derailment arguments that don’t really answer the question “Why is it unreasonable for news organizations to report on a team with a long history of success being caught cheating for a second time in the past 10 years?” Among the non-arguments:
1: Deflated footballs were not the reason the Patriots won that game.
True, but that’s not really the point, is it? Nobody is arguing that the Pats would have been dismantled by the Colts if not for the 2 psi reduction in football inflation that happened Sunday. But it’s against the rules, and when you break the rules, you’re supposed to be punished, right?
2: Everybody does it.
Possibly true, but it seems strange that we’ve heard little of this supposedly widespread practice until the Pats got busted. And once again, that’s not really the point, is it? It should also be pointed out that Pats fans are flexing their illlogical homer muscles like mad with this argument. I actually saw a friend from Boston say something to the equivalent of “Teams do this all the time but it was never a big story until the Pats got caught!” Well, no shit. Kind of hard to get upset about somebody breaking the rules until they get caught, isn’t it?
3: IT WAS TEH WEATHERZ!!!!111
You can’t really make the above arguments and make this one at the same time. “I’m not saying we cheated but IF WE CHEATED it wouldn’t matter because everybody cheats and we would have won anyways.” Regardless, this one has been pretty much debunked since none of the Colts balls were improperly inflated while 11/12 of the Pats balls were. How much more proof do you need.
I’ll go on record as saying I don’t think the Pats should have to vacate their AFCCG win or forfeit the Super Bowl, but c’mon Pats fans. They fucking cheated. AGAIN. Stop trying to dance around it. That said, I’m still going to watch the Super Bowl. Unsure who I’m going to pull for now, as I really hate both teams/fanbases.
A final thought: this whole thing happened because, for some unfathomable reason, the NFL has each team provide their own footballs for every game. The officials inspect each ball submitted by the team (something like 2 hours before kickoff), give them a quick spotcheck, and if nothing is obviously amiss, hand the balls back to the team and they have full access on the sideline. Why in the world would anybody do this for any reason OTHER than to allow a team to tamper with the balls it provides? Just have the damn officials hold onto the balls the entire game, for crying out loud.
Oh, and Belichick is obviously lying through his teeth in that press conference video. Notice how he gives a very Clinton-esque response to all questions. “I’ve never talked to anybody about air pressure.” OK, but did you deflate the balls? “I have no explanation.” Never once does he flat out deny that he cheated, but he says a lot of stuff that makes it seem like he’s denying it without having to come right out and say so. Pathetic, really.
Oof. What a shitty end to a great season.