by Ryan Meehan
By now, we’ve already become familiar with the NFL’s latest manufactured scandal involving the New England Patriots, which has affectionately been dubbed “Deflategate” by several media sources who probably have no business discussing professional football matters. Although I do respect certain camps of opinion with regards to different moments in sports history, I’m not buying anybody who is throwing a hissy fit about this situation. On an overall scale, this is merely a blip on the radar of sports “scandals” that have taken place over the years. Hell, it’s barely number three this year when you consider the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson incident…so what’s the big fuss all about?
I get that a lot of people will revert back to the ethics argument here and say that any form of cheating is wrong. I would strongly suggest that although I’d love for this article to be read from start to finish, you might at least want to check out the header of point three before we get started. For the rest of you who think I may have a valid point, let’s go Deep Six on Deflategate and find out why the New England Patriots Ball Deflation Scandal is nothing that the league or anybody who watches it should be seriously concerned with.
1. New England still won that game by 38 points and it’s hard to imagine that the outcome of the game would have been that much different if the balls were properly inflated.
The Indianapolis Colts strutted into the AFC Championship game without a care in the world, but it was a result of a much less inspired kind of swagger. Barring some major injury, Andrew Luck is eventually going to the Super Bowl at some point after Brady and Manning retire. So there was no pressure for him to perform in that game, as was evidenced by the lack of urgency displayed in Indy’s 45-7 loss. While the balls may or may not have been deflated to a certain degree, it’s no doubt that the Colts’ will to actually win the game was far beyond flat.
Since everyone seems so concerned with the numbers that surround this incident, let’s take a look at the stat sheet for a second. Luck went 12 for 33 with two picks and was atrocious. His QBR of 17.7 would have been call for execution in more primitive times where that statistic wasn’t even available. Did the condition of the balls that the Patriots were using have anything to do with that? No. Brady went 23 for 35 for 226 yards and although that’s a good day when you consider he threw for three TDs, when you add it all up I think we all know Tom Brady is capable of so much more. So that means he still had twelve incompletions in this contest, which seems like an awful lot to me for a guy who was altering the balls in any fashion. That’s assuming he even knew about it, which we still don’t know that he did. So it would be hard to assess that the balls not being inflated to regulation standards were responsible for what in any other week was a routine Brady vs. Dolphins caliber blowout win.
But there’s one more stat maybe we’re not looking hard enough at: New England had 177 yards rushing, dominating the ground game when compared with 83 for the Colts. Does the balls not being properly inflated have anything to do with that? Of course not. I’d be more willing to buy that Randy Travis has a better chance at being named Miss Teen USA in 2015 than the actual sliver of a possibility that this could have affected why the Patriots were able to run the ball so well. And most music industry experts will tell you that in all likelihood, Randy has been dead for several years.
2. The NFL clearly has it out for Bill Belichick and/or other people who have a high rank in the offices of the New England Patriots.
This isn’t sour grapes, and I say that because I’m hardly a Patriots fan. But it would be very difficult to argue that the NFL hasn’t specifically targeted the New England Patriots ever since Spygate, and likely even before that. I honestly think that the NFL sees a very good team whose leader gives poor, uninspiring soundbites and as much as I don’t want to be labeled a conspiracy theorist I really think that fact has a lot to do with this. Otherwise, the story of New England is a pretty good one. A guy named Robert Kraft purchases a franchise that is as close to worthless as possible when it comes to NFL teams, and restores it to glory in a predominantly white and affluent section of the country. Sounds like a slam dunk to me for a league who possesses a similar agenda. Did I miss something here?
Somewhere along the line, the folks in the NFL’s PR department must have decided that if Belichick continued to deliver his F game in post-game interviews – other coaches might follow suit. So what they did is they figured out a way to corner his ass by busting him on something that most coaches were doing at the time: Videotaping the opposition’s defensive hand signals from the sidelines. And don’t give me any of this shit about how none of the other teams were doing it, because they were and you know damn well they were. (We’ll get to a similar assessment in the next segment) They might not be doing it now, because nobody wants to be the second team who’s been caught doing it after the league threw the Patriots under the bus for doing it in the first place. Other NFL coaches knew that was a message for them to get their collective shit together, and every single one of them but Sean Payton obliged. But when it comes down to it, we shouldn’t even care when something like this goes down…and do you know why?
3. This happens all of the time, and since it’s not the New England Patriots nobody bats an eye.
If you’re the guy who breaks the story about “Deflategate” two weeks before Super Bowl XLIX, it is going help you career immensely because it involves the Patriots. You have a coach who is a legend, a first ballot Hall of Famer at quarterback – who is being accused of lighting the wick here – and a buttload of players that could very well be on their way to a Super Bowl win. Of course your name is going to be attached to that story, so that’s why you’re going to hit your keyboard and let it fly without so much as checking your shaky sources. Now let’s say for a second that this “scandal” rears its ugly head during the completion of a Bucs-Titans game after both of those teams have been eliminated from the postseason. It’s still a problem because it’s still cheating, and it exposes a flaw in the NFL’s supposedly air-tight system, right?
Wrong. As much as we would like all of these games to be treated with the same amount of energy and fairness when it comes to the product you see on television, we’re all aware that this is far from the case. Nobody gives a shit about the degree to which the balls are deflated or inflated if the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are playing. You know how I know that’s the case? Because it happened when the Bucs played in Super Bowl XXXVII, and we know that because of the Brad Johnson story that leaked earlier this week. In case you missed it, Brad Johnson admitted on Wednesday that he paid to have the balls scuffed up for that game so that they would be broken in. But he also said that prior to the game being played, he didn’t touch the balls at all. So as crazy as it sounds, Tom Brady might not have either despite what the fish in this ongoing skeptic tank continue to accuse him of doing. What gets me about the Johnson story is we all know that wasn’t one of the more exciting Super Bowls in recent memory, so you have to wonder…If this story broke back in 2005 a couple years after that game would anybody have even cared? A lot of that depends on how Twitter would have looked in 2005. My guess is that nobody would have given a shit.
4. When did Mark Brunell’s take become so crucial towards the shifting of public opinion regarding any NFL matter?
This one is particularly puzzling to me. Mark Brunell was an middle-of-the-road NFL quarterback who made it to three trivial Pro Bowls (in an era where none of the real stars were attending those games) and played with the Washington Redskins, Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Jets, and the New Orleans Saints. He was given his only Super Bowl ring for being the clipboard holder and back-up quarterback for Drew Brees when the Saints won Super Bowl XLIV, a meaningless achievement when you consider that he did absolutely nothing to earn it. Long story short: He had a very average NFL football career. So why is the fact that he is troubled by this so important to news outlets such as Deadspin and ESPN? Who the fuck cares? When they played that clip of him almost crying after the Tom Brady press conference, I thought it was some kind of a joke. Look, everybody cries and sometimes it’s really healthy for anybody of any gender to do so. But if a grown man is sitting there fighting back tears after he listens to another grown man say he he had no prior knowledge of deflated footballs, maybe ESPN needs to dial back the degree of sensitivity trainings a bit. This is ridiculous. But the bottom line is that Mark Brunell should not be an integral pillar of this story. Personally, I think that given some of the other things he’s said on air are any indication of his level of intelligence maybe he shouldn’t have a job in this industry at all. This jack-off mentioning Brady’s legacy might be in question is laughable, especially when you consider Brunell doesn’t even have a legacy. This isn’t the pot calling the kettle black, it’s a gerbil scoffing at the notion that an owl could break its neck with one simple snap of its beak. Every time I see Mark Brunell and Tim Hasselbeck on television, I wonder why there isn’t some kind of previous NFL success requirement for being an analyst. At least Tim can keep it together long enough to not start bawling when he thinks a guy who is sponsored by Ugg Boots might not be telling the truth. I think I just got my period typing that last sentence.
5. If the NFL is all of a sudden so concerned with the balls being properly inflated, don’t you think that it would only make sense that they would check to see if the balls were properly inflated?
As a fan who considers himself to know an awful lot about football, I had no idea that the refs weren’t in control of all the balls to begin with. It seems to me like the best way to avoid any sort of conflict with the players altering the balls would be to put the referees in control of those situations in the first place. But guess what? They aren’t. The teams themselves actually handle this, which is something that I just can’t seem to wrap my head around.
So let me get this straight for a second: The officials on the field have the power to decide which way a call could go that would clearly decide the fate of one team’s playoff hopes (see “Dallas Cowboys” for further details) but then when it comes to making sure the balls that are coming from each sidelines are properly inflated they just have to go on the word of each team? That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me at all. Would let a pair of boxers that were meeting for a title fight let them make their gloves out of whatever the hell they wanted to? Of course you wouldn’t, because you’d have two guys show up for the fight with stainless steel gloves rolled in broken glass. The Nevada State Athletic Commission would shortly thereafter ban all boxing in Vegas, and Don King would be at an illegal cockfight in Mexico within minutes. With all of the money that the NFL has made off of the game that we love, is it too much to ask to put a guy on each sidelines to make sure that the balls are only touched by the officiating crew? Wouldn’t that take huge steps towards leveling the playing field?
6. All of this is detracting from the fact that what could be the greatest Super Bowl of all time is just a week away.
Here we are again with two number one seeds that pretty much all of us wanted to see play each other for the world championship, yet instead of gauging the match-ups between the participants we’re fighting about prior knowledge of air pressure in footballs that were used in a game that has been over for a week. Not that this should surprise anybody, as this is a culture who seems to be more concerned about whichever NBA player Iggy Azalea is blowing this week than who will win actual the game and why. Let’s get real, this is TMZ shit. It’s tabloid rag fodder to draw interest from people who don’t know anything about the strategy of the games being played, so they lift something like this up to ridiculous proportions in order to make themselves feel better about the fact that they don’t truly know what the hell they’re talking about.
As I’m putting the finishing touches on this piece early Saturday morning, my Facebook feed is chock full of posts about how Chicago Cubs legend Ernie Banks passed away at the age of 83. It’s crazy to think that once there was a time where guys weren’t concerned about feuding with each other on Twitter, and something like airing the ball out every once in a while would have been considered gamesmanship. Kind of puts everything into perspective.
So what did we learn from all of this?
To me there’s one big lesson that is getting lost on all of this nonsense: This is exactly what happens when we have an off week before the Super Bowl. Somebody tries to drum up some big story about whatever happened in the conference championship games, and it ends up putting a dent in the final product of what’s supposed to be the best game of the year. It happened last year when the NFL spent the following week trying to get us to understand why Richard Sherman got all Busta Rhymes on Erin Andrews after he broke up the pass that ended up sending him and the rest of the Seahawks to Super Bowl XLVIII. This is different because it involves so-called “cheating”, but similar in the fact that the media has propagated this whole thing. So maybe we need to give the one week thing a shot again, and maybe it will end up happening anyway with the playoff expansion that we all want so desperately. Idle hands can make for trouble when guided by dirty minds, and remember that if the Super Bowl was tonight all of this would have been wrapped up Tuesday evening because that would have been media day.
Saturday’s Impromptu Press Conference
I figured I should add something here about the press conference Coach Belichick gave on Saturday, a conference that could have very well ruined this piece and rendered all previous arguments essentially worthless. Fortunately for me that wasn’t the case and if you still hate the Patriots for what’s happened over the past seven days, I don’t really know what to tell you because I thought he nailed it. I could see how there might be some skepticism there seeing as how he never gives press conferences like that, but at the same time you have to give him props for going up there and looking every single one of those reporters in the eye and not reading a prepared speech. I think that even though he didn’t take a single question, he became more believable than ever in that moment, and from that second on I think the real preparation began in that locker room.
You may have noticed that I got through this entire piece without any cheap touching/holding/scuffing your balls jokes. One of the worst things about this whole scenario is all of the people flooding social media with all of these terrible hack jokes about Tom Brady playing with his balls. No wonder so many people hate modern stand-up comedy – it’s being butchered by people who can’t pen an original bit with a gun to their head. Seriously, get a little creativity here people…There are plenty of other things to joke about with regards to these two teams, and the ball stuff is just way too easy. You want to get live on the funny, how about piping some originality? It just might be full of the comedic protein you need so badly.
Here’s a joke you can use: Have fun watching the Pro Bowl.
Once again thanks for visiting First Order Historians and enjoying more of the internet’s finest in user generated content.