J. Steigerwald column for 1.24/25.14
Had enough of Deflategate?
It couldn’t happen to a more deserving organization. The New England Patriots are known cheaters. Everybody remembers Spygate. The Patriots had a first round draft pick taken away and their coach Bill Belichick was fined $500,000 for illegally taping the signals of opposing teams.
The Patriots and the NFL would like to have you believe that it wasn’t a big deal and that it gave them no real competitive advantage.
Ridiculous. First round draft picks are cherished a little less than the average NFL coach’s first born child. Only a serious offense would move a commissioner to take one away.
And, of course, the NFL destroyed the video.
As of Friday, as far as anybody knew, the NFL had not contacted Tom Brady to ask him if he knew anything about how 11 of the Patriots’ 12 game balls for the AFC Championship had become under inflated.
The NFL has been investigating the situation since Sunday night but it wants this story to go away.
It might if President Obama were to sign an exectutive order some time in the next 15 minutes banning all sports talk shows.
Sorry. This one is going to linger until the Super Bowl kickoff and beyond. And it should.
If you are among the many who dismiss the issue because the Patriots blew out the Indianapolis Colts 45-7 in Sunday’ AFC Championship game, you’re missing the point.
If the balls were deflated to accommodate Tom Brady and the wet conditions, it was done because somebody thought it would make it easier for him to throw the ball.
The Colts’ quarterback, Andrew Luck, as far as we know, never got a chance to throw an easier-to-grip ball. He completed 12 of 33 attempts for 126 yards and two interceptions.
Could he have done better with a ball that was more conducive to throwing in wet weather?
We don’t know because Andrew Luck didn’t cheat to find out.
If the Patriots had spiked Andrew Luck’s pre game meal with Ex-Lax would that have been dismissed because of the 45 points scored by the Patriots?
Did Nancy Kerrigan winning the Silver Medal at the 1994 Winter Olympics make the attempt by Tonya Harding’s friends to eliminate Kerrigan from the competition by smashing her leg with a police baton any less relevant?
And don’t let anybody tell you that NFL teams aren’t protective of their game balls. I traveled on the Steelers’ team charter to every away game in 2007. That was the first year of the rules change -pushed by Brady and Peyton Manning – that called for the visiting team to provide their own game balls instead of having the home team provide them for both teams.
The Steelers brought their ball “boy”, a 50-something man, on the plane and put him up in the team hotel. His only job was to take care of the footballs.
By virtue of their record, the Patriots were also given a built in advantage in the AFC Championship game. It’s called home field advantage. And that advantage is increased at least a little when a team in a cold weather city is hosting a team that plays its home games in a dome.
Ask Peyton Manning.
So, it is not far fetched at all to believe that Brady, Belichick and/or the entire Patriots organization would try to enhance that outdoor advantage a little more by negating the wet weather with an easier to grip football.
According to the NFL’s investigation, the deflated balls were discovered at half time and replaced by fully inflated balls in the second half.
Would Brady having to play with a ball as slippery as the one Andrew Luck played with in the first half have been enough to overcome a 45-7 blowout?
We’ll never know.
That’s why another Patriot’s AFC Championship will always be tainted.