Letting the Air out of the Patriots’ Legacy

Belichick Brady

The team representing Beantown suddenly has its reputation sullied by a lack of gas.

While the facts are still being (ahem) digested, the foul stench of Deflate-gate has already emitted a dark, putrid cloud over Super Bowl XLIX. Part of the appeal of athletic competition is the implied sense of purity – that the superior team prevails because they earn their victory on a fair field of play.

Integrity and fairness matter.

We have yet to hear a definitive judgment from the league, but three facts are abundantly clear:

1. According to ESPN, 11 of the 12 footballs “were inflated significantly below the NFL’s requirements.”  That’s a 91.67 percent failure rate.

2. Tom Brady has previously voiced his preference for under-inflated footballs. He said in a 2011 interview with Boston radio’s WEEI: “But when Gronk[owski] scores – it was like his eighth touchdown of the year – he spikes the ball and deflates the ball. I love that, because I like the deflated ball.” According to some NFL experts and players, an under-inflated football is easier to grip and catch – particularly during a rainy day. And the weather conditions during the AFC Championship Game in Foxboro? By the second half, it was in the 40s, with heavy rain, and gusts of wind.

3. The Patriots have a track record of cheating. In 2007, the NFL penalized the Patriots $750,000 (the NFL fined the organization $250,000 and head coach Bill Belichick $500,000, which was the maximum fine allowable by the NFL and the most severe fine for a coach in league history) and stripped the franchise of its 2008 first-round draft pick after the NFL found them guilty of videotaping the New York Jets’ sideline signals. The scandal became infamously known as Spygate. Don Shula, the all-time winningest head coach in NFL history, recently referred to Bill Belichick as “Beli-cheat.”

In short, the whole thing stinks. Somebody let the air out of Beantown’s Super Bowl euphoria.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is 37-years-old and in the twilight of his career. Head coach Bill Belichick is 62. Both rank among the very best at their professions. Brady is a fiery competitor who once won 21 straight regular season games (2003-2004) and owns the NFL record for the most consecutive playoff wins (10). Belichick is a bold, gutsy risk-taker and recently surpassed Dallas Cowboys legend Tom Landry as the NFL’s all-time leader in playoff coaching victories (21). Throughout their intertwined careers, nobody has ever doubted their passion, aggression, or competitive spirit.

That’s why it’s so stunning to see their reputations being castigated because something, apparently, is amiss with their balls.