What the deflate-gate scandal really teaches us about the NFL and Roger Goodell
Forget the old saying about a wolf wearing sheep’s clothing … if we’ve learned nothing else from the Deflate-gate scandal it is that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is a sheep wearing a wolf’s clothing.
The guy who parades around as the enforcer has more bark than bite. Sure, he looked efficiently fierce when dealing with the Sean Payton bounty fiasco. He came down quickly – and forcefully – on the Adrian Petersons and Ray Rices in the league – especially when the court of public opinion started clamoring for blood.
And yet, here we are just days before Super Bowl XLIX and we have no resolution in one of the most blatantly obvious cheating scandals in recent memory. The commissioner’s office is suddenly trapped in molasses, and it is a shame, because it is realistically too late to do the right thing now.
The right thing? Remove the Patriots from the Super Bowl. Strip them of that prize and don’t look back. They cheated. Again.
Sure, it is debatable if the deflated footballs actually influenced who won the AFC Championship game vs. the Indianapolis Colts. But that isn’t the point. Those who are trying to determine just how much an influence the deflated footballs had are wasting their time.
When a student is caught cheating on a test, does the teacher take the time to figure out how the cheating affected the bottom line? Of course not. The issue is the cheating itself, not the grade on a test or the score in a game. The key is to teach a lesson. Curb the urge for the cheating student – or ball-deflating football squad – to cheat again.
So the student gets a big red zero on the test. He fails. The Patriots deserve nothing less than a zero of their own. The AFC Championship game should be reset to Indianapolis 7, New England 0.
How can anyone be so sure the Patriots cheated? Look at the numbers. Eleven of 12 footballs were deflated to the tune of two pounds of pressure each. How did they each lose exactly the same amount of air? If they all lost two pounds each, why did one ball still have the proper air pressure? The conclusion was that this was a deliberate move. Even those who looked only at the science of deflated footballs comes to that conclusion. Bill Belichick, who tried to take the air out of the situation, blamed the phenomenon on the climate and the footballs being rubbed too often. Even Bill Nye the Science Guy admits that is unlikely. That the balls were deflated intentionally.
Of course Bill Belichick or Tom Brady didn’t personally deflate the balls. The ball boy or equipment personnel likely did the deed, but anyone who thinks they did it without direction from higher places is just plain naive.
The NFL suggests that the punishment for such infractions likely involves fines and loss of draft picks. But didn’t the NFL already try sanctioning the Patriots in this fashion when the squad was caught secretly taping the Jets? Did Belichick and company learn its lesson then? Obviously not.
Not that the fine is really anything, anyway, to one of the most lucrative of all sports franchises. It’s like the teacher taking the cheating student’s chocolate pudding snack pack from his backpack as punishment for cheating.
And draft picks? Bill Belichick is Rumpelstiltskin. He takes pieces of straw that everyone else discards and spins them into gold. LaGarrette Blount, who carried the football 30 times for 148 yards and three touchdowns in the AFC title game just eight weeks after the Pittsburgh Steelers threw him to the curb. You don’t think Belichick loves throwing stuff like that in the faces of his competitors? Blount is just one of many rags to riches stories Belichick helped orchestrate. Take away a first-round draft pick and he’ll find 20 other pieces of straw to spin into gold.
But take away a Super Bowl appearance? That hits the master chess player right where it hurts. Lets him know that the shenanigans won’t work. That if you do the crime – you will serve the time.
Which puts this all back in Goodell’s hands. And every day – every minute – that Goodell fails to take charge of the situation, the wolf’s clothing peels back just a little further, revealing the woolly weakling underneath.
And while Goodell may be cowardly sheep in this scenario, he isn’t a stupid one. He knows not to bite the hand that feeds him … and Bill Belichick is days away from shepherding him to the biggest feed trough of all: the Super Bowl. And the Patriots – hated or not – can fill the trough much fuller than the Colts could ever hope to.