John Branch, reporting for the NYT on the NFL’s long-awaited report on the Patriots’s systematic under-inflation of game balls:
A short time later, Anderson looked around the locker room. The
two bags of balls were gone. It was the first time in his 19-year
career as an N.F.L. official that Anderson could not find the
footballs before a game, he told investigators.
McNally had taken them out of the locker room without anyone’s
noticing. He turned left, then left again, walking through a
tunnel toward the playing field. Just before he got there, he
entered a bathroom to the left.
He locked the door and was inside for 1 minute 40 seconds,
surveillance footage later showed. He left the bathroom and took
them to the field. And when 11 balls were tested with two gauges
at halftime, after the Colts had raised suspicions following a
second-quarter interception of a Brady pass, they were all below
12.5 p.s.i. Most were substantially lower. One was at 10.5.
The text messages and phone records are damning (and funny). The report makes clear that this was an ongoing effort, not a single-game aberration. This guy McNally called himself “the deflator”.
Here’s the thing. Stating that a cheater won does not imply that he won because he cheated. Tom Brady was an elite quarterback before teams were even allowed to supply their own game balls. (Ironically, Brady himself pushed for the rule change that allowed teams to supply their own balls, subject to pre-game inspection.) He played great in the Super Bowl, a game where the league still supplies the game balls. “They would have won anyway” is no excuse — and it can’t be proven. Cheating is cheating.
Seahawks and Ravens fans might feel differently, but the harm this has done to Brady’s and the Patriots’ reputations far outweighs whatever advantages the under-inflated balls gave them.
★ Thursday, 7 May 2015