The National Football League has received the results of the invastigative Wells Report on ‘Deflategate’, the controversial claims that the New England Patriots ‘more probable than not’ deflated game balls on purpose and that it is probable quarterback Tom Brady was “generally aware”. Outrage over the alleged infractions have sparked conversations about an ethical standard teams are to abide by. Whether Brady was or was not aware not only paints him in a new light but highlights problems with honor among professional football football teams and players. Love for the game, apparently, isn’t enough for organizations and/or the men on the field in some cases.
I was talking to a friend about my long-time love for the sport and for the first time ever was asked, “How can you love something that is so corrupt?” It was a question I couldn’t immediately answer. I have been criticized several times for calling out players that, in my opinion, haven’t played within the rules and regulations. At times the criticism aimed at me has bordered on abusive. After considering the direct question regarding ‘Deflategate’, my honest response was, “They say professional football is a business. If it were my business, I’d be inclined to clean house and give out pink slips. Unfortunately, the game has lost much of the honor it once represented. I love the game, but am honestly disappointed by actions that put the money and wins above respectful behavior.” What I wanted to say was that this incident is just one of many that have more than disappointed me. In fact, I feel that incidents of this nature ruin the sport.
Even PeeWee players are taught good sportsmanship. Apparently, that doesn’t carry over once players enter the national spotlight in all too many cases.
I know I will likely hear the typical questions: “Who are you to judge?”, ” You just don’t like the Patriots” or even “You’re just ticked the Steelers didn’t get into the Super Bowl.”. Honestly, I would be even more disappointed if it were the Steelers who were involved, but I hold all players and even the league accountable when they dirty-up the game.
Former Steeler Ryan Clark made a statement on Twitter about the controversy, saying:
It came as no surprise to me that Clark immediately received responses questioning his own play in the NFL. I realize that fans are relatively loyal and that Patriots fans are feeling a little defensive, especially since their Super Bowl win is now being questioned as valid.
What is the most damning evidence to me is that Jim McNally, the officials’ locker room attendant, and equipment assistant John Jastremski were reported in the 243-page report to have exchanged text messages that indicated they were involved in a “deliberate effort to release air from Patriots game balls after the balls were examined by the referee.” Before the 2014-15 NFL season, McNally referred to himself as “the deflator” and exchanged several texts with Jastremski that included a statement from McNally asking Jastremski to “come on help the deflator.” Following a Thursday night game between the Patriots and New York Jets on October 17 (2014), Brady allegedly complained about the inflation level of game balls. It led to McNally and Jastremski exchanging texts. McNally said, “Tom sucks…im going to make that next ball a f—- balloon,” to which Jastremski responded, “Talked to him last night. He actually brought you up and said you must have a lot of stress trying to get them done…” On October 21, McNally told Jastremski, “Make sure you blow up the ball to look like a rugby ball so tom can get used to it before sunday.” On October 23, Jastremski told McNally, “Can’t wait to give you your needle this week :)”, which led to a conversation the next day that revealed Jastremski was going to give McNally a larger needle. McNally texted back, “Better be surrounded by cash and newkicks…or its a rugby sunday.” Eleven days before the AFC Chamionship Game, McNally was told that he would have a “big autograph day”. Photos of kickbacks he received were revealed by the Wells Report.
Toss all of that out and you have speculative evidence that would be very difficult to use in any type of punishment conversations by the league. It reminds me of another star, albeit in a different professional sport: Pete Rose. Rose was accused and found ‘guilty’ of betting on baseball and was subsequently banned from the sport for life. Do I think the deflated balls infraction is as serious – yes, if it was a blatant attempt to cheat. Tom Brady and the Patriots are highly unlikely to be banned from pro football and perhaps that punishment isn’t warranted.
Perhaps I am just naive but I enjoy the idea of the game I love being played cleanly and the Super Bowl Champion earning the Lombardi Trophy honestly. ‘Deflategate’ stinks to high heaven. Will I stop watching football? Highly unlikely, but I can’t say that I enjoy it nearly as much when the price of winning comes down to unethical behavior.
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