A greatly exaggerated and inflated controversy


Alec Rome, Web Editor

Since the AFC Championship game on Jan. 18, 2015, the Deflategate scandal has been a media headache for all involved. It’s been hard to find an accurate story, with sources such as ESPN being at times inaccurate. A falsified storyline blurred the lines between reality and speculation, and the scandal has been a distraction for all.

Before Super Bowl XLIX, many questions loomed as the nation headed into the biggest sporting event of the year. They were not the questions Bill Belichick and his New England Patriots squad would normally shrug off with a rehearsed answer, or the important questions that should be asked for players that are about to have a career-defining moment. It was air coming out of the mouths of reporters about air. Specifically the air inside of a regulation NFL football.

The New England Patriots were accused of purposefully deflating footballs in the 2014 AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts. There were reports that eleven footballs were two pounds per square inch (PSI) below the legal minimum, though the claim was later debunked and proven to be false. Only one of the twelve were two PSI below the limit. However the rumors and speculation were already too mainstream to change the minds of the public.

Everyone from every corner of the internet jumped on Deflategate. People voiced their opinions and labeled the Patriots as “cheaters.” That is, until Super Bowl XLIX happened. As the Patriots hoisted their fourth Lombardi trophy in fifteen years, all doubt surrounding the legitimacy of the team subsided. As expected, the media continued to wait and speculate on what was to happen to the team because of Deflategate, until the Ted Wells report came out, signifying even more hard truth

According to the Wells report, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was “generally aware” that suspicious activity was going on. Also, it is known that being “generally aware” does not constitute a four game suspension, which is eventually what the NFL gave Tom Brady for his role in the scandal.

Upon Brady’s initial appeal of the suspension, it was upheld. Upheld by none other than Roger Goodell himself, the man in charge of the subordinates that made Brady’s suspension. Is there something a little wrong here?

According to former wide receiver Shannon Sharpe, there is a major injustice in the system of punishments. “I have always felt there was something fundamentally wrong with if I am issued a citation by the police department, and then I have to go to the chief of police to have him hear my case,” said Sharpe. Parallel to the example, players who want to appeal any suspension given by a member of the NFL have to go to the commissioner in order to fight the punishment.

Brady felt he was innocent and that his suspension was inappropriate. He decided to stand up and took Goodell to court, one of the first people to do so

He even tried to settle with the NFL because he knew he did not cooperate as well as he should have. Instead, the NFL decided to not take the settlement because they felt they were right, and they had probable cause.

It at last took away some of the “ultimate power” Goodell and the NFL possessed. On the Brady suspension being nullified, Sharpe said, “This is a crushing blow [to the NFL]. Now there are going to be guys more apt to go to court. Once the judge speaks, no matter how you feel about a case… [the judge] has spoken.” Because of Tom Brady, players now have the voice to take their case to court, if they feel they have sufficient evidence to overturn their punishment.

The first crime the Patriots were accused of, they were caught and punished. Spygate caused the organization to lose money and a first-round draft pick the following year. However, many NFL owners felt that once again, Goodell did not give appropriate punishment for what many felt to be a more serious form of cheating. According to an ESPN report, Goodell stated that, “with dead certainty, from then on, cheaters would be dealt with forcefully.”

The Patriots and their videotaping empire during Spygate did get quite out of hand. They did cheat, and the public perception that the organization is full of bending the rules still exists eight years after they were punished for it. Even a more recent allegation that the Patriots swiped play sheets was talked about. It has become a phenomenon for all critics and fans who despise the New England organization to find something to deny the absolute dynasty the Patriots team is.

However, Richard Sherman, a Seattle Seahawks cornerback is another example of the unjustified criticism and suspicion of the team winning only because of bending the rules. On the allegations that the Patriots would swipe play sheets, Sherman said that, “they still need to execute.”

Just because Tom Brady may have played with deflated footballs or the team may have had an advantage on play-calling does not detract from how talented Bill Belichick and the organization truly is. Amid controversy, the Patriots won another Lombardi trophy. Coming out of court hearings just a week or two prior to the season opener, Brady and his team commanded a shaky Pittsburgh Steelers secondary with four passing touchdowns.

Brady stands just four touchdowns away from 400 passing touchdowns in his career (as of September 13, 2015). Barring any major injury, Brady will easily pass that milestone. He also has 53,546 career passing yards, which is the fifth-most in NFL history. The countless accolades by the Michigan quarterback are enough to conclude a simple fact. Brady truly is a great.

Because of all the talk and coverage about the Deflategate scandal, it has detracted from not only the talent of the players who win these games, but also the game of football as a whole. The statements about the possible connections between Spygate and Deflategate are important, however it needs to stop eventually.

Goodell felt that he needed to prove something to every owner, which is why he conducted an investigation that cost $5 million. Yet again, he had the Patriots organization within striking distance, just as he once had many other high profile cases within the cusp of glory; only for it to slip away.

It became another reason for doubters and critics of the “golden boy franchise” to put down one of the most powerful dynasties in sports. It was an attempt for Goodell to save himself and the league from the inevitable. The league does not have ultimate power, and it may be the end for Goodell as an owner, with Patriots owner Robert Kraft even beginning to criticize Goodell.

Brady still has four championship rings, and there never will be a dark shadow looming over Brady’s head. Only the bright lights of Sunday reflecting from his silver helmet.