Bill Belichick has the dishonor of being the only coach in NFL history to have a half million dollar fine leveled against him for cheating (the famous “spygate” episode of 2007). He is an admitted cheater. Today, he goes back and forth between admission and denial, sometimes owning it, sometimes spinning it. But that is beside the point. The NFL is conducting yet another investigation against the New England Patriots. They were found in this years AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts to have footballs two pounds per square inch UNDER the required rules. The NFL minimum is 12.5. The Pats had their balls at 10.5 (they no official report has yet been issued).
Here are my problems with the Patriot’s cover up.
First, Bill Beli-cheat’s first interview on Thursday, January 22. The one where he said he learned more about football air pressure in the past 3 days than in 40 years. The one where he said he knew nothing. Hmmm. This from the same coach who is notoriously micro-managerial on every aspect of his team. The one who looks at every angle for an edge. The coach who supposedly only “misinterpreted” rules regarding video-taping of opponents defensive coordinator’s signals, but who has no earthly idea about football air pressure. In Belichick’s world, someone brought up the idea of secretly videotaping the opposition to help the Patriots win, but no one ever, EVER, in his 40 years of coaching, ever suggested deflating balls to make them easier to catch and hold. Yes, folks, the Patriots talked about this elaborate scheme to spy on their opponents and even read the rules to see what was legal and what was not. Yet, they never, ever talked about what they might be able to do to make their footballs more manageable.
Second, Tom Brady’s follow up interview later that day. The Patriot’s were in full damage control, trying to deflect attention from yet another violation of NFL rules. Brady told us that he picks out the balls and that they matter to him. This is presumably why he and others lobbied the NFL for the rule change back in 2007 to allow each team to pick their own balls. “When I pick those footballs out, at that point to me they're perfect” Brady said. But this great, legendary QB supposedly didn’t realize two years later, his chosen balls were no longer perfect. If we are to believe Brady, he can’t tell the difference between a properly inflated ball and one that is 1-2 pounds lighter. So much for his method of picking the “perfect” balls. The guy can’t remember what feels ‘perfect’ to him from one hour to the next.
Third, professor Belicheat’s scientific opinings. His final interview, to put the matter to rest, was just too much. He offered the explanation that the Patriot’s properly inflated the balls, but when they were taken out into the cold weather, they deflated on their own. Never mind that the Indianapolis Colt’s properly inflated balls remained properly inflated in the same climate. Who needs facts when we have the NFL convicted cheating coach now turned scientist telling us the climate did it? Oh yeah. And just in case the weather didn’t do it, maybe them “roughing” up Tom Brady’s “leave them like they are” perfect balls caused some air to leak?
Too many miss the point of cheating. I listened to way too many of the sporting world’s talking heads tell us it didn’t affect the outcome of the game. Granted, the way that particular game was played, the Colts would likely have lost if Tom Brady were throwing anvils or beach balls. But the cheating Patriots have profoundly affected both the game and their legacy. When the sun sets on their contemporary dominance of the AFC and we look backwards, we will never know just how good, or how bad the New England Patriots were. If the Patriots earn their fourth Superbowl victory this coming Sunday with Bill Belichick as head coach and Tom Brady as Quarterback, many will say they are the greatest team, greatest head coach and greatest QB ever. But one solid, stubborn fact will overshadow those accolades...cheaters are never great.