NFL15 Cherry Sour: “Fools for Scandal”

24 Jan

With Deflategate and its PSI pigskin narrative (lbs per sq inch) having tabled the pre-Super Bowl analysis that footballers have come to expect, it’s been a challenge for those of us who write on the NFL to find our focus.

I was beginning to feel a bit like “Elaine” (spirit, not body) in that Seinfeld episode where she fights writer’s block to find a theme for Peterman’s “Himalayan Walking Shoe.”


And then it hit me while watching a 1930s cockeyed romance (“Fools for Scandal (’38)) with, who else, but the legendary Carole Lombard. Such a beautiful face and talented mind never had to suffer so many face contortions.

Eureka!, patience is a virtue, all good things come to those who wait, whatever it was that made my tumblers fall into place, I had my theme, and a snappy title, too.

Maybe we’re not so much fools for tawdry tales as it is the media monopolies who know just how to press our buttons. We’re human, susceptible to scandalous habits, the weight of constant coverage and the minions who tag along to try to make it take hold.


Another black-hole has emerged in our sporting universe that’s sucking the joie de vivre out of our neo-national pastime at the worst time. Maybe not a sign of a civilization in decline but these media feeding frenzies of late (a la Rice, Sam, Sterling, The non-Catch (Dez), etc.) cannot be a bellwether of progress & better days ahead.

And once again, a picayune process of post-game deconstruction stole the show.

The details are sketchy and in flux, but following Sunday’s AFCT (NE 45-7), Patriots’ game-balls came under suspicion for under-inflation, triggered by either Ravens rumor or D’Qwell Jackson (Colts) in-game INT ball. The League then confiscated Pats balls just as 2nd half got underway and initiated an investigation as to whether or not the pigskins were in fact under-inflated, and if yes, the who, how and rule implications.

The League determined Wednesday that the 12-ball set of spheroids all held low pressure (-2 psi (lbs per square inch) below standard (12.5 min)) and released a Friday statement confirming “under-inflation” of Pats AFCT balls in 1st-half with rectification by 2nd.

Now we wait on the NFL to finish its investigation, reveal its determinations and if necessary, mete-out a penalty, whether that be a reprimand, team-tags (draft), fines or suspensions, probably post-SB. Oh goody.

Getting this settled by Monday would be a favored schedule, dissipating the odd cloud that hangs overhead and leaving a full week for serious game build-up.

That’s what fans’d favor. And faux-fans? They just want Roger & Redskins out.


On Thursday, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and his starry quarterback Tom Brady responded to the growing pressure and held separate press conferences.

And on the whole, I’d say that both men carried it off well enough.

Belichick (“had no knowledge”) was his usual curt, taciturn self, wisely keeping his words to a minimum and bristling anytime a reporter started to press.

Brady, for his part (“I have no knowledge of anyone doing anything”) was cordial as his usual self and entirely patient with a Boston press corps that hurled more softballs than tight spirals at the decorated and reputable but now suddenly questionable QB.


A female reporter finally did pose one of the few pointed queries: “Who handles the ball after the refs bring them over?” Brady: “I have no idea…we’re still trying to figure out what happened.”

Both played it too close to the vest and breached boundaries of believability at times (Brady: “I don’t think about the ball”) but achieved three critical goals: 1) denied any knowledge of the deflation; 2) made it clear they are in full cooperation with the investigation, and 3) appreciate the importance of the game’s integrity. Sometimes clear & concise equates candor.

One curious moment came when Tom made a “Mr. Whipple” claim: “I don’t squeeze the ball, I grip it, I guess there’s a difference.” Somewhere Dick Wilson of Charmin® fame is smiling (d.‘07).

And for anyone who’s not a Patriots pisser (Pollyannaish, but I’d guess 70% of fandom and 90% SB49 viewership), a group that cannot include most ex-jocks & scribes on ESPN discussion panels who should have their neutrality levels checked for pressure, or is not a hater of the NFL product, this topic can’t be put to rest fast enough.


What will become of New England’s legacy now?

To those with an axe to grind or prejudice to push regarding this outdoor version of our two most successful franchises in the past two decades (See also; Spurs), this misstep should leak about .5 psi outta’ their championship aura. Measurable but hardly deflating.

But a win over Seattle in SB49 will go a long way to putting this scandal to pasture and pumping air back into the Pats‘ championship ball. A loss? You should be so negative.

Not like Deflategate was gonna’ push most serious football fans to start doubting the Pats success anyway, but putting the newest kids on the super-block in their place with a win in SB49 will dull the edge of the hatchet critics have been wielding ever since news of Spygate broke (’07).

Getting some read on some of your opponents possible plays might prove somewhat helpful, though not likely to tip the scales, but monkeying with a few psi in the pigskin, that’s horse of different color and too much a-do about too small a dog, especially when a “properly inflated” Patriots’ part (NE 28pt 2H) exceeded their opponent’s whole (7pt) four-fold.

Deflategate is not so much about cheating as it is about comfort level, a state that every serious athlete knows all too well about. Hard to imagine there’s not a player in the present or past NFL who hasn’t, on occasion, converted a shenanigan into a claim of gamesmanship. And that includes misters Mark Brunell and Jerome Bettis.

Rules, and their consistent enforcement, are essential to quality. Without it, the game will die a slow death (See; un-addressed tanking claim & betting (NBA)).


If the NFL does due diligence in its inquiry, finds certain intent on part of Pats’ personnel to deflate in-game balls for unfair gain and a shepard search of League precedent reveals a unique culpability, a deterring penalty follows.

In the long run, the heightened attention to ball management will be a good thing. It’ll bring all sides together, the referees, manufacturer (Wilson®), players and the NFL, to hammer out an improved set of rules that respects, to some degree, individual tastes while maintaining easily verifiable standards that preserve the game’s integrity & spirit.

One concern in wake of Rice-gate is a new tendency to over-reach in appeasement, as NFL did in 2nd Rice susp’n (life). Don’t ‘throw the baby out with bath water,’ Roger.

We live in an age of micro-management, over-analysis and constant change, needful or not, but also one where guardians of integrity must be forever watchful of grift & greed. Not an easy job.

PEDs is cheating, and a real danger, if your health matters.

Starting more as experimentation, once the players became deceitful and their digits rose in never heretofore seen fashion, with exception of amazing Hack Wilson (‘30 / 191 RBIs), as questions & concerns were raised about the games integrity and the bad message to kids, changes finally came and cheating became the definition.'10.HordeFTL.thmb

The life of a football. Who woulda’ thunk?

Trying to pin-down it’s travels & tribulations, its friends & family of fiddling fingers all along its journey, and then for the NFL to publicly present a referee gauging process that appears less-than-standardized from start to finish, seems an impossible and unholy task.

We may be fools for scandal, but Roger Goodell is gonna’ be ready for the loony bin by the time his service is up.

Steven Keys
Brass Tacks
Photo credits: T.Brady, 8.28.09, K.Allison, wc.cca; T.Brady, wc.cca, J.Beall, 12.18.11; black-hole, NASA, JSL-Caltech, wc.cca, 2.21.13; B.Belichick, 8.28.09, K.Allison, wc.cca; T.Brady, 10.27.13, J.Newton, wc.cca; D.Wilson, Mr.Whipple; R.Goodell, 8.30.12, wc.cca, SSG-T.Wade, USMA; Wilson,, wc.cca, HordeFTL, 2010.

Posted: 1.23.15 @ 11:39pm; edit 1.24 @ 1:26am, 12:34 EST


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