In the latest episode of what’s being called “Deflate-Gate,” ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reveals that the NFL found that 11 of the Patriots’ 12 game footballs for Sunday’s AFC championship game were significantly underinflated by two pounds per square inch (psi) from the approved 12.5 to 13-5 psi.
While the NFL’s senior vice president of communications Greg Aiello has said “We are not commenting at this time,” an unnamed source described the league as “disappointed … angry … distraught.” Golly, gee whiz – really? It seems that a better description would be business as usual for this latest chapter of “As the Stomach Churns” for the league and one of its teams that share a less than squeaky clean image.
While league sources have confirmed that referee Walt Anderson properly inspected all the game balls at two hours and 15 minutes prior to kickoff, the investigation now moves to discover how the balls became underinflated.
Once the game balls for both teams are inspected by the referee within the pre-game two hour-15 minute window, they are marked with a dot to show they’ve been properly inspected and returned to a ball attendant. According to league rules and regulations, the balls are not allowed to be altered after that.
The balls are then put into ball bags that sit on each team’s sideline … but without any requirement to be guarded or watched. When a new ball is called for by the referee, the team’s designated ball boy simply retrieves one from the bag.
An underinflated ball can give a team an advantage because it gives a player a better grip on the ball and also changes the way it travels through the air when thrown. Since the Pats won the game by 45-7, it may seem now like pointless conjecture. However the fact remains that even though the NFL is a BIG business, it seems it is being run more like a loosey-goosey neighborhood game of football.
The cracks in the league’s iconic shield are becoming more evident with each new incident of domestic violence, drug use and cheating that comes to light. It seems clear that the NFL’s prime business has been making money while casting a blind eye on the shenanigans of players, coaches, staff and team owners … maybe even itself.
If it’s found that the Patriots intentionally broke the rules to gain an advantage in a big game by deflating the game balls, it’s said by insiders that a strong response will come from the NFL. In the wake of the Pats’ 2007 Spygate scandal for the illegal taping of the Jets’ signals, the league fined Pats’ coach Bill Belichick $500,000 and took away the team’s first-round draft pick. That sounds like a strong response to me but then it hasn’t seemed to scare anyone straight.
We are living in a money-driven society where winning is everything. If you know that some people are likely to cheat to win a game, especially a championship one that carries money, pride and prestige with it, why wouldn’t you change the rules and regulations to eliminate any potential for people to cheat in a weak moment?
If game balls are so important that you require the referee to check them all at exactly two hours and 15 minutes before kickoff, why wouldn’t you ensure that the balls can’t be tampered with during the game by having them guarded in some way?
It doesn’t speak well for a business that only makes clearly needed changes when it’s forced to. That signals leadership that is inept, greedy and/or uncaring. The NFL needs to clean up its collective act!