Recently, there has been a furor over a seemingly innocuous incident involving the under-inflating of some footballs used in an NFL playoff game between the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts. On the surface, the incident might appear to be a tempest in a teapot. But is it?
The accusation is that someone affiliated with the home team, the Patriots, lowered the pressure in 11 of the 12 balls supplied by them for the game, thereby giving some kind of advantage to quarterback Tom Brady and, by extension, the New England Patriots. The final score was Patriots 45, Colts 7. Somehow, I doubt that a pound or so of missing air had much to do with the outcome of the game. So, one might argue the whole affair is “much ado about nothing.” And, they might be correct―except for one small detail: the 12th ball. Why was that ball inflated correctly? Did the culprit merely forget to remove the prerequisite volume of air from it? Or was it because that ball was the one intended for kickoffs, punts, extra points, and field goals? My suspicions are that it was the latter.
Still, whether or not the balls were deliberately deflated or not is of very little consequence in the scope of things. It may or may not have affected the outcome of the game. Most would agree that it probably did not. “So what’s the big deal?” you might ask. “After all, it’s just a football game. Why does it matter?” It matters because actions have consequences, and the action I’m talking about is not the actual removal of the air from the footballs; it’s something entirely different.
Beginning on Monday following the game, and every day since, reporters and sports talk show hosts have joked hysterically about”Deflategate,” as it has come to be known. They laugh as they conjecture who may have done it, citing everyone from Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick or QB Tom Brady, all the way down to the equipment manager, or even a “hired gun.” The lighthearted banter includes proposed punishments that range from denying the Pats their first-round draft picks (that’s not going to happen), to an assortment of exorbitant fines that could be levied against an individual or the organization itself (much more likely to occur).
But there is one overriding theme in the banter surrounding the incident: no one, not one single person, has condemned the supposed offense as being wrong. They just don’t take it seriously. They all implicitly condone what may have been done by mouthing such rationalizations as “Hey, everybody does it!”; “Big deal, they all try to get an edge.”; and “They’ve been doing stuff like this for years.” Wink, wink. “It only counts if you get caught” has become the mantra of our society. And there’s the problem.
What kind of example does this set for our young people? What does it say about society in general? It’s become accepted practice to do whatever you can get away with. And sports is just the beginning. Cheating is pervasive, be it in the schools, the workplace, or in sports. It’s even spilled over into politics (or maybe that’s where it began). Do you remember these words? “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.” What was that, if it wasn’t cheating? But it’s all laughed away and not taken seriously.
The “real” message of “Deflategate” is that it’s a very slippery slope that we are sliding down toward a place where truth will not matter and integrity will be meaningless. And we are descending at an alarmingly fast pace. So how do we stop the slide? That is the real question. Perhaps Deflategate will provide and answer. But I wouldn’t hold my breath.
Do you have an opinion on Deflategate? We’d love to hear it.
In the meantime, go Seahawks!