It seems a little too big to call it a tempest in a teapot. That’s because it involves the NFL which for many is bigger than life. The NFL, like horse manure in the days prior to the automobile, seems ubiquitous at this time of year. So I give the tempest a little more room to play out while keeping the alliteration. But it all amounts to the same thing which is much ado about nothing.
I know I posted a couple a days ago about the sad need of the Patriots to cheat. But as some pointed out to me that maybe I was too quick to a conclusion because the investigation was ongoing and perhaps I was making too much out of the cheating. As time passed I saw the wisdom in their suggestions and accept this for what it is, a grand publicity ploy.
I did write based on media reports that the defensive back Jackson who intercepted the ball immediately noticed it was under inflated and turned it over to the equipment manager to check out. That proved wrong. Jackson denied noticing that was the case.
A reporter at the Boston Globe inflated one ball to 12.5 pounds and another to 10.5; he tested it on others and some in the sports department noticed the difference immediately, others didn’t. That would account for others who handled the ball during the game not to pick up on the difference since it isn’t dramatic.
We can eliminate the weather, game conditions, and other factors as affecting the ball pressure since the other team’s balls used during the same period when tested showed no loss of pressure. What we have then is a situation where the Patriots used a football that did not meet the league rules. Whether deliberate or not this amounts to cheating.
Yet as someone noted it didn’t make a difference. No one has said it affected the outcome of this game. No one knows whether it affected the outcome of other games although the Patriots seemed to be the better team by a large margin in most of them so it probably didn’t make a difference.
Now we know everyone involved is suggesting that they knew nothing about the balls not being up to NFL rules. Belichick says, and I believe him, what happens to the ball is of no concern to him. He has other things more important to worry about. Brady said he picked 24 balls before the game and they were given to the officials. He opined: “I didn’t alter the balls in any way … To me, those balls are perfect.” He said he didn’t notice any difference between the balls in the first half (underinflated) and those in the second half (properly inflated. Ironically, the Patriots did better with the properly inflated ball than the other one.
So what is one to make of all this. I suggest the following:
First, the NFL has too many rules. It is important to have some relating to player safety and what constitutes a penalty, but the rule on the weight of the ball is has no bearing on the integrity of the game. If a team wants to play with a 10.5 pound ball so what. It doesn’t give them an advantage over the other team since they would have the same option. A team should be able to inflate the ball to whatever level it figures is best.
Second, the people who pump up the balls for the Patriots by interacting with Brady know he likes the ball to be inflated at the lowest legal level. Over time they have found he likes it softer than harder so they keep it at 12.5 or perhaps a shade under which could bring it to 10.5. The feeling of the ball to Brady on the field in the tumult of the game is as he said “perfect.” He’s comfortable at 12.5 or 10.5 or in between that. When it gets higher then he’s not comfortable.
Third, the officials also do the same thing as Brady does when he picks out the balls. They don’t test each one with a pressure gauge. (Perhaps if they test one with a gauge that would account for the one being correctly filled. That would be the one the ball boy gave the official to check.) They feel them and if they are within a range they are acceptable to them. This is shown by their not noticing anything wrong with them during the first half of the game when they handled that ball on the field.
I’d suggest the Patriot ball handlers know Brady’s preference for a softer ball and comply with that. It neither helps or hurts Brady if the ball is at or a bit lower than the correct weight. The correct weight rule is stupid because it adds nothing to the game. Both Belichick and Brady have more important things to do than to worry about the weight of the ball.
Two additional facts to consider: the Commissioner and Patriot’s owner are close buddies so they will get together to work out something that will not hurt the Patriots but will look like they believe the rule should not have been broken; the brouhaha over this is good pre-Super Bowl publicity that will cause millions more to the television screens for now there is something else to watch for and discuss.
Considering the latter two points, the whole matter is a pretty slick way to increase audience which results in increased money for the NFL. Perhaps that’s why they have rules that make no sense because they can increase the publicity of their product when phoney disputes like this arise. I suppose if we keep it in perspective it is all harmless but does provide a little fodder for the gossip mills.
There’s an old saying: “no harm, no foul.” Keep it in mind. And the other old saying: “there’s a sucker born everyday.” Put them together and you have the nonsense of “deflategate.”