The Balls Aren’t the Joke

It’s a shame that in the lead up to what could be a legendary Super Bowl, the public can’t get off the discussion of deflated game balls used by the New England Patriots. But a lot of people seem to be glossing over what is probably the biggest problem with this entire story. Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the Patriots may be as scummy as can be (and they probably are), but the NFL as a league is what is really at fault here.

You should never cheat. We are taught that from a very young age. It’s wrong, it’s immoral, it can lead to severe consequences. That being said, when you are competing at a level like the one the NFL is at (one of the most popular sports leagues in the world and the clear favorite in the United States), teams will do anything possible to gain an advantage. Enter the Patriots, a team which has already gotten in trouble for illegal tactics (we all remember Spygate), and new accusations (and proof) have come up that they were using deflated footballs in the AFC Championship Game versus the Indianapolis Colts.

Let’s start with this: they knew exactly what they were doing. The team knew that they were skirting the rules and were going to gain some sort of advantage by doing it (not that they needed it anyway, they ran a train on the Colts). The lies being spewed from the mouths of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick is frankly an embarrassment, for them, the franchise and the league as a whole. This all being said, they should never have even gotten the chance to cheat, and that is a major problem created by the league.

It’s simple: why in the world would the NFL allow teams to hold on to their own balls prior to the game? What sense does that make? That is just asking for something bad to happen. That isn’t allowed in other sports; baseball teams don’t get to hold on to their own balls and and scuff them up as they like prior to a game. What seems right about that? That is just asking for a team to cheat. I believe that people are generally good, but in the heat of competition, when emotions are running high and there is a big beautiful prize at the end of the tunnel, cheating is a very attractive option for a team, especially when it is so easy to get away with it.

I personally believe that Belichick is one of sport’s sleaziest coaches and that Brady is an aggressive man child who gets away with things because he has a pretty face, but I don’t believe this is some sort of witch hunt against New England. Frankly, I believe that this is simply a case of a member of the sideline crew actually paying attention and noticing a somewhat deflated ball. If it came out that most equipment managers, ball boys, etc. didn’t pay much attention to the balls during the game, I wouldn’t be surprised in the least. Think about your workplace, or any sort of organization, that you’re involved in: how many people do you know of off the top of your head that don’t give their full effort to every single thing they do? How many people aren’t paying the utmost attention at all times? Field personnel in the NFL are certainly no different.

The Patriots cheated. It’s that simple. However, it’s unfair for them to be singled out in this, because players have come out and said that everyone scuffs up and modifies balls. Matt Leinart took to Twitter to state that everyone in the league does it (aside from Kurt Warner), Super Bowl-winning quarterback Brad Johnson allegedly paid to have balls messed with prior to Tampa Bay’s championship. Aaron Rodgers has been known to like his footballs inflated a bit extra. The Pats aren’t the only ones to do this and it is not fair for them to get in trouble just because they were the only ones to get caught. Cheating is not right, but this is not an isolated incident.

So what can the NFL do about it? DON’T LET TEAMS HAVE CONTROL OF THE BALLS PRIOR TO THE GAME. It is that simple. That cannot be allowed, it’s just asking for something to go wrong (and, what a surprise, something has gone wrong). This is not a problem that falls into the same category as the NFL’s other mistakes in the last several months. No, this problem is just pure stupidity.

This could be an incredible Super Bowl matchup. The young, vicious Seahawks are looking for back-to-back Super Bowl victories, while the Patriots are looking to win their fourth Super Bowl under the reign of Belichick and prove that their dynasty is still alive and that Brady isn’t an overrated playoff quarterback. Unfortunately, all of the great stroylines that would normally come from a fantastic matchup like this are being overshadowed by a supposed scandal that frankly should have been put to an end a long time ago, simply by the NFL making an intelligent decision. The Pats are a slimy team, but this isn’t all on them (not that I condone cheating, of course). The Pats don’t deserve some huge punishment, they don’t deserve to lose draft picks, Hell they barely deserve a fine (although I’m sure some charity would appreciate it a great deal). This is on the NFL to make a change though. Brady can deny it all he wants, but quarterbacks like footballs a specific way and certainly give orders to the equipment staff to alter balls however they want. There’s a simple way to stop this, however: don’t let teams control their own footballs. This is an oversight by the league, and frankly is a dumb rule, but a simple rule adjustment by the NFL will rectify it. Considering how simple of a fix this would be, I’m getting excited for when I write a new post about how this is bungled as well.

 

For more of my sports takes, you can follow me on Twitter.

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