Ah, the Tom Brady New England Patriots deflated footballs imbroglio; it’s hard to take it seriously. Yet, one would ever know that listening to the cadre of sports writers and pundits who should know better and get paid to know better.
For the past two weeks, too many fans, writers, and other so-called pros in the business of sports have been running around, sounding like eight year olds on a playground. The only thing missing from the they cheated chant is a waa sound and a call for Mom. It is worth remembering that this kind of whining used to be called poor sportsmanship.
This is the kind of shiny object story (sound of puppy feet scampering after a ball) usually found in politics used to distract instead of enlighten. All this New England Patriots hyperbole and hating could easily be called Deflategate for Dummies.
The score – Lost in all the silliness and slime slinging against the Pats is the score of the AFC Championship game, 45-7! The Indianapolis Colts were outplayed by almost every measure. The Indy quarterback, Andrew Luck threw two interceptions in his worst game of the season. The team chalked up two turnovers and a fumble. The Colts were out-rushed, outplayed and out scored on a cold rain-soaked Sunday night.
The most often overlooked fact is that 27 of the points the Patriots scored were during the second half of the AFC Championship game where there is no controversy about whether the footballs were properly inflated.
Cold weather does effect the inflation of balls as explained by the physics principle known as the ideal gas law. Here’s just one explanation (of many) from Bowdoin professor Dale Syphers. According to professor Syphers, who has taught physics for 28 years, the pressure of a ball can change dramatically over the course of a game under certain circumstances.
The cheating factor – There is a difference between cheating and gamesmanship, especially in professional sports. What that means is teams seek whatever edge they can in order to win within the rules of the game. Jeffri Chadiha wrote an extensive article on gamesmanship in 2007 for ESPN. It is well worth the read, especially to see how football players behaved on the field during the 60s, 70s and 80s. A slightly deflated football, intentional or not, would have been laughed at as a reason for losing a championship game.
When adult men and women perform in these multi-million dollar sports franchises they are expected to play to win. Is there a fine line between gamesmanship and cheating? You bet there is. However, if cheating vs. gamesmanship were really an issue it would have been taken up long ago and it hasn’t been.
The circus – These two weeks between the NFC and AFC Championship games we have witnessed the circus of the insignificant and overblown overtake Super Bowl XLIX. And, if this weren’t bad enough, we have had to tolerate Marshawn Lynch’s “I’m here so I won’t be fined “antics 29 times while being out of uniform on Media Day, instead wearing a Beast Mode hat. NBC Sports called Lynch’s performance, one of the great moments in media arrogance.
No doubt, the late NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle is turning in his grave watching the league he built devolve into this circus. This has been a tough year for the NFL and Roger Goodell. He could stand to take a page out of Rozelle’s book of success.