It has been widely reported that during the AFC Championship game between the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts that 11 of the 12 game balls were deflated. Deflating a football makes it harder to pass through the air, particularly on longer throws downfield. This was the primary plan of attack for the Colts, as they went to visit the Patriots in New England. With no running game to speak of, and the Patriots new found commitment to running the ball for that game the question has been asked “Did Bill Belichick cheat?”
In the Peoples Court the verdict has already been rendered. The shady history that follows Belichick like a bad fart isn’t clearing up. The sneaky play-calling during games serves as further evidence that Bill will do whatever it takes to win. It was so apparent to the Indianapolis players that they asked the referees to check the ball pressure during the game. After the investigation concluded it appears as though balls were as much as two pounds per square inch under-inflated, compared to league guidelines. It seems suspect that the Patriot players and staff made no comment on the situation.
The game of 21 questions is going to explode across the league as players and coaches alike will wonder how this happened and who is to blame. The only saving grace here is how lopsided the contest was. Inflated footballs, deflated basketballs, or rubber chickens; regardless of what was used for the game the Patriots still likely pick the Colts apart like a Kit Kat on Halloween. Still, there is a need for answers.
If the answers suggest that the infamous Bill Belichick had a hand in puncturing these pigskins what is the leagues recourse? What does the league do if the Patriots win the Super Bowl before the damning evidence is uncovered? As a repeat offender the maximum penalty needs to apply, but seizure of draft picks seems like a slap on the wrist. Perhaps the more lasting penalty will be the one fans and media alike pin on the players and staff surrounding this team. Even a convincing win will carry with it the stench of suspect circumstance. Involved or not, the notion that the success Bill and his team have enjoyed for a decade are the result of bending the rules and not of superb play and coaching. Belichick and Tom Brady may have slam dunk Hall-of-Fame careers scrutinized as cheaters, rather than cherished as innovators.
Guilty by association is sometimes more powerful than guilty. Public opinion sometimes holds more weight than a legal verdict. The facts can often be quagmired by bias views of a person or organization that are the result of a few bad eggs. There are likely only a handful of people that know the absolute truth behind the under-inflated footballs. I hope that regardless of the outcome Bill Belichick and the rest of the New England staff and coaches can look in the mirror and feel good about how they came to be playing in the Super Bowl. So long as they can do this, they have every right to take the field next Sunday.