If you follow football at all, you’ve heard all about #DeflateGate… or the recent discovery that 11 out of the 12 balls used by the Patriots in the AFC Championship game were slightly deflated to a level not allowed by NFL regulations. The Colts were already suspicious of the Pats tampering with the PSI of the game balls when they met November 16th in the regular season… and even went as far as to stow away the balls they intercepted that day to gather proof. So going into this game, it was a concern for the team and the NFL. An under-inflated ball gives the quarterback an advantage because it can make it easier to grip – especially in inclement weather.
So why, then, were the 12 balls on the Pats side all ‘properly inspected’ and approved by a referee more than two hours before the game? When did these approved balls lose 2 PSI?
I don’t believe that’s the question we should be asking right now. We should be asking – why does each team get to bring their own balls to the games? If they must be inspected to ensure balls are uniform on each side, why can’t the NFL or the referees provide the balls instead of the teams? Going forward, this policy definitely needs to change.
The balls being deflated may not have made a difference in the Patriots’ 45-7 victory over the Colts last week, but it raises definite concerns about the integrity of the game. It’s sketchy as hell to think such deception can so easily be performed in a sport America reveres so enthusiastically.
As the NFL “investigates” (a term I use very loosely for reasons that I will mention soon), everyone is wondering what the punishment would be if it’s proved that someone on the Pats tampered with these balls. According to NFL regulations, “If a person is found breaking league rules and tampering with the footballs, that person could face up to a $25,000 fine and potentially more discipline.” If found guilty, will the Pats find a scapegoat individual (ball boy, water boy, sideline chick, etc.) to eat this fine? Should the team face disciplinary action as well? Should they forfeit the championship? Not play in the Super Bowl? Suspend Belichick in coaching the Super Bowl if they can prove he knew about it (before next Sunday, of course)? Fine the team? Take away future draft picks?
It really doesn’t matter, because I don’t think the investigation will find any damning evidence. For years the NFL has done a ton of questionable shit for the sake of maintaining the integrity of the sport – much of it we probably don’t even know about. The bottom line is the NFL is a business designed to generate profit. Even if the evidence is out there and is found, the public will likely never know because the NFL does not want us to lose faith in the legitimacy of the sport. Especially in the wake of off-the-field player controversies in the last year (Ray Rice, Josh Gordon, Adrian Peterson…), the NFL can’t afford to add an on-field cheating controversy to its resume. It has to investigate because the Colts were already suspicious, but it would never compromise the way the fans view the game by actually finding anything.
And all the while Belichick, Brady, and the Pats will deny, deny, deny (as they have), no proof beyond-a-reasonable-doubt will be found saying otherwise, and they will lose the Super Bowl as the poetic justice for the entire situation. The NFL will refine the ball rule, or at least be more stringent in the process of approving the balls. And all will be well through the rose-colored glasses of the oblivious football fan.