UA-59049186-1 Get Over It - How Deflategate Won't Tarnish the Brady/Belichick Legacy - Good if it Goes

Get Over It – How Deflategate Won’t Tarnish the Brady/Belichick Legacy


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by Will Peppernickel

Sports pettiness has reached new depths.
The NFL concluded their investigation of Tom Brady’s balls (grow up) and determined that 11 of the mandated 12 were underinflated by, what you will hear ad nauseum, “two whole pounds.” 11 of 12 is no accident, there was probably intent to underinflate and it would be to attain some sort of desired advantage, whether real or merely psychological. The Patriots violated the rules and should be punished accordingly. Period.
But this hardly makes them “cheaters”. In fact, none of the things that they have been caught doing have made them cheaters, either. Well, not any more so than anyone else who has broken rules.

Miserable Old Man…
On the surface, there is nothing likable about Bill Belichick. Usually, people like him suck at everything and living is its own punishment. He’s not a Donald Trump or a Skip Bayless who are unlikable yet entertaining, Bill Belichick is just unlikable. But he doesn’t troll, he doesn’t bait, he’s just really fucking good at what he does and he’s unapologetic about it. He is so good and so unlikable that the only explanation that his detractors can surmise for his success is that he cheats. He does himself no favors with his smugness, nor does he do much to combat the perception that he is a cutthroat, unrelenting asshole. Make no mistake: Bill Belichick is not a victim. But still, none of those things make him a cheater.
When Spygate occurred, anti-Patriots media, bitter opponents and rival fans alike heard all that they needed to hear. Bill Belichick was filming sidelines and stealing defensive signals. BOOM. A $500K PERSONAL fine was issued, cheating suspicions validated…“Gotcha” journalists 1, Bad Guys 0. How did Belichick respond with his secret revealed and competitive advantage seemingly stripped from him? Well, he finished the season undefeated (16-0 regular season) and ran the score up on any one in his way. Their only loss coming in the super bowl, which people to this day swear occurred because the Patriots couldn’t steal signals – after 18 consecutive wins.

The anti-Patriots media describes the underinflation of the footballs as “2 whole pounds”, as if these balls were literally 2 pounds lighter than what the Colts were using (a game ball weighs about 14.5oz or .9 lbs, regardless of air pressure). If that isn’t misleading enough, the explanation of the effect of an underinflated football is “it makes them easier to grip/catch in inclement weather”. The latter is true, however the ball becomes easier to grip/catch in the same way that it hurts less to get hit in the face with a 10lbs weight at a rate of 1.25mph versus a rate of 1.05mph…and that is a literal, mathematical equivalent, not an opinion. “2 pounds” and “2 pounds per square inch” are not at all similar.
The inflation of footballs is inspected by the head referee prior to each game. So either the Patriots staff deflated them post-inspection or the referees were in on it. Only one of those explains why the refs didn’t notice such an extreme deflation of the footballs throughout the first half of the game. Or is it possible that “2 WHOLE POUNDS” OF DEFLATION IS A NEGLIBIBLE AMOUNT?
The question no one is asking is “why is the mandated range 12.5 – 13.5 psi”? Does it exist to guard against an advantage? I’m not inclined to think so. If there was a universally understood advantage to deflating a ball, I’m sure the first incident of underinflation would have occurred long before 2015. Not to mention the laundry list of quarterbacks who prefer an overinflated ball (like Aaron Rodgers, most notably), which yields tighter spirals. Maintaining a 1psi range is laughable and for all we know, it could be more of a suggestion by the manufacturer rather than some carefully selected range by NFL officials. But that’s an incredibly inconvenient possibility to the Patriots witch hunters, so I’m not surprised by the avoidance of this particular topic.

It’s Not SO Bad…
What gets lost in anything related to the Patriots and infractions is context. They are common infractions blown completely out of proportion. Stealing defensive signals SOUNDS very egregious. After all, it has the word ‘steal’ in it. But what people fail to realize is that even with knowledge of what the opponent is going to do, you STILL HAVE TO EXECUTE AGAINST THE BEST ATHLETES IN THE WORLD. You know that one guy in all of the pizza commercials, the one who audibles out of nearly every play his coordinator calls? He does that because he sees something that he doesn’t like. He knows that he doesn’t like what he sees because HE WATCHES HOURS OF FILM IN PREPARATION OF HIS OPPONENTS. Teams generally already know what each other are going to do. Having the signals might help on some level (otherwise, they wouldn’t have bothered doing it) but it obviously doesn’t present any clear advantage over traditional film study. Never mind the free agent players and new coaches who reveal their previous team’s secrets, either. If stealing signals was so rare and unconscionable, we wouldn’t see coaches covering their mouths while talking on the sideline. Stealing signs is taught in baseball and infiltrating the other team’s time out is comic relief in basketball. But in football, I’m supposed to believe that it’s cheating. But I digress. Spying is indeed an infraction and should have been punished…but it’s not exactly severe.
A fresh NFL football undergoes a series of legal alterations. Teams will scuff the surfaces, sand the laces, submerge in water, etc. all for the purposes of enhancing performance or comfort, aka “gaining advantage”. There is no standardized process for those things. But I’m supposed to believe that failure to maintain a 1psi range is some flagrant attempt to cheat? Once again, the range is in the rule book, so it is an infraction and should be punished…but it’s not exactly severe.

The Fire Rises…
On Thursday, January 22nd, sports media held Bill Belichick’s and Tom Brady’s feet to the fire in a press conference. They both claimed to know nothing about the deflation of the footballs. I personally do not believe them and, obviously, sports media doesn’t either. We don’t know what the NFL thinks about this though and we shouldn’t allow sports media to speak for them. Sports media feels that Brady and Belichick’s deception is an affront to the league…but that wasn’t the league in there asking the questions. If Belichick and Brady lied to or deceived the media, then that doesn’t warrant any of the punishment that the media seeks, which has ranged from year-long suspensions to forfeiture of the playoff win against the Colts. In reality, the more appropriate response by the NFL should probably be to open up the inflation range of the football to accommodate QB preference, since so many prefer overinflation. Sports media wants us to believe that the Patriots routinely and arrogantly run afoul of the NFL’s rules but really this is all about Belichick and Brady making it apparent that members of sports media are nobodies and that they don’t care what the media thinks about them.
It’s hypocritical to label Belichick a cheater because of infractions and/or violations. A frustrated left tackle can jerk the head of a pass rusher around by the facemask and receive a yardage penalty. A frustrated defender can kill a potential touchdown by intentionally interfering with a receiver. A player who has been tackled often will have limbs twisted by opponents in a pile. Pass rushers will still hit QB’s who have clearly released the ball just because they can. Organizations now all but admit to TANKING in order to improve draft status! Imagine that: sabotaging their own team, thereby creating easy wins for opponents just for the opportunity to draft higher. There are purists who are appalled by tanking, but the number of people calling it “smart” is growing by the minute. Why am I supposed to believe that a ball deflated by 2psi under the minimum damages the game more than jeopardizing player safety, cheap shots or tanking? If breaking rules is a part of the game on the field, then it should be no less part of the game away from it. Since there are standardized consequences for on-field infractions, players and coaches are able to strategize with the consequences in mind. We see it so much that we have become desensitized to rules being broken on field. Since there aren’t precedents for ball deflation, an opportunity exists for sports media to fantasize about how sadistic the NFL can be with punishment. There are some who feel that Belichick should be suspended for at least the amount of time that Marshawn Lynch was threatened to be suspended had he wore a pair of gold cleats. Sean Payton claimed to not know about “Bountygate” and received a year suspension. There are some that feel Bill Belichick should get the Payton treatment…even if he didn’t know about “Deflategate”. Sorry, but “since we were stupid then, we must continue to be stupid now” is not sound logic where I’m from.
I don’t expect much of a punishment as a result of “Deflategate”, nor should you. Rules were broken, there should be consequences, but I don’t believe that the NFL will see ball inflation as some sacred requirement of the game.

Follow me on Twitter: @BBQx_

Follow me on Instagram: @BBQx

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