Excerpted from USA Today: Cheat on a test in school? You fail, no questions asked.
Cheat on your taxes, the IRS will find you. It won’t be pretty.
Cheat on a World Cup bid and, well, you probably get awarded that World Cup, but that’s neither here nor there.
The New England Patriots cheated in the AFC championship. As such, the team should be disqualified from the Super Bowl.
Deflating 11 of 12 balls in Sunday’s game, as has been reported by ESPN, is a major violation and something that had a great affect on the game. Given the number of deflated balls, it’s almost impossible this was accident, meaning that someone in the New England organization willfully tampered with the rules to give his team an advantage. That’s cheating.
The penalty should be simple: Ban ‘em.
Of course, it’s not realistic to disqualify New England from the Super Bowl. What’s the NFL going to do, bring back the Colts to replace them? Hold a loser-bracket between Denver and Indianapolis? That’s not feasible. Just because the Pats should be DQ’d doesn’t mean they will or could.
But, again, they should. The evidence is all there, assuming Chris Mortensen’s report is correct. Former NFL referee Gerry Austin was on Mike and Mike this morning and said officials check the PSI of all footballs two hours before the game. At halftime, New England’s footballs (each team has different balls during the game) were found to be two-to-three pounds lighter. Someone deflated the balls. There’s no debate here.
The defenders of New England have been even more laughable than they were during the videotape controversy of 2007. “It doesn’t even help that much!” Sure it doesn’t. That’s why they were doing it. Of course it helps. Deflating gave Brady an easier grip on the ball (at least in the first half; there’s question about whether the balls were re-inflated at half time when it was 17-7). It also left Andrew Luck with the harder footballs in the colder weather.
Would a level playing field have affected the game? It ended 45-7, so it’s doubtful. But obviously throwing a deflated ball helps, plus the placebo effect is powerful and maybe Brady knowing he had an easier ball to throw helped. And Luck using inferior equipment, or thinking that it was hard to throw in such conditions, may have had a similar impact on his psyche.
If it’s found out that Bill Belichick knew anything about this, even after the fact, Draconian sanctions are the only way to go. He was fined $500,000 for the videotaping controversy, which is a substantial amount of money, but is hardly going to break a man who makes many, many millions in a single season. (No one really knows exactly how much the Pats’ coach makes, but it’s thought to be over $7 million). If Sean Payton gets suspended for an entire year because of Bountygate, Belichick deserves at least the same thing. He affected the sanctity of the game and fairness of one of the three biggest battles of the year.
But since Roger Goodell has been showing the backbone of an invertebrate (they don’t have backbones in case you, like me, forgot seventh-grade science), an eight-game suspension seems fair. Draft picks should be taken away, not for one year, but for two or three, because the Pats are always picking toward the end of the first round anyway. Or take away some salary cap space, like the league unjustly did to the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys.
This isn’t to say I don’t have a grudging respect for the Pats. It’s not cheating if you don’t get caught and they weren’t caught during the game. They somehow got around the biggest mystery of this controversy — how the officials, who handle the balls in between every play, didn’t notice the changes — with ease.
But I’ll happily blame the Patriots for being skeezy once again. I’ll blame Belichick because, as Goodell said about Payton during Bountygate, the head coach is supposed to know what’s going on with his team. I’ll blame Tom Brady who clearly knew the balls were deflated but is getting off scot-free in this controversy because he’s the Golden Boy and is handsome and is married to a supermodel. (It’s amazing how no one criticizes Brady. He’s just as guilty as the others.) But there’s blame for others too. Keep reading