Aside from politics, I can’t think of another field of work in which maintaining trust matters less than in the NFL.
The latest pro football scandal, dubbed DeflateGate features the New England Patriots. The charge: they purposely deflated their footballs in last week’s AFC championship game to gain a competitive advantage.
Apparently, NFL officials inspected the balls used by the Patriots at halftime and 11 of 12 were underinflated. And, an underinflated ball, say the experts, gives one an advantage when passing in wet, rainy conditions.
If proven true the NFL is considering an appropriate sanction against the Pats. Some suggest a steep fine. Others say the league should ban Pats Coach Bill Belichick from sidelines of the Super Bowl. Were I making the decision, I’d hit New England where it hurts most: by benching star quarterback Tom Brady.
Anything less than a Brady benching would be yet another slap on the wrist, band-aid response from a league that is notorious for not really caring about its image and reputation (think: Ray Rice, head concussions and domestic violence, to name just a few examples).
But, here’s the saddest thing of all: the NFL fan base doesn’t really care either. The game remains larger than life and fans still turn out in record numbers.
I’m sure someone at the NFL must care about image, reputation and maintaining trust with the consumer. But, it seems as if the conventional wisdom at league headquarters remains taking action only when public opinion demands it (and applying the mildest of reprimands).
Needless to say that sort of foot-dragging would put any other sort of business out of business.
More evidence the NFL was to blame…
Former NFL quarterback Jeff Blake says he oversaw the deflation of footballs on the sideline right before games during his career. Speaking on “The Midday 180” out of Nashville, Blake said the practice was common.
Jeff Blake played for seven NFL teams, including the Bears during his final season (2005).
“I’m just going to let the cat of the bag, every team does it, every game, it has been since I played,” Blake said. “‘Cause when you take the balls out of the bag, they are rock hard. And you can’t feel the ball as well. It’s too hard. Everybody puts the pin in and lets just enough air out of the ball that you can feel it a little better. But it’s not the point to where it’s flat.
“So I don’t know what the big deal is. It’s not something that’s not been done for 20 years.”
Many other NFL quarterbacks have said the opposite, that they’ve never messed with the inflation of a ball or seen anyone do so. The topic has come to the forefront with the New England Patriots being investigated by the NFL due to allegations the team used underinflated footballs in the first half of the AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts.
Asked to be specific about the timing of deflation, Blake said it regularly happened as soon as quarterbacks got the balls before the game.
“As soon as they give them the balls,” Blake said. “On the sideline before the game. The quarterbacks would come out to warm up in pregame … I would just say, ‘Take a little bit out, it’s a little bit hard.’ And then they’d take a little bit out and I’d squeeze them and say ‘That’s perfect.’ That’s it.”
Blake played for seven teams in 13 seasons, starting 100 games. His longest tenure was six seasons with Cincinnati.
His last year was 2005, so during his career when his team was on the road, Blake would not have handled the footballs until pregame.
In 2006, NFL quarterbacks successfully got the NFL to change the rules and allow each team to provide its own balls for games, which would then be turned over to officials before the game.
So if New England wins Sunday and the investigation reveals a fraud, will they have to give back the championship?
That was the only way to catch Eklin’s Joe Kapp like knuckle balls.
I blame the NFL as well. But, in your case, Lance, I still blame your 1967 MFL Bears for deflating the football that made Donny Ecklin the Tom Brady of RP.
The NFL is to blame…they should have taken control of the balls long ago. While the media didn’t spend much time on the long standing practice…Especially Brad Johnson’s admission that he paid $7,500 to deflate the balls in his Super Bowl winning performance for Tampa Bay vs the Raiders…the NFL clearly allowed this dirty little secret to go on way too long.
You both make valid points. I see the Patriots as the NFL’s answer to the 1919 Chicago Black Sox, eight of whom were banned for life for cheating. When there’s no accountability, guys like Belichick will continue to game the system, The NFL will administer a mild slap on the hand and the fans will settle into their BarcaLoungers equipped with beer and popcorn and caring less about underinflated footballs. Maintaining audience trust never enters the equation.
While I think the NFL needs to reincarnate Judge Mountain Landis, send Goodell packing and reinstate accountability, there’s no evidence the fans give a damn.
Just last week, didn’t the NCAA just give back to Penn State the championships taken away because of the Sandusky horror? I don’t hear a lot of outrage: “Oh, sorry we did that. CYA, you know. The heat’s off now, so It’s like it never happened. We’re all good, right?”
The best response to the tremendous cynicism in pro and college sports is increasingly to tune it out.
I’m saying they don’t care about the NFL reputation.
The fans care, particularly if they are gambling fans and are betting the over/under.
Greg, I don’t disagree with you 🙂 Of course cheating is WRONG. But, Rep is RIGHT. Fans don’t give a rip about the NFL’s reputation.
The score is irrelevant if they are found cheating. That’s why the officials throw flags for infractions. Those are during the game. This is after the fact. 15-yards or benching a player for a game is not enough. Did Brady deflate the balls? Was it a ball boy? Who instructed the ball boy to do it? Was it Brady? We’ll probably never know. So kick the TEAM aside and maybe someone will get the message. What kind of message is being sent to the youth who play the game? Oh, I can cheat because no one’s going to catch me. What happened if you were caught cheating in school? Did you teacher give you and A or a B. Probably not. I would think an F. Maybe a strong message will deflate some egos.
Greg: What about this keeps another team from preparing for the Stupid Bowl? And , the Patriots pummeled the Colts, 44 to 7. Do ya’ think an imperceptively under-inflated ball is worth 37 points? But the bottom line is football is not a high-brow sport. It’s NASCAR without the cars. Integrity and honesty aren’t worth the cost of a hotdog.
Bench Brady? Heck, no. The NFL should have conducted a thorough and swift investigation into the allegations and then had New England stripped of its AFC Championship and had Indianapolis represent the conference.
What happened to sportsmanship? Heck, how many Olympians have won medals and then been stripped of those medals after going through drug-testing. The Patriots have been involved in wrong-doing a number of times. It’s a farce. It’s all about the money. How can the league operate as a non-profit when it’s making billions of dollars?
But the more the league sits on its hands and does nothing, there’s no way for another team to properly prepare for the ultimate game of the season — the Super Bowl.