21 January 2015

Are we overreacting to "Deflategate?"

Generally the week off between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl is a lighter NFL news week. Enter Deflategate. The story kicked off when veteran Indianapolis sports reporter Bob Kravitz reported that the NFL was investigating whether the Patriots deflated footballs in their demolition of the Colts in the AFC Championship Game. Then late last night, Chris Mortensen reported that the NFL found that 11 of the 12 footballs from the Patriots were under-inflated.

The takes are coming in hot as expected but I have to ask, are we making a bigger deal of this than we should?

First of all, I think we all should wait until the NFL does complete their investigation which Troy Vincent, vice president of football operations for the NFL, said yesterday will be completed and wrapped up "in the next two or three days." Of course we all know the quality of investigations in the Goodell era but alas, folks should probably hold off until we have an idea of what happened.

And let's say that it is proven that the Patriots did deliberately and knowingly deflated their footballs after they were approved by referee Walt Anderson before the game, it would not only be a violation of NFL rules and regulations but also a totally sleazy move by the Pats.

Of course, players tinkering with the air in footballs really is not new. Former Buccaneers quarterback Brad Johnson paid "some guys" $7,500 to scuff the footballs before Super Bowl XXXVII and Aaron Rodgers told Jim Nantz and Phil Simms earlier this season this:
"I like to push the limits of how much air we can put in the football, even go over what they allow you to do."
And there are probably countless other examples of players messing around with the inflation of the game balls, not to mention that there are obvious solutions. One can surmise that the Patriots are probably not the only team to mess with the footballs.

But of course this is different because a) they got caught and because b) Spygate. Why yes, Spygate. I don't need to remind anybody of Spygate even as it happened over seven years ago because anytime something controversial happens with the Patriots, it is the first thing that is brought up. Spygate has made it easier for folks to criticize the Pats even when it is widely known that they are not the only team to steal signals, and it is not conclusive how much, if at all, they benefited from it.

However let's make it clear: the Patriots, should in the end they be found guilty of deflating those balls, deserve a punishment. A fine, reprimand, loss of a draft pick (I wouldn't go all the way and take a first) and punishments of that ilk seem reasonable.

What does not seem reasonable are the steaming takes of people saying that either Bill Belichick should be fired or suspended for the Super Bowl or the multiple people saying that the team should be removed from the Super Bowl really need to go pay the troll toll. Are we really going to remove a team from the Super Bowl for deflating footballs? Let's not act like there are not been teams utilizing shady methods to get an edge in order to get to the Super Bowl (cough 1982 Miami Dolphins cough).

And what even the people that want the Patriots forcibly ejected from the Super Bowl like they're getting thrown off a train have to admit is that these under-inflated balls really did not make that difference in the outcome. Let's not act like they won by three over the Colts, they instead won by 38. Even a player on the Colts will admit that:

The real kicker is that while under-inflating a football would help you in the passing game but the Patriots really did not focus their offensive gameplan on the aerial attack; they ran the ball more than they threw and they also gashed the Colts on the ground. There really is no reason to discuss the possibility of something that has about zero chance of happening, but alas.

In the end there really is only one thing that can happy: replay the game on a neutral field.

You knew that one was coming.

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