“Deflategate”: the story that will always haunt Tom Brady and remind him that size really does matter.
When Vince Lombardi said that “[f]ootball is a game of inches and inches make champions,” surely he wasn’t referring to the pounds per square inch found in an NFL football, because if he was, the people who under inflated those infamous 11 footballs really wanted to make a champion out of Tom Brady and the 2015 New England Patriots. And guess what — they did! The Patriots went on to beat the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Game and then got caught for using illegal footballs thereafter. New England was allowed to advance, and Brady was allowed to play in the Super Bowl against coach Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks. The footballs in the Super Bowl were properly inflated and the Patriots still won.
While some would like an asterisk to be associated with the 2015 Patriots championship team, the only proper place an asterisk should land in the halls of history is directly on Pete Carroll’s forehead for deciding to throw the ball on the two-yard line instead of running it with “Beast mode,” thus throwing the game away.
Deflategate (or as it’s also more ridiculously/insensitively known: “Ballghazi”) is a bizarre story and one that has probably gotten more media coverage than it deserved. Yet, if selling advertisements is your game, Tom Brady’s name associated with scandal and the Patriots’ checkered past is tough to pass on. All things equal, when sportswriters call for Brady’s playing legacy to be “tarnished” for his alleged involvement in under-deflating footballs in order to get a better grip on them, this sportswriter thinks they go too far.
This is not a story about steroids, point shaving, paying off referees, or even corking a bat. Under inflating a football has incredibly minor benefits. While it allows the quarterback to grip the ball better, a football inflated under the league’s minimum of 12.5 psi disallows him to throw as far as one that meets the league’s standards. Deflategate is more about the character of the man, that man being Tom Brady, than it is about tarnishing the playing legacy of the widely regarded number one NFL quarterback of all-time.
If Brady is truly behind the plot to deflate footballs to his preferred psi, let’s not forget who we’re talking about while perhaps also uncovering a possible motive.
Tom Brady was overlooked in the 2000 draft 198 times. A sixth-round selection who played with a chip on his shoulder his entire career. A man who’s perseverance and competitiveness has been described as annoying at times by his own teammates. An NFL quarterback who at the time of Deflategate was 37-years-old, and perhaps insecurity based on diminishing ability was setting in. If there ever was a minor in-game edge to expose, perhaps the most minor edge possible that is technically outside of the leagues rules was to have a ball inflated to his desired grip.
Even still, if Brady broke the rules, if he lied about his involvement, if he cheated, the only thing that’s tarnished is his character – not his career.
One time, Tom Brady was caught breaking the rules. That one time was in a game against opposing quarterback Andrew Luck, who did not have the luxury of inflating the footballs to his liking – but surely it wouldn’t have made a difference in that one game, as Brady’s Patriots beat Luck’s Colts 45-7. Brady and the Patriots went on to win the Super Bowl that year. It was No. 12’s fourth ring and tied him for the most by a quarterback all-time. Should we take away Brady’s fourth ring or tarnish his playing career because in the game leading up to the Super Bowl his team was caught playing with under-inflated footballs, a game in which Brady could have used the horseshoe from the Colts mascot as a football and still potentially beat Indianapolis?
Another factor is that Brady playing with footballs deflated under the leagues rules potentially didn’t disadvantage Andrew Luck. As we know, only the Patriots used the deflated footballs. The Colts footballs were inflated within the leagues rules of 12.5 to 13.5 psi. If Luck’s preferred psi is between those two numbers, then there literally is no disadvantage to him. There was also no outcry from the Colts QB after Deflategate was exposed.
Any media member who wrote or continues to write or speak about Brady’s playing legacy being tarnished should be suspended without pay just like Brady will be in the opening four games of the 2016 NFL season. Also, the piggybacking for publicity on Brady’s name and the team’s reputation must come to an end with the verdict issued against him and the Patriots. Tom Brady and the success of New England will deflate Deflategate in the long run, but in all fairness to him and the team, like their trophies and records, it will always be part of the Patriots and the league’s history.
[Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images]