A Ball Problem

If you’re not a Rants Army Regular, you might have clicked this because the current issue surrounding the New England Patriots ‘deflategate’ story is still hot.  To be honest, that story figures into this topic, but I have to admit that as much as I dislike the Patriots in general and Tom Brady in particular, this blog post isn’t exclusively about this hater’s hating hate.

Anyone not living under a rock knows of the allegations that the New England Patriots used under-inflated footballs in their thrashing of the Colts in the conference championships.  Some of you readers may be tempted to remind me that the sport ought to properly be called “Handegg,” but please don’t be a troll.  Anyway, the building drama over last weekend’s game centers on 11 of the 12 Patriots-provided balls being under-inflated by as much as two pounds (per square inch).  Bill Belicheck, the head coach, denies any knowledge of this.  The referees for the game duly checked the balls before the game.  Yet, during the game, the Colts intercepted Brady and noticed the football didn’t feel right.

The NFL will look into this, and I’m guessing they might impose some fines and stuff.  Nothing too extreme, of course, and nothing handed down from on high before the Super Bowl.  Argue if you will, but the fact remains that the balls were correctly inflated before the game and at halftime.  Also, if weather is considered, the Colts’ game balls should have been equally low.  Finally, the one person who ought to have noticed the soggy footballs snap after snap is the one who stood to benefit from their under-inflation the most.  Coincidence?

Personally, I don’t give a damn one way or the other about this particular problem.  What I do give a damn about is a bit bigger, so let’s widen our scope and recall a short list of NFL failures:

Michael Vick: Dog fighting anyone?  He did time out by me in Kansas for a while, but will forever be remembered for this failure of character.

Bountygate: The New Orleans Saints’ secret employee bonus program.

Big Ben’s Big Fists:  The Steelers’ QB was disciplined for sexual assault by the NFL.

Spygate: The Patriots’ effort to use a spy decoder ring for everyone else’s playbook calls from the sidelines.

Fists of Fury: The NFL had to reverse itself on their stance about his KO of then-fiancée caught on film in an elevator.

Deflategate Part 1: The Buccaneers QB admitted to deflating game balls in their defeat of the Raiders in the Super Bowl.

You can look at this short list sort of like a highlight reel of the NFL’s most embarrassing moments, because there are others.  Some of these are individual crimes, some are team-wide violations.  Some reflect misconduct separate from the sport, the team, and the NFL while others speak directly to the root problem I’m complaining about here.

I see that the NFL has a problem here, and that problem is one of culture.  The two deflategate incidents noted here speak to a culture of willful and intentional breaking of rules.  It points to a culture that believes the benefits of an action – even if discovered – far outweigh the penalties the NFL might impose.  It is a culture where cheating is better than playing it straight and following the rules means to the exact word and not the spirit of the rules.

I believe the secondary effect manifests itself in the off-the-field lives of the players.  Individuals surrounded by a culture of rule-breaking I believe are far more apt to force their unwanted attention on a woman, or to flagrantly violate the law because it’s fun and profitable, or to tune their girlfriend up in an elevator.  The culture facilitates the behavior.

This pisses me off for more than one reason.  I love football but I hate watching it because I don’t observe anything that indicates pro football is played for the sheer love of the sport anymore.  Everything comes down to the bottom line, a dollar.  Our Super Bowl is now known as much for the (admittedly awesome) commercials shown, the cost of those ads, and the accidental skin of the halftime shows as it is for the game, the players or the winner.

More disturbing to me is the far-reaching impact this kind of stupidity has.  There are kids today who idolize sports figures, and for good reason.  Each and every player, coach, official and NFL owner ought to keep that in mind.  Their faulty culture can – and will – spread beyond the stadiums, locker rooms and boardrooms of those who like making a buck from a cut corner and flouted rule.  Unfortunately I see more talk about my first point of anger than this one in the media.

That fact doesn’t surprise me a bit, though.  Why would anyone in the mainstream media want to point out how inexplicably successful but undeniably profitable “reality” television is when the corporations who peddle that schlock also own the news organs that report sports stories?  They wouldn’t, of course, because money is money and screw the youngsters out there absorbing the Kardashians and Honey Boo Boo… apparently there’s a difference there, but I can’t see one.

What those who govern and steer the NFL should worry about is exactly what makes reality television so damn hard to watch.  Sports fans want to see a real competition, where the outcome of a game viewed in-person isn’t known until the end of the 4th quarter.  To me, it’s a straight and easy line from “sports” to “staged event according to script.”

And how sad would it be if someday people actually mocked football like they do pro wrestling?

38 Responses to “A Ball Problem”

  1. Those are precisely the reasons my husband would rather watch NCAA, and even that’s becoming tedious. The kids playing college ball now are the ones who are being influenced by the douchetards in the NFL. It’s no wonder we have 19 year olds taking kickbacks, and boys like “Johnny Football” who have people’s heads so far up their butts, that can’t think straight.

  2. Well said!!

  3. Reblogged this on Undercover Surfer and commented:
    Wanted to share Rants’ comments about Deflategate!

  4. I’m really unsure what to make of this. I honestly don’t see much of an advantage being gained by slightly underinflated balls (snicker). That being said, if the NFL determines that someone on the Patriots intentionally deflated the balls then the Patriots should be suitably punished.

    The problem, not just with the NFL, but with all professional sports, is that immature people are being handed gobs of money for the sole reason of being insanely athletic. These people are mainly young men, who aren’t mature enough (for some reason) to realize that, for instance, running a dog-fighting ring for profit (even though you’re already one of the highest paid athletes in the NFL) is not only illegal, but completely nonsensical. And stupid.

    Frankly, any parent who’s kid idolizes an athlete should encourage their child to find a more suitable role model. Athletes are not general worthy of anyone’s adulation.

    • I agree in general. There is some advantage to a deflated football, especially if wet. However, it’s nonsensical as you say because these are supposed to be highly-talented players to begin with. So why cheat? Dunno.

  5. I have to agree. I’ve just about given up on watching/following both professional and collegiate sports, especially football and basketball. The money in both just ruins them for me, and those charged with the responsibility of keeping the sports clean are nothing more than a joke. It’s pretty disgusting.

    Thanks for this post!

  6. Here’s a diehard Pats fan’s take on Deflategate:

    I’ll bet money that under inflating footballs is something all teams universally do, and have done, since a rule against it was put in place. I am also willing to bet it is something that no one (athletes, head coaches or refs) ever talk about. I’d also wager that right this moment every head coach of every NFL team is absolutely bullshit at the Colts for letting the cat out of the bag like some boyscout of a college roomate who rats out the entire dorm for smoking weed because he lost a girl to a jock. Everyone knows it’s wrong, but everyone silently agrees to look the other way. Now that a formal complaint has been made public, the higher ups are forced to respond.

    I see a lot of swirlies in the Colts’ future.

    • You’re probably right, which begs the question, why not re-write the regulations to reflect the more popular ball inflation standard… since everyone apparently enjoys soft balls.

  7. I’m sad that the punishment for cheating in a championship game is fines or a draft pick loss. That’s no punishment. If that’s all…fuck it, cheat every game.

    • Precisely. I’ve been in many organizations and schools where cheating, lying, stealing or even turning a blind eye to that got you the big, iron boot.

  8. This is part of a larger problem. The NFL needs help.

  9. Whoa. That last sentence is a clencher.

  10. You might be surprised (or a host of other more negative adjectives) to know that I think you’re the most intelligent, insightful, and articulate writers in my “feed.” But I do, and this post is one of the many reasons why I think that. My needlessly verbose way of saying, “I agree.”

  11. Integrity seems to be something to be mocked these days, or maybe I’m just getting with the program. Win at any cost, for everyone. Really, if it were a Raiders v Lions SB, who would watch? You and me.

  12. BR…

    Nice rant…. Two quick points of dubiosity, which I relate merely to help clarify your points, which are excellently presented…. Plus, I can never keep my mouth shut anymore…

    In Sun Tzu’s Art of War, upon which many of the strategies of football are based, the most valuable type of warrior is defined as the Spy…. and the best way to defeat an enemy is to obtain good intelligence, which works behind the scenes to sabotage the enemy’s plans, thus winning battles before they begin… The entire sport encourages cheating, in this respect…

    Second, what you describe as a cultural flaw is one that is matched by the identical flaw in human nature, which allows people to adopt the philosophy you relate, to wit: the end justifies any means… a truly dangerous concept, which, to any real philosopher, is a statement of insanity…. No end can possibly justify means which relies on lies, and dishonor…

    Well done…. I foresee a long, mutually agreeable connection developing here; I’m glad H.E. referred you to my site…

    gigoid, the dubious


    • Gigoid, welcome and yes you come well recommended. Your points are sound. My only modification is to your first: under the military concept of spies and espionage, you must accept the risk of discovery. Traditionally, that structure elevates the act above something ethically void of substance. In other words, it’s not cheating because there’s rules and structure. Again, this is a military context.

      Thanks for your thoughts!

      • A valid point, for sure; I will simply point out the application of a set of ethical standards to the actions of the spy, by taking a military viewpoint, may absolve the spy, but, not the spy’s masters…. They are still using rationalization to mitigate, in their own minds, their responsibility for the consequences of their chicanery to innocents. In my book, that only makes them more culpable…

        Thanks; it’s nice to stretch out the neurons first thing in the day….


        • It is good to stretch them. The Geneva Convention applies up to the national level for those who are signatories to it, so ultimately this comes down to one’s personal take on right versus wrong. To my mind, it’s better than some anarchic free-for-all.

          • What you say is true; in fact, just a day or two ago, I posted this quote, from one of my favorite classical philosophers:

            “In a word, neither death, nor exile, nor pain, nor anything of this kind is the real cause of our doing or not doing any action, but our inward opinions and principles.” — Epictetus (c. 60 AD) — Discourses, Book i, Chap xi

            However, there are times in today’s world I feel anarchy may be a better system than the one under which we now labor, as related by this lady’s astute observation:

            “Anarchism is the only philosophy which brings to man the consciousness of himself; which maintains that God, the State, and society are non-existent, that their promises are null and void, since they can be fulfilled only through man’s subordination. Anarchism is therefore the teacher of the unity of life; not merely in nature, but in man.” — Emma Goldman “Anarchism: What It Really Stands For”

            Who knows for sure; all I know now is we’re headed straight for a version of Dante’s Inferno, on an out-of-control wagon, driven by power-mad psychopaths….

            But, the sun is out, and it promises to be another day of crazy-nice, summery weather here in Northern Cali… I guess I’ll go for a walk, and try to forget about it all for a while….

            Good to dialogue wit’ ya….

            gigoid, the dubious

          • Enjoy your day in spite of it all!

  13. You should watch Canadian football – the game everyone loves to play, promote & watch!

  14. The culture of the rules don’t apply to me prevails in the mind’s of elected officials at every way and in the private and public sector as well. Then there is the foolish grandiosity that they feel they won’t get caught. Seems most everything is contaminated with dishonesty. What’s most astonishing is when that married pastor has several “girlfriends” in his congregation. Thanks visit my blog.

  15. Good points all, and thank you.

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