By Paul Gaszak, English Faculty
I have been a sports fan my whole life, and I engage with sports everyday in some fashion, be it watching games, reading articles, or talking with family and friends.
In all my years of sports, “Deflategate” may be the dumbest controversy I have ever encountered.
For those unaware, Deflategate is the ongoing controversy surrounding the NFL’s New England Patriots, who were found to have used underinflated footballs during their offensive possessions in last Sunday’s AFC Championship against the Indianapolis Colts. League rules require the balls to be between 12.5-13.5 PSI. The balls used by the Patriots were found to be around 2 PSI under those requirements. In theory, deflated balls are easier to throw, catch, and handle, which could have given the Patriots a miniscule advantage, particularly in the sloppy weather in which the game was played.
Note: This is way less than 2 PSI under regulation.
Before I continue, let me preface my comments by noting I am a Miami Dolphins fan. Not only do I not have an allegiance with the Patriots, but as division rivals, I actively root against them every season. I have no pro-Pats bias.
With that said, Deflategate is so stupid that I may scream until my lungs deflate. I am already tired of hearing about it and I know it will be the focus of all NFL conversations up to and through the Super Bowl. If the Patriots win, idiots will be screaming for an asterisk to be attached to the title; if they lose, fans will be screaming about karma.
Good lord – fans and media are going to lose their collective minds and ruin the biggest game in American sports over 2 PSI of pressure.
In my best Allen Iverson voice: “Pressure? We talkin’ about pressure?”
Everyone, from commentators to fans to players on the Colts, agrees that the inflation of the balls had absolutely no impact on the outcome of the Patriots 45-7 dismantling of the Indianapolis Colts.
Still, plenty of people have been whining, “It doesn’t matter if it helped the Patriots win or not. It’s the principle of the matter; they cheated! Fine them! Take away draft picks! Suspend the Patriots head coach! Put the Colts in the Super Bowl!”
Wah, wah, wah!
Shut up, you horde of hypocritical, holier-than-thou sports fans and media.
In every sport, every day, players and coaches are bending or breaking rules to get an advantage, or they are actively trying to deceive the opponents or referees to gain an advantage. Anyone who has played sports at any level who claims they never “cheated” in any fashion is either a liar or a magnificently upstanding loser
Here are some examples of common “cheating” in sports:
- Flopping, particularly basketball and soccer. The entire purpose is to deceive the officials into calling a foul, thus giving his/her team an advantage through an illegal act.
- In football or baseball, when a player traps a catch. (ie: The ball hits the ground and the player knows it did, but they try to sell it to everyone else as if it was caught.)
- In football and basketball, players illegally holding/grabbing on every play, hoping that they will not get caught by the officials as they gain an unfair advantage over their opponent.
When any sports fan, myself included, sees their team commit a blatant foul or penalty that is NOT caught by the officials, we don’t get upset and demand that our team be punished for their crimes. Instead, we say, “Sweet! We got away with that one!” and appreciate that the bypassing of rules will help us to victory.
Still, people will say, “But those examples are different! That’s gamesmanship! Acts like those are part of the culture of competition. Wah, wah, wah!”
Let’s talk doctoring, then. In football, there are stories about doctored jerseys going back for generations, from putting grease on jerseys to make them slick, to sewing ball bearings into the fabric.
Or, how about doctored footballs? In the wake of this Deflategate absurdity, current and former NFL quarterbacks including Aaron Rodgers, Brad Johnson, and Mark Brunell have talked about how doctoring the football is the norm. Brad Johnson even paid $7500 dollars to have people doctor the balls he used during his Super Bowl victory with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2003.
Should Tampa Bay forfeit their Super Bowl title?
Or should the Dallas Cowboys demand an opportunity to play in this year’s Super Bowl, since they lost to Aaron Rodger’s Green Bay Packers in the playoffs? After all, Aaron may have had an over-inflated ball, which is his preference.
Be it sports or any other issue in our world, people will rail against perceived injustices in the most illogical, hypocritical ways.
For example, take another form of “cheating”: performance enhancing drugs – steroids, HGH, etc.
In baseball, many sports fans and media members will never forgive players such as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, and Mark McGwire for using performance enhancing drugs. They were among the greatest players of their generation, yet they will likely be ostracized forever in terms of being recognized for their on-the-field accomplishments.
In football, players who take performance enhancing drugs are penalized and suspended for several games. Yet, fans don’t blink and then welcome those players back with open arms, no different than if the same player had missed those games due to an injury. A few players on the Dolphins were suspended for illegal substances this year. All I thought, like any other Dolphins fan was, “I can’t wait until Week 5 when these guys are back to help the defense!”
My Dolphins are an irrelevent bunch of losers, though. How about a more relevant example. Before last year’s Super Bowl, the eventual champion Seattle Seahawks – who are back in the Super Bowl this year – had a league-leading five players suspended for PED usage. Raise your hand if you knew or cared? Where are the people marching on the NFL headquarters with torches in hand to demand that the Seahawks be stripped of their title? As Deflategate continues in the next two weeks, should all of the Seahawks players be tested to make sure they aren’t cheating?
Should any player or team cheat? No. I’m not advocating it. Whether it’s a holding call, PED usage, or a deflated football, if it is proven that rules were broken, then the team/player should be penalized appropriately. Then, move on with life.
However, the media has already blown up Deflategate to such absurd proportions that you’d think the Patriots had hired Jeff Gillooly to coordinate taking out Andrew Luck’s knee at halftime.
Who saw a Jeff Gillooly reference coming in this post? Not me, and I’m writing it!
Ultimately, in this case, I think the outrage is a mix of jilted lover/jealous fan syndrome.
The Patriots and coach Bill Belichick have been caught cheating before – the “Spygate” controversy. Both Spygate and Deflategate had little to no impact on the games, but people jumped on their moral high horses. Now, like a jilted lover, people are mad that the dude who cheated on them once before and said he wouldn’t do it again has cheated again. Only, with 2 PSIs, it was less like having an affair and more like saying good afternoon to the female cashier ringing you up at the grocery store.
And, face it, fans are jealous of the Patriots. Any fan who claims otherwise is fibbing again. The Patriots are the preeminent franchise in football, if not all of sports, over the past 15 years. As a Dolphins fan, if it would help my team be dominant and go to six Super Bowls in the next 15 years, I’d go deflate some footballs right now.
So, to borrow Aaron Rodgers’ infamous line from earlier this season: relax. Enjoy the Super Bowl, which will be a great matchup between two great teams, both of whom deserve to be in the big game. And don’t worry about PSI unless you’re checking the air in your car tires.