Wednesday, January 21, 2015

From a Patriots fan: Hammer them, NFL

Because this kind of thing is important to some, let's get it out of the way: I'm a New England Patriots fan. I happened to write about that just last week.

But if the NFL finds that the Patriots willfully deflated footballs - 11 of the 12 used in the AFC Championship were underinflated, ESPN reported this morning - then the Indianapolis Colts should be the AFC representative in next Sunday's Super Bowl.

Otherwise, the NFL will be no better than NASCAR, which diluted its product and alienated its fans by allowing one of its best teams to continually violate the rules without significant punishment. That team, of course, was Jimmie Johnson's No. 48 team, which chronically cheated yet faced only fines and meaningless team points penalties.

Johnson won five titles, but as I wrote in 2012

It's almost impossible now to conclude that the 48 won five NASCAR championships without the benefit of cheating. And while the culture inside and out of NASCAR garages has forever been "it ain't cheatin' if you don't get caught," if it still ain't punished when you do get caught, what are you left with?

The NFL faces the same question today. No, both teams didn't use the same deflated footballs (each team supplies the balls its offense uses) and yes, it's easy to say that New England would have won if the football were filled with sand. Perhaps, but perhaps not. Who knows whether Tom Brady would have thrown another first-half interception with a ball that was less comfortable? Who knows how the game would have flowed if the halftime score were different?
 Also, it's besides the point. Punishing cheating isn't about predicting what might have happened had the cheating not occurred. It's about assuring the fans that there is integrity in the outcome. As I wrote in 2012:  
Punishment in sport is a tricky endeavor - part deterrent for athletes, part salve for fans. Even in sports where cheating is acknowledged as an everybody-does-it reality, punishment gives fans the appearance of integrity, the sense that their sport's field is level because the possibility exists that cheaters will suffer real consequences.

Johnson's fans argued then what Patriots fans will argue now: That unless there's proof he participated in the cheating, it's unfair to punish him. After all, he can't control what everyone in his organization does. But Johnson then, and Pats coach Bill Belichick now, can and do make clear what is acceptable and unacceptable in their organizations. And as any coach will tell you, teams share success and ignominy together.

Or at least they should. My guess: Belichick and the Patriots will say they had no idea that an attendant deflated the footballs, and the NFL will gladly run through that hole and punish the Patriots only with fines and perhaps the loss of a draft pick or two. Patriots haters will argue that they should get more - and that a New England win two Sundays from now win will forever be tainted.

This time, they'll be right.

Peter St. Onge




EuroCat said...

Thank you, Peter.

I'm surprised you posted this since just last week you deleted the comment I posted on your "favorite team" editorial presumably because it was critical of Belichick and his record of cheating. :-)

The epidemic of cheating in professional sports needs to be dealt with harshly. The NFL is WAY behind the curve on this. Cycling banned the "beloved" Armstrong and stripped him of his "wins" for doping. Baseball banned Pete Rose for life for illegal betting...although they've gotten soft on steroid use, bat tampering, etc, and neet to tighten up.

The NFL, OTOH, has been looking the other way. When the commissioner slapped Belichick's wrist in 2007, then received additional evidence that Belichick's cheating had been going on for FAR longer than just that season, he buried the evidence and closed the case.


It's time for Goodell to restore at least a SHRED of integrity to a game that is rapidly losing ANY credibility. This needs to be the last straw. If this case of cheating is proven, Belichick needs to be banned from football for life (hey, it was good enough for Pete Rose), and ALL his team's "wins" need to be marked with asterisks.

The Observer Editorial Board said...


I haven't deleted any comments from the "favorite team" column. We have moderators who delete comments for reasons that include vulgarity or abusive language. I didn't see yours so don't know what it said.


Willy Loman said...

Well put Peter. The line in the sand must be drawn. For too long our youth have been brought up with mixed messages from certain parents/adults. That has led to the generation of (young) adults we have today. Our next generation has been rewarded with reality tv, and shows like "Friday Night Tykes."

When you grow up being allowed to simply lie, cheat and steal (while teachers, police, judges, etc. aren't allowed to PUNISH anyone because that would be seen as "picking on" you).....we get what we've got now.

Unfortunately, Patriots owner Robert Kraft has ALREADY TOLD the NFL he'll be "looking into it in the offseason and will figure it out." That's code for: "I'll come up with a punishment for our team....AND UNTIL I TELL YOU WHAT IT IS YOU CAN SIMPLY SIT DOWN, SHUT UP, AND WATCH THE SUPERBOWL."

EuroCat said...

Thank you again for that clarification, Peter!

My comment on your "favorite team" column was in NO way vulgar nor did it contain anything like abusive language.

It opened with a tongue-in-cheek "Well, Peter, I'm sorry you're a fan of "THAT" team..." ;-)

and concluded "I have two favorite teams, too: the Panthers and anybody who plays the Patriots", and went on to post a sentence or two about how disgusted I was with "Belicheat" and the NFL that let him get away with his earlier cheating. I closed with "If the Panthers ever did such a thing, I would no longer be a fan of the team".

Again, I'm glad to see you speak out as a long-time fan. As the commenter above me wrote, "For too long our youth have been brought up with mixed messages from certain parents/adults. That has led to the generation of (young) adults we have today..."

Like it or not, sports figures and sports teams DO serve as de facto role models for children. There's enough cheating going on in academia and business; it's time to call out cheating WHEREVER it occurs.

Fred Johnson said...

As long as you are talking about serial cheaters, how about those Tar Heels? Cheated for 18 years (at least) and we have yet to hear any real punishment. And the alumni seem to think, no biggie, couple of basketball championships, cheating pays.

John said...

Well said Peter, and I agree but I'd assert this is nothing new for the Patriots and actually pre-dates Belichick. Just ask the Miami Dolphins... 12/12/1982 - aka The Snow Plow game. That goes back 32 years!

deepenwide said...

Why don't we wait until they figure out what happened before passing judgement. A 2 pound deduction in a 14 psi ball is only around 12%. If the balls were inflated in a warm room and then used in a cold climate for 3-4 hours a decrease in air is normal. Not sure how much is expected, that is key. Run some tests, compare balls to Colts balls, (not GB balls - all deflated b4 game), then investigate equipment used to inflate balls. Then interview all who had opportunity to deflate. Then pass judgment...

John said...

Deepenwide, there are two flaws in your theory:

#1 they tested the balls for BOTH teams at halftime and only the Patriots were underinflated.

#2 11 of 12 Patriots balls were underinflated, which is suspicious.

In addition, repeat offenders are not entitled to the presumption of innocence.

John said...

One more thing, much is being made of "well the score was such that it couldn't have changed the outcome of the game..." yet, if they did it one time, they may have been doing it all season (the Colts supposedly noticed it when they played in November). If they were, their two wins against the Jets were by a combined 3 points and losing either one of those games would've given Denver home field throughout. So, yea, it matters very much!

Dawg40 said...

Don't pull the trigger just yet. The NFL rules mandate that not only do the refs inspect and weigh each ball prior to the game, but that they also do it at half time. Since the ball was turned in to Colts staff during a first half interception, ALL the balls had to be turned in to the refs during halftime and rechecked. No word as to what those finding were. Nobody bothered to check the Colts footballs to eliminate factors, such as weather, either. Plus, deflating a ball is common practice in the NFL, as attested by Aaron Rodgers' comments today. So if there is an issue it is with inconsistencies in the NFL rules, not with a particular team. BTW, the Patriots scored 28 second-half points. The defense allowed 7 points total from the Colts. Patriots would have won the game regardless.

Garth Vader said...

What a dumb policy. Why doesn't the NFL just supply 24 balls rather than leaving the teams to supply balls that only one team gets to use?

College basketball teams use balls from different manufacturers (UNC uses Nike, NC State uses Wilson), but the same ball is used for the entire game.

Dawg40 said...

John, there is no official statement from the NFL that they checked any of the Colts footballs, or made a comparison of the two. The investigation is ongoing. In fact, "sources" are not the official word from the NFL either. Let's wait until all parties have had a chance to speak. It sounds as though you have a "red phone" to the commissioners office LOL!

John said...


You really believe what you posted? Really? Oh come on... you know that the early leaks are often reality. NOBODY but you is alleging that their is any rule to recheck the balls at half-time... where are you getting that? A former supervisor of officials says no.

John said...

Dawg40, all reports are that ALL balls from BOTH teams were tested at half-time and ONLY the 11 Patriots balls were underinflated.

Whether or not others do it means nothing. If 200 people speed and only one gets caught, that one is still guilty and is getting a ticket. The old "everyone does it..." argument is that of a child and should have grown out of it no later than puberty.

It doesn't matter how many points the Patriots won by, if they've done this once, they've probably done it consistently and if they did it during the two Jets games this year (which were decided by a combined 3 points) then a single win altered the playoff seeding.

RudyVasalino said...

How about paying as much attention to the rules of the constitution as to the rules for a football game?