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A Fan’s Notes: Having a Ball


  Football is a game of inches—and, apparently, pounds-per-square-inch. By now, you’d have to be living way off the gridiron to not know about “Deflategate”—or “Ballghazi,” depending on the major media outlet covering the story, which is all of them.

After the New England Patriots qualified for Sunday’s Super Bowl by shellacking the Indianapolis Colts, the NFL determined that 11 of the team’s 12 game balls had been underinflated. Supposedly, this made them easier to throw and catch in adverse weather. Unquestionably, it facilitated a slew of lame air puns, bad ball jokes, and totally irrational overreactions from those taking it way too seriously. This got real stupid, real fast.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick claimed, “I'm not a scientist,” as if insufficiently inflated footballs are one of the great mysteries of the natural world. Even Bill Nye, the Science Guy (and admitted Seattle Seahawks fan) stepped in to debunk Belichick’s theory that cold weather affected the air pressure.

“This is isn’t ISIS—no one’s dying,” said quarterback Tom Brady. True. The latest suspect is an unnamed equipment manager—a lone wolf?

Every day, there’s a new leak. A new burst of hot air. Not just on ESPN, but even NPR. CNN is wasting valuable time between missing airliners. Surely this mind-numbing story is some wag-the-dog distraction from the actual brain-smashing on the field. Oh, the NFL is under pressure? So are the Patriots’ balls. I can’t believe it’s gone on this long. I told myself I couldn't possibly join and prolong the ridiculousness.

Yeah, right. And miss out on the fun?

You see, the season’s final game will feature the two teams I least wanted to see, depriving me of any sports fan’s first necessity: a reason to care. But thanks to Deflategate, I’m pumped. I refuse to get deflated. To the cynics, I say: Boo, hissssssssssss.

Because this mess couldn’t have happened to two better teams—it’s a matchup of malfeasance without a true underdog. Belichick has his history of cheating, notably that time his staff videotaped the New York Jets’ sideline signals and earned the coach a half-million-dollar penalty, the heftiest in NFL history. But Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who left scandal in his wake at USC, has been fined repeatedly by the league for prohibited practices, as recently as this year’s training camp.

Sportswriters have lined up to call for Belichick’s job and the Patriots’ disqualification. Patriots owner Robert Kraft has forcefully demanded an apology from the NFL. And who’s to blame for this week’s Snowmageddon that swept New England?

Of course, the Patriots, the Seahawks, and the rest of the NFL are already out in Arizona, where it’s 70 degrees and sunny (I’m assuming). The show—it’s a show, folks—will go on.

I’m just enjoying the twist. The Patriots and their self-pitying fans are indignant. Meanwhile, the Seahawks’ own storyline—the historic, last-second comeback to defend their NFC title—has been eclipsed, and a fan base that thinks they’re the loudest is more or less being totally ignored.

In a season wracked with real moral dilemmas and real pain, this is entertainment. This is a beautiful, silly, perhaps needed reminder that it’s all, still, only a game.

Alas, both teams can’t lose—but, hey, one of them will. That may seem like sour grapes, but call me an optimist: I choose to see the football as half full.

Up To Date A Fan's Notes
Victor Wishna is a contributing author and commentator for Up to Date.