Perception is reality. How many times have we heard it? Sports Nation, a sector of ESPN, conducted a survey of over 260,000 sports fans country-wide and it’s clear the New England Patriots are now the most disliked NFL team in the United States.
This isn’t a ‘woe is me’ type of post so if you’re a Pats fan, don’t expect it. This post is for the Patriots fan that understands what is going on here. The Patriots have made the New England fan bend into a pretzel trying to explain ‘Spygate’ and now ‘DeflateGate.’ You can’t explain some stuff and I won’t let it ruin my Super Bowl.
The NFL has gone through a tough season with Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice and other incidents of abuse, drunk driving and substance abuse. Roger Goodell has taken a huge hit publicly and he won’t take a bullet for the Patriots here. Public relations duties puts the NFL in a tough position and it puts Robert Kraft in a tough position. Every state (outside of New England) doesn’t like one half of the Super Bowl participants. Back when Goodell and the NFL messed up the Ray Rice incident, I shuttered to think of what would happen to the next person that crossed the line. Now, that person is Belichick and Brady.
Do I think the story is overblown? Yes. Do I think the Patriots cheated their way to Super Bowl 49 or any of the other five? No. Do I think the NFL should inflict a similar punishment on Belichick that they did to Sean Peyton after the Bounty Scandal? Yes.
You see I’m a fan, but I’m not blind to the world. I like to watch a clean game and sports will never be bigger than life for me. Whether a football being deflated slightly takes away from the game being clean is your own opinion, but what I do know is it’s in the rule book – agree or not. I looked down on Penn State fans because of the undying support of Joe Paterno while boys were being abused under his watch. I shook my head at the Ravens fan, who talk trash when their roster is littered with trash.
The NFL announced today that the balls were altered definitely. They also announced that Jeff Pash and Ted Wells will lead an in-depth investigation that has already accounted for 40 interviews and isn’t slowing down.
“Our office has been conducting an investigation as to whether the footballs used in last Sunday’s AFC Championship Game complied with the specifications that are set forth in the playing rules. The investigation began based on information that suggested that the game balls used by the New England Patriots were not properly inflated to levels required by the playing rules, specifically Playing Rule 2, Section 1, which requires that the ball be inflated to between 12.5 and 13.5 pounds per square inch. Prior to the game, the game officials inspect the footballs to be used by each team and confirm that this standard is satisfied, which was done before last Sunday’s game.”
“The investigation is being led jointly by NFL Executive Vice President Jeff Pash and Ted Wells of the law firm of Paul Weiss. Mr. Wells and his firm bring additional expertise and a valuable independent perspective. The investigation began promptly on Sunday night. Over the past several days, nearly 40 interviews have been conducted, including of Patriots personnel, game officials, and third parties with relevant information and expertise. We have obtained and are continuing to obtain additional information, including video and other electronic information and physical evidence. We have retained Renaissance Associates, an investigatory firm with sophisticated forensic expertise to assist in reviewing electronic and video information.”
To the Patriots fan: The story isn’t going away. If we win, we’re cheaters. If we lose, we’re cheaters and get laughed at for losing. I hope it wasn’t a planned strategy that occurred often. I’m not putting a deflated football on the level of drug use or abuse, but I won’t defend my team knowingly cheating. It’s a slippery slope that leads to me wearing a ‘Free Aaron Hernandez’ shirt.
Finally, here’s my take on it. A deflated football happened in the backyard/Pee-Wee football days. It didn’t alter the outcome of the game – skill more often does and that’s a fact. The Patriots are a team full of skill that I predicted to make the Super Bowl prior to the season. Now they’re a week away from that Super Bowl and they’ve done themselves and their fans a disservice because they took away what they worked all season for. Having a plan to deflate the ball is pathetic with a team that skilled and well coached.
I’ll celebrate the hell out of a Super Bowl win if it should play out that way, but not because I’m a fan of Belichick anymore. I’ll celebrate it for Revis and Gronkowski, who have yet to attain a Super Bowl ring, but have been the clear cut best at their specific positions at times. I’ll celebrate it for Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower, who have taken huge steps in their careers this season. For McCourty and Edelman, the consistent contributors.
I hope they’re exonerated so I can love Brady and Belichick again, but I’m not holding my breath. Go Pats.