Culture of Hoops

New England Patriots Are Champs: The Worst Case for the NFL

Image courtesy of Keith Allison/Flickr.

Image courtesy of Keith Allison/Flickr.

If you thought Deflate-Gate was a black eye on the NFL than the New England Patriots Super Bowl victory just turned this into a broken jaw. Is there any doubt in the minds of world that someone on the New England Patriots had something to do with this? I will assume that Bill Belichick and Tom Brady both have their asses covered more thoroughly than Kim Kardashians was for that “Paper” cover. They will not be implicated, nor found guilty of any wrongdoing. It will be some third rate equipment manager who will claim ignorance. The league will demand he’s fired, they will strip the team of draft picks, and the team will hand the guy some cash and a house under the table. It’s just how it will go.

If the Seattle Seahawks had found a way to win than all the punishments seem fair. The Indianapolis Colts are still likely calling for something harsher, but otherwise none of the other teams are really directly impacted. With the Patriots winning it now calls into question both the AFC championship game, and the Super Bowl itself. I don’t think there was any cheating at the big game, but how the Pats got there is questionable. The fact that they arrived through dubious circumstances makes the victory seem tainted, as earnest as it may have been.

Here is where things get really interesting. If Tom Brady is somehow implicated, what does the league do? He’s a golden boy, the face of the league. Seahawks players have already dogged Roger Goodell for his close personal relationship with Patriots owner Robert Kraft. This would be a situation where the commissioner would have to use all his available punishment. Suspending Brady likely isn’t enough; he is probably banned from the league. Now at 38 that’s probably not so bad, but what about the Super Bowl? Had the investigation been more prompt Brady likely doesn’t get to play in the Super Bowl, and then the game likely isn’t even close. But you can’t replay the game, can you? Could you force the Seahawks and Patriots to culminate again in Arizona and play the game over without Tom Terrific? Could you argue that the Colts are not the rightful team to replay the big game?

None of this is an issue if Seattle wins. I have to imagine the league office was secretly cheering for Seattle for this exact reason. Whenever the truth about Deflate-Gate comes out expect all hell to break lose. While certainly not worse than any of the domestic violence scandals the league has had to deal with in 2014 this small act of taking a little air out of some balls may be the largest moral debate the league ever has to face. What do you do with a club that has had instances of cheating captured on numerous occasions under the same ownership and management? What do you do with the players that didn’t even comment on the very obvious feeling of balls that were grossly deflated? The Colts noticed, how could the Patriot players not have noticed? What do you do with a commissioner that may have a conflict of interest assessing and enforcing a punishment? No matter what you do the Patriots winning the Super Bowl clearly was the worst thing that could have happened. In a soap opera this is the most dramatic of outcomes.

For the largest sports league in North America it’s a nightmare of events that is only just beginning.

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