The NFL’s newest scandal has been dubbed #deflategate. It centers on whether the Super Bowl-bound New England Patriots broke the league’s rules about how much a football should be inflated during a game.
That’s right — this is the same team, you’ll remember, that eight years ago was accused of spying on opposing teams’ practice sessions. That scandal was called #spygate. Do we see a pattern here in New England?
Yes, #deflategate now sounds like something mockable, straight out of Saturday Night Live or Second City, because the potential for “balls” jokes is so rampant.
But this is an important event for the NFL, which is still smarting over its lax treatment, initially, last summer of Ray Rice. He was the ballplayer captured in a notorious and stomach-turning hotel video as he was harming his then-girlfriend (now his wife).
The new scandal cuts to the heart of the issue of integrity, something that the NFL seems to have little of despite those commercials depicting its players helping sick and poverty-stricken kids.
“The NFL Cares” is the tagline on those well crafted promotions. To finish the thought, you could add, “The NFL Cares — about making money.”
But does the NFL care about its public image? Is it hopelessly pout of touch? Does it have any integrity, or — dare I say it — balls?
If you believe the Patriots are cheaters, you’d have to conclude that crime pays, too. The Patriots are making their sixth appearance this century in the Super Bowl. Led by coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady, the team has a methodical approach to winning and seems to leave nothing to chance. They’e a bit boring, really, by modern NFL standards but who cares — they win.
They’ll get another shot at football immortality when they take on the defending NFL champs, the Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks have an opportunity to be the first team in 10 years to win back to back Super Bowls — since the Patriots did it.
The Patriots have a good chance. Brady is one of the all-time greats. Belichick is a coaching icon. Together, they have won three Super Bowls and lost two (both times to the New York Giants) in the 21st century. The team projects an image of determination and success.
The Patriots have been accused of deflating 11 of 12 footballs used in the team’s 45-7 pounding of the overmatched Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Game.
The deflation allegedly occurred because Brady likes the football to be a certain way so he can throw it with greater accuracy and force.
The Patriots initially feigned ignorance to the controversy. Realizing that it wasn’t going to go away, Belichick finally gave a bizarre, rambling, almost incoherent explanation — while falling short of an apology — on Jan. 24. He hoped to end the conversation forever.
Fat chance. The sports and news media will pounce on the story all the way up to the Super Bowl’s opening kickoff. The story is just too much fun.
Repeat after me: Balls! Balls! Balls!
(Hey, it IS fun to say it).
With #deflategate, the powerful Patriots are being accused of breaking the rules, again. The team seems a bit pathological. It doesn’t need to cheat to win. But like Nixon’s White House, the Patriots just can’t seem to resist the temptation.
And now the New Englanders got caught after the fact. How embarrassing to the franchise and the league.
What if the Patriots are guilty of breaking the rules and Brady and Belichick were the ringleaders? You’d think that the NFL would feel a need to suspend Brady and/or Belichick at the start of the 2015 season, to make a statement that this nonsense has got to stop. (No way they’ll have to miss the Super Bowl, the most-watched, most lucrative TV event of every year).
Can the NFL show it is strong and tough?
If it doesn’t, the NFL will look even more foolish than the Patriots.