SUPERBOWL WEEK OPED: Throw out the Patriots

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is  under scrutiny after "Deflategate."  Courtesy photo by Guy  Harbert via Creative Commons
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is under scrutiny after “Deflategate.”
Courtesy photo by Guy Harbert via Creative Commons

By Kellen Browning, Editor—

The New England Patriots routed the Indianapolis Colts 45-7 on Sunday, Jan. 18 in a game that should have left no questions in the minds of fans. Yet questions remain, as later it was discovered that Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady was throwing partially deflated footballs (below the 12.5 to 13.5 pounds per square inch requirement), which was deemed to give the Patriots an unfair advantage, since a partially deflated ball is easier to catch.

This begs the obvious question: did the Colts not also benefit from this advantage? They did not, as the footballs are switched out between possessions. The Colts used their own (as far as I know), regularly inflated balls.

Now, a few days from the Super Bowl (in which the Patriots will play the Seattle Seahawks), New England is plagued by the scandal many are calling “Deflategate.” Confusion abounds in the football world, but my solution is simple: disqualify the Patriots from competing in the Super Bowl.

Let me preface this by saying that I don’t know much about football. I only watch the Super Bowl. I had to Google “Colts” to find out where they were from while writing this article. The only football players’ names I know are Peyton Manning, Ray Rice and after this incident, Tom Brady.

But I do know a thing or two about right and wrong.

Here’s wrong: using something like a partially deflated football to gain an advantage over an opposing team. Now the team that played by the rules is out, and the cheaters are moving on.

To be clear, I’m not necessarily saying that Brady or Patriots coach Bill Belichick or any member of the team is responsible. As some are claiming, low air pressure could have had an effect. Or someone unrelated to the Patriots team could have deflated the balls for some unknown reason. We just don’t know.

The simple truth is that it does not matter. Whether it was intentional or not, the Patriots cheated. Cheating, defined by Google, is to “act dishonestly or unfairly in order to gain an advantage.”

Were the Patriots dishonest? We don’t know. Did they act unfairly? Absolutely. Maybe not intentionally, but playing with a deflated ball—on purpose or not—gives them an unfair advantage.

I’ll make an analogy to a sport I am more familiar with—running. I run, and I follow professional track and cross-country athletes just like many Americans follow football. And we unfortunately have cheating in running too, in the form of “doping,” or taking performance enhancing drugs (PEDs).

It’s a sad problem that mars the sport; recently, a series of doping scandals among former Olympic Russian runners even prompted Russia’s top track coach to resign—it’s that bad. And American athletes are no better.

Heralded Olympic sprinters and American record holders Justin Gatlin and Tyson Gay have both experienced several-year bans for doping, and have since been reinstated (which I find deplorable, but I’ll stay on subject here).

So if we can disqualify guys like Gatlin and Gay for cheating, and erase their marks and ban them from competition, why not disqualify the Patriots?

I’m not suggesting that we ban them from play next year, since we really don’t know if they’re culpable or not. If they are not to blame, then it’s sad that they’re being disqualified for the crime of someone else. But the plain fact of the matter remains: they had an advantage against the Colts, and the game wasn’t fair.

Yes, there are plenty who will argue that because the Patriots completely annihilated the Colts, it doesn’t matter that they had an advantage—the result would have been the same. And a majority of the Patriots’ touchdowns came in the second half, after the deflated balls were replaced.

Doesn’t matter. Back to our running analogy, if a marathoner is taking PEDs and wins the race by five minutes, is he or she disqualified? You bet. Did the drugs make a difference? Probably not. The runner probably would have won anyway, but he/she cheated.

So what do we do about the Super Bowl if the Patriots are disqualified? Hey, don’t ask me. I just say that it would be a travesty to allow the Patriots to be in it. But here are some possible solutions.

The Green Bay Packers (who lost in the National League Championships to the Seahawks) play the Colts, and the winner of that game plays the Seahawks.

The Packers already lost to the Seahawks, so we just have the Colts play the Seahawks.

No Super Bowl!
Maybe you think those ideas are crazy, or stupid, or both; they probably are. They certainly would have required some advance planning. But my job isn’t to come up with the solutions, it’s to ask the questions. And right now, we should be asking Brady, Belichick and the Patriots a lot of questions.

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