When it comes to understanding this DeflateGate mess, I’ll admit I’m the lowest common denominator.
I’m the person who just doesn’t get it, who can’t wrap his head around the hoopla. I’ve thought about it for days, and I still can’t come up with one tangible reason why the New England Patriots playing the AFC Championship Game with under-inflated footballs trumps every national news story this week and every NFL story this season — which, given the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson fiascos, is saying a lot.
Maybe that’s my fault. Maybe I just don’t understand the intricacies of PSI the way numerous national columnists seem to in their brutal condemnations of head coach Bill Belichick, quarterback Tom Brady and the entire Patriots organization. But I can’t be the only one.
With any complex issue, it’s the media’s job to de-complexify it for the average reader. As Denzel Washington’s lawyer character in “Philadelphia” likes to say, “Explain this to me like I’m a 4-year-old.” Break it down to its salient points, not just for the lowest common denominator, but for everyone else who was just afraid to ask.
In this case, that lowest common denominator is me. I’ve been waiting four days for one person to explain the supposedly deathly serious nature of DeflateGate in a manner free of obvious contempt for the Patriots. Because, without sarcasm or facetiousness, I must be missing something. A lot of us must be missing something. We’d just like to know what it is.
Why does removing roughly 2 pounds per square inch of air from a football “exceed” the severity of Bountygate? Why have former NFL players and coaches been so willing to address this scandal, some literally moved to tears, when just five months ago they couldn’t come to a consensus on whether it was wrong for Rice to hit his fiancée? Why is Stephen A. Smith “devastated”? Why did White House correspondents feel compelled to descend on Gillette Stadium on Thursday to shout at Brady about his integrity?
I’m not saying anything of this is wrong. I’m just saying I wish someone would explain it.
It’s important for Patriots fans to remember that their beloved Pats are no pillars of virtue. Belichick was implicated in the Spygate mess. Brady has mostly avoided controversy, and while his personal life is far from scandalous, aspects of his history with significant others do make some fans uncomfortable. Reaching six Super Bowls and winning three championships doesn’t make anyone a saint, not even Brady and Belichick.
When reports first surfaced that the Patriots had altered footballs, I assumed they had altered the Colts’ footballs. Weighted them, warped them, fiddled with the laces, whatever. That didn’t seem very cool. But when the story became that the Patriots had deflated their own footballs so Brady could get a better grip, I thought, “Oh. So what?”
That’s what many people are still asking themselves. Aside from a few ex-quarterbacks with axes to grind sputtering about “competitive advantage,” there has been no cogent case, so far as I can tell, presented for why decreasing air pressure in footballs is tantamount to intentionally injuring opposing players for money. There has been plenty of yelling and crying and hand-wringing, and a whole lot of talking without anything being said.
Because that’s what this “scandal” seems to be about. It can’t be discussed rationally, because once that happens, the whole thing might fall apart. Once emotion is replaced with logic, we might realize we’ve been sitting here debating with each other over how much air was or wasn’t inside a football.
The Super Bowl is still more than a week away, so there’s still time. Heck, the NFL hasn’t even met with Brady yet, according to the quarterback. Who knows? Once things are laid out, it’s possible I’ll join the crowd calling for an indefinite ban on Brady, Belichick and all the despicable #Cheatriots. But first, someone needs to explain it to me — like a 4-year-old.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images