Unless perhaps you live in Ecuador, where such trivial incidents are rightly ignored, you have probably been aware of the controversy surrounding the footballs used in the AFC Championship by the New England Patriots. Eleven of the twelve footballs used in the game were found to be under-inflated by about two pounds, making them easier for the quarterback, who selects the balls before each game, to grip and throw, especially in wet and cold conditions. Each team uses its own footballs, so this apparently gave New England an edge — though they clearly didn’t need one, stomping the Indianapolis Colts in the game by some forty points.

In any event, there has been endless discussion about the incident, making the Super Bowl itself a bit of a sideshow while pundits discuss endlessly the pros-and cons of what they like to call “deflate-gate.” In itself, it’s a tempest in a teapot, but  it became interesting when both the coach and the quarterback denied any knowledge of the fact that the balls used were below the pressure specified by NFL rules. Most experts, including a number of former professional quarterbacks, admit that the coach might not know about the balls, but they all agree that the quarterback must have known, because he handles each ball before the game to make sure it is as he likes it. In a word, the issue has now shifted to the more interesting moral question: who’s lying? It appears to be Tom Brady, the New England quarterback. Indeed, according to many, it must be.

I recall an experiment conducted by a writer for Sports Illustrated years ago with Rod Laver, possibly the best tennis player to have ever lifted a racket. Laver told the reporter that he could detect any changes to his rackets and the reporter challenged him to a test. The reporter placed a small piece of lead tape weighing less than half an ounce on the frame of one of Laver’s rackets and, blindfolded, Laver picked it out of a group of a half-dozen. His rackets were his livelihood. He knew exactly how heavy each one had to be and how tight the strings were as well. Similarly, Brady knew full well that the balls he was using were to his exact specifications. And those specifications were under the limits set by the NFL. But things don’t stop there.

Soon after Brady’s press conference where he denied any knowledge of the fact that rules were broken (no matter how trivial they seem to us) ESPN took a nation-wide poll and it revealed that the vast majority of fans in every state, except Nebraska(!), believe that Brady is telling the truth. Seriously? Is it possible that the majority of people in this country are that blind? It appears so — assuming that the poll was a reliable indicator. Despite the testimony of a number of people of unquestioned credibility, including John Madden, whom fans have always loved and trusted, the majority of people believe that the only man who could be responsible is, in their minds, not responsible. Which now takes us to the next stage of the issue, namely, the stupidity of the average American football fan.

This is therefore no longer about footballs and whether or not they meet NFL specifications. It’s about the willingness of vast numbers of people in this country to believe what they want to believe and ignore the facts that have been clearly set before them. Brady is the only one who could have under-inflated those balls — or had someone do it for him. But this fact does not penetrate the minds of those who cannot open them. Please consider that these are the same people who vote on our next president and the members of Congress. In my mind, that is what makes this issue especially disturbing. It’s not about football. It’s about the inability or unwillingness of so many people to see beyond what they want to see.



15 thoughts on “Deflate-gate

  1. Didn’t I read this somewhere “…their heads — which are already half-way up their butts…”? Oh…it was you who wrote that, and a wee bit too soon, in my opinion. Grin here. Seems as if heads are no longer half-way up….but….yeah…all the way up and reaching for the sky. Ouch!

    • good morning my friends!

      my, oh my; hugh’s given me a double dose of chuckles, or maybe even a triple dose in this tiny window of time that the internet gods have granted me! toss in a little help from witty friends, and i am glad to say that my my day started with grand smiles!

      no. i did NOT know any of this, including the score or even who made the playoffs! no. i do not believe that the qb – any qb that’s tossed a few thousand passes or hundred-thousand passes, could not detect the subtle difference between a properly-inflated ball and one that’s a bit softer. ditto for basketball – hey, i always loved selecting the slightly-softer basketballs, which i could sometimes grip with one hand in free-throw practice. i loved the too-inflated ones for dribbling.

      nope. the coach should be able to detect the difference, as should the quarterback as well as the centers and receivers. unless, of course, they’re pre-schoolers.

      the internet signal dropped while i wrote this epistle, so let’s cross our fingers and click our heels together and hope this signal will find enough air to blow this into cyberspace!

      (I miss you guys and gals!) z (1st attempt: a dud – try again..)

  2. Interesting point with Laver. You’re right, most high-caliber athletes – tennis players, pitchers, golfers with their clubs – know by feel if things are even the slightest bit off. Whether Brady had the balls deflated or not, he most certainly knew they WERE deflated at the start of the game, and also restored to legal inflation for the second half.

  3. “Do not pay any attention to the man behind the curtain,” is a movie line that comes to mind. Your contrast to Rod Laver is superb. Of course, they knew. Coach B is a meticulously planner which is one reason he is successful as a coach, so for him to say he had no knowledge is hard to fathom. When you add that Coach B was fined $500,000 and the team lost draft picks for a spy-gate incident in 2007 where he sanctioned the taping of the New York Jets defensive signals, does not paint a picture of credibility. That is what is known, as there have been unsubstantiated accusations of spying on other teams in preparation for the super bowl.

    But, are the Patriots any different than some CEOs and companies who are notorious for cutting corners and cheating through aggressive marketing practices and fraud? Both, the Patriots and these companies need to be penalized, otherwise, we consumers of their products will lose faith in what is being sold to us and that will cause greater harm. For me, I will begin by boycotting the Super Bowl. That is the only way we consumers can make a stand. I applaud success; I disdain cheating to get there.

    • Very nice comment, BTG. I suspect the reason the Patriots are getting so much attention in this case is because they have been caught before and people are starting to see a trend. And, yes, it is assuredly a symptom of something that goes much deeper in this culture where the “end justifies the means” is becoming commonplace rather than reprehensible.

      • Thanks Hugh. Of course, I just listened to a Patriots fan say what is the big deal? So, I guess it is OK to cheat if it is your team. Even Patriots fans should be concerned by this as what happens when someone else cheats against you.

      • Ha! No surprise there. In and of itself it is not a big deal. But as a symptom it means a great deal. But one cannot see such things when one has his head you-know-where.

  4. As BTG implies, this goes much deeper to our culture of winning at any cost, and admiring those who cut the corners to make the wins. Sports is a big business, and big time sports is a big time business, so ethics and morality and legality, all items that contribute nothing to the score, are thrown out the window. I don’t see how the major sports, even college football, is any different than wrestling. The outcome has nothing to do with the rules of the game. We can also see this in the degradation of golf, where cheating is so rampant that players are dropping the game in droves.

    • Golf may be an exception. There are several incidents of late involving players turning themselves in to officials and being disqualified — though this may be the result of the fact that the players know the cameras are on them. And as a coach of an intercollegiate tennis team I can point out the players on the court call their own lines and, for the most part, tend to be truthful.
      Glaucon told us long ago that the only reason people do the right thing is because they fear punishment. Perhaps so, though Socrates tried to prove him wrong. Anyway, I agree about sports as big business and the rampant corruption of those involved, especially at the higher levels. Thanks for the input, Barney.

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  6. Hugh, it is not surprising, Coach B is taking an angry tone in the sound bites of “how dare you accuse me and us?” I get back to the question you posed and I totally agree with, “How could you not know?” and given your past transgression and tendency to micromanage, “How can we believe you did not plan this out?” BTG

  7. I especially appreciated your reference to the fact that the votes of those polled count equally with those of us who still try to reason out the merits of the candidates and vote accordingly. I worked for many years with an older FBI Agent who used to point to particularly disturbed individuals leaving our office and say, “Just think, Macdonald. His vote counts just as much as yours. God Bless America.”

    More like, “God Help us all.”

    Thanks for the thought provoking post. JM

    • Thanks for the input. I am convinced that the survival f this democratic system depends on the vitality of our educational system. Unfortunately, the latter is in serious decline. As you say, “God help us all”!

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