Deflategate just hot air for New England Patriots:...
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Jan 21, 2015  |  Vote 0    0

Deflategate just hot air for New England Patriots: Arthur

The Pats have been winning for a decade using Belichick’s ruthless cunning, doing god knows what. They’re in the Super Bowl again. Whatever they’ve done, they already got away with it

OurWindsor.Ca

Calm down, hold on, wait. Look, the New England Patriots are going to play in the Super Bowl. The fever dream that the Patriots might be kicked out for cheating in the AFC championship game last week — and it seems clear that they were cheating — was fun for a minute, but come on, now. The Patriots would have had to do far worse than deflate footballs against the Indianapolis Colts to get banished from a title game. Or at least, they would have to get caught.

That’s the trick with cheating, and always has been. Get caught, you’re in trouble. The Patriots have been caught cheating before, in 2007, for illegally videotaping opponent’s defensive signals during games. They lost a first-round pick, and coach Bill Belichick and the organization both got fined. It didn’t seem to bother them much. It was called Spygate, mostly because Nixon never ordered a break-in at the Willard InterContinental.

This time, ESPN reported that 11 of the 12 balls the Patriots used — and only the Patriots used — were found to be significantly and illegally underinflated at halftime, which would make them easier to grip and catch on a rainy day. It was probably not why New England won 45-7, obviously. New England could have won playing with bowling balls.

But breaking rules is breaking rules, right? Everybody does it, they say, and it seems to be at least partly true. Former Tampa Bay quarterback Brad Johnson told the Tampa Tribune he paid “some guys” $7,500 (U.S.) to scuff up footballs to his liking, before backpedaling like a Colts cornerback. The New York Times wrote a couple years ago about how Eli Manning basically had his footballs sent to a spa. Aaron Rodgers of Green Bay likes his footballs to be as highly inflated as people’s opinion of American Hustle. That movie really wasn’t very good.

Still, the difference seems to be that scuffing is fine, within reason. The Patriots clearly deflated balls outside the acceptable range after the referees had inspected them. Again, the trick is whether you get caught, and the Patriots are the only team in the NFL to get caught cheating twice.

So, signs are ominous. Chris Mortensen of ESPN reported that the NFL was “disappointed ... angry ... distraught” after a lot of investigating Tuesday, and Mark Maske of the Washington Post reported the league considered it “very serious.” Sure, the NFL all but ignored Ray Rice’s domestic violence case until TMZ got involved. But this? Gnashing of teeth.

Goodell makes up justice as he goes along, but even he isn’t going to pull the Patriots from the Super Bowl. He’s not insane. The Colts have presumably been on a three-day drunk already — punter Pat McAfee tweeted that he “should probably lay off these strawberry margs” in case the Colts got the call — and a team swap would be unprecedented.

While we’re at it, though, what offence would rise to the level of pulling a team from the Super Bowl? Poisoning a quarterback? Kidnapping a linebacker? Bribing a referee? Cutting the lights? Adderall in a coach’s coffee? Remember, when the Seahawks had five players from 2011-13 suspended for PEDs, most of which were Adderall, then-49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said, ”You always want to be above reproach, especially when you’re good, because you don’t want people to come back and say, ‘They’re winning because they’re cheating.’ ”

People will say that about the Patriots, forever, but why would they care? They knew the risks. It’s not that the cheating definitely swung the Colts game. It’s that the Patriots got caught this time doing something that Brady would have to personally approve of every time, in a game where they probably didn’t need the help. This isn’t improvising. This is pathological, habitual behaviour. Yes, people in sports bend rules, and break them. Always have, always will.

But after Spygate Goodell said he would lower the burden of proof on cheating, and increase penalties. He’s probably feeling embarrassed, just in time for the Super Bowl.

Here’s his problem: What can Goodell do? Peter King of Sports Illustrated reported penalties will likely be deferred until after the end of the season, barring clear evidence of a team conspiracy to deflate balls in the next few days.

Even if they find that, the only realistic penalty that would make cheating not worth it to New England would be to suspend Belichick for the Super Bowl. Suspend him for regular-season games next season, and the Patriots will live. Take more draft picks, and the Patriots will live. Fines? Pffft. New England has now reached six Super Bowls since 2001, and may never get here again. Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, speaking to reporters in Seattle, said it best.

“If it’s against the rules, it’s against the rules,” Sherman said. “But you see it’s not going to have any effect on this game. Nobody’s going to get suspended. Nothing’s going to happen. They’re going to play this game. Whatever they did, the risk-reward was greater.”

This is football. This is the NFL. Players play with extraordinary pain, gobble opioids and sweat Toradol, risk their brains, do what it takes. Later doesn’t matter; now matters. The risk-reward is deemed acceptable. The Patriots are just better at recognizing that, and taking risks, than anybody else. They’ve been winning for a decade using Belichick’s ruthless cunning, doing god knows what. They’re in the Super Bowl again. Whatever they’ve done, they already got away with it.

Toronto Star

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