The evidence is trickling in, and it’s obvious that the New England Patriots were up to something on Sunday, which is to say, no, the deflation controversy wasn’t the weather, it wasn’t an accident, didn’t just happen.
But that having been established, were the Patriots cheating?
That one’s not as easy to answer as you might think.
Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers says he likes his footballs to be inflated more than the standard set by the NFL. Former NFL quarterback Brad Johnson said he paid somebody $7,500 to rough up his footballs before Super Bowl XXXVII.
Kickers used to do whatever they could get away with to the footballs used in games in special-teams situations before the NFL streamlined the kicking game with the so-called K balls.
Switching over to baseball, how many home teams let their grass grow to slow down ground balls or water down the infield dirt to impact an opponent’s running game?
I can speak from experience being courtside at college basketball games in arenas with the heat turned way, way up to create a sauna-like effect to stifle a fast-break team, or turned way down to maybe stiffen an opponent up.
Pitchers scuff baseballs. Bench players, guys on the sidelines, scouts in the stands, try to steal signs. (The rumor persists that The Shot Heard ‘Round the World, the Bobby Thomson home run in the “Giants win the pennant!” game, was tipped.)
NASCAR crew chiefs make tiny adjustments to their setups looking to get an extra mile-per-hour.
(It was “The King,” Richard Petty, after all, who coined the phrase, “If you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin’.”)
Sometimes they get caught; usually they don’t.
The lingering issue here very well might be not whatever New England did or didn’t actively do, but what the Indianapolis Colts were thinking in taking the lid off the cauldron of cheating that is done basically out in the open by everyone, no doubt including the Indianapolis Colts.
Everybody does it. Doesn’t make it right, but neither is it the Watergate break-in.
– Column by Chris Graham