The cry among Patriot fans these days, faced with the very real probability that their team cheated their way to the NFL Championship, is that they didn’t need special footballs to beat the hapless Colts.
45-7, they claim. They could have used beachballs!
There may be an element of truth to that boast—New England was a heavy favorite going into that AFC championship game, and the Colts seemed to lag behind their opponents in every statistical category. Fans may have been surprised at the lopsidedness of the score, but nobody was terribly surprised that the Patriots won. I doubt if the Colts themselves were that shocked.
If that’s true, why would a team that seemed destined to win cheat to do so?
The answer is obvious: because they thought they could get away with it.
And why did the NFL postpone any investigation for two weeks until after Super Bowl had passed? That’s just as obvious: same answer.
Let’s face it, 2014-15 was not a stellar season for the National Football League. From Ray Rice to Adrian Peterson to Ray McDonald to the admission that maybe being smacked in the head over and over for ten years might just possibly destroy the brain—last year’s NFL season seemed a constant struggle between the actuality of the league and the public image it tried to convey. What better end to the contentious season than to have Tom Brady, football’s golden boy, lead his team to victory and put a stop to all the extraneous minutiae clogging up the sports pages? (I use the term “golden boy” intentionally—it was once used to describe Paul Hornung a few generations ago. Look up his fall from grace if you’d like.)
As for the fact that the game was a “blowout,” , let’s not forget that football, like basketball and hockey is timed—a team falling behind 17-7 at the half (as the Colts did) knows it has thirty minutes of football to recover. For contrast, a player could lose the first two sets of a five-set tennis match, maybe even the first five games of the third set, yet still win the match. Time doesn’t run out. Three times a baseball team has scored nine runs in its last at bat to win a game. Nobody kept an eye on the clock. But falling behind in football determines the pace and strategy of the second occurred.
Will this be a soon-forgotten blemish on the reputations of Brady and Belichick (already accused of previous chicanery) or will it be an ongoing stigma with which their names will always be associated? From what I’ve seen of Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and Lance Armstrong, I would hold with the latter. And though football is not so statistics driven as possible, it may be time to open up a big bag of asterisks for Brady and the Pats.
A week ago the partisans of Fenway took Alex Rodriguez to task for sullying baseball’s good name, sending a deafening chorus of boos his way when he came to bat. I hope these strict moralists will greet Tom Brady with the same disapprobation and disdain when he takes the field this fall.