A Word About “Deflate-Gate,” Even Though It Doesn’t Matter Anymore (And Maybe Never Did)
By Ken K. Gourdin
Apparently, a mischievous poltergeist invaded New England Patriots environs and deflated footballs used by the Patriots and by their quarterback, Tom Brady, during the 2014 AFC Semifinal game between the Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts. The Patriots have been accused of underinflating footballs used in the game.
Full disclosure: I’m a fan of the Colts and of their quarterback, Andrew Luck (what’s in a name, right?), and of the Packers and of their (less-aptly-named) quarterback, Aaron Rogers (whom the Patriots also defeated on their way to winning the Super Bowl.
The Patriots and Coach Bill Bellichick were fined ($1 million and $500,000, respectively) for spying on a New York Jets practice to steal defensive signals in 2007. Thus, it’s not as though they have a pristine reputation to begin with.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft is shocked—shocked! he says—that anyone would question the integrity of his team. The thing is, once you do it once, at least some people are going to question whether you did it again, and are going to refuse to give you the benefit of the doubt anytime someone raises that question under new, similar circumstances.
$1 million and $500,000 are “chump change” for Bellichick and the Patriots, respectively, and if a player were proven to be involved in any misconduct, I believe the maximum fine for him would be only $25,000. The Patriots lost some draft picks over the 2007 incident. All the parties might consider these to be small prices to pay to be able to compete in the game’s ultimate contest.
Having said all of this, there are two things I find interesting about this episode:
- While Tom Brady claimed at his press conference that he doesn’t pay any attention to the football’s state of inflation or deflation during games, he’s on record as saying he prefers underinflated footballs.
- When asked outright at his press conference if he is a cheater, Brady replied, “No, I don’t think so.” Huh?! Any self-respecting attorney I know, having received such an answer from a witness who’s on the stand and under oath, would respond immediately, “You don’t think so?” and would spend the next hour asking the witness follow-up questions about what he thinks about cheating.
Bottom line? Whether they end up “buying” their latest Super Bowl or not, The Sergeant Schultz strategy employed by all Patriot parties (not!) involved in this incident—they “see nossing”; they “hear nossing”; they “know nossing”—likely will succeed.
Apparently, the Patriots concluded that “chump change” fines and losing a few draft picks are small prices to pay for the game’s ultimate prize.