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By Tom Cushing

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About this blog: The Raucous Caucus shares the southpaw perspectives of this Boomer on the state of the nation, the world, and, sometimes, other stuff. I enjoy crafting it to keep current, and occasionally to rant on some issue I care about deeply...  (More)

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Uploaded: May 14, 2015

Our national bloodsport has thrown itself for another loss. In the past, I've followed it, played it avidly to the tune of four-months in a cast, but more recently turned away from its primitive, hormonal drumbeat. And now it has completely lost me. I do not understand BradyGate ? perhaps somebody can help out, as others are surely as mystified as I.

In case you've been absent from the planet for the past half-year, it began when several balls used by the New England Patriots in an NFL play-off game were found to be under-inflated. The once-hated Pats (I grew up in Buffalo) only won that game by a margin of about eleventy-to-two. Apparently, the League specifies the psi it wants in the balls, but both teams supply their own orbs for use on offense.

Consternation raged during the interminable run-up to the Big Game (not That one, the regional intercollegiate scrimmage of mild import) -- the NFL's championship contest that goes by a title that can't be used for free. The Pats won that game, too. Presumably all their balls had been thoroughly inspected and scrubbed to the League's satisfaction, for that game, but the jockstraps of the powers-that-be remained knotted.

Thus, the League hired the same attorney who handled the Dolphins' sex-and-race harassment incident a few years ago, to conduct a thorough investigation. As a result of its generally inconclusive findings, the team has been fined heavily, they have lost two coveted draft choices, and their star QB Handsome Tom Brady has been suspended, without pay, for four games (I am guessing that his lost compensation may exceed the amount of the team fine, but I'm disinterested and bad at math).

Now, I have several questions that perhaps someone can answer, and yes ? disclosure: Brady did graduate from my alma mater, with the same academic major even, several years after me.

First: does a mild deflation ? little enough to not have been apparent to the ball handling referees, really matter? Is a football inflated per the rules at 95 degrees in the Miami August the same as one identically tumescent in 20-degree Boston, in January? If it is easier to catch, as seems to be the claim, is it not also easier to intercept? In that rout of the Colts, is there any particular catch that is suspect? And some receivers wear gloves, and stick-um ? don't they, too, make the ball easier to catch?

Second, is this not a self-inflicted wound by the League? Why do the teams supply, and control, their own balls anyway? Just checking them sometime in-advance of kick-off would appear to be an invitation to adapt them to each team's preferences.

I'm aware, for example, that in more-civilized baseball, the home team adjusts the line-up to their stadium, and the stadium to their line-up. Sinker-ball pitcher? Soak-down the higher-mown infield to slow down those grounders. Good bunters? Tilt the baselines inward toward fair territory. As they say in another popular 'sport' (NASCAR): "if y'all ain't cheatin', you ain't tryin'."

Guessing again, but I think the NFL could change the rules and hire minions to care for its balls a Lot cheaper than it will end up expending on this teapot tempest.

Third, there are due process concerns. Do we know that other teams don't do the same thing?

Why single-out ol' Handsome Tom for punishment? The team's center, whose name you don't know, handles the balls on every play, too, and several others often do. Shouldn't they be fined, too? And four games, unpaid, on inconclusive evidence of culpability (if less-than-enthusiastic cooperation) -- when you can clobber your fiancée in an elevator, on videotape, for a lot less of a consequence? What are we, much less America's impressionable Youth, supposed to conclude from this 'crisis?'

The entire Affaire des Ballons Vides suggests poor rules, misplaced priorities, no foresight as to how this would go, scapegoating, poor management processes, a lack of leadership and a general cluster-huddle. They might have avoided most of that by invoking a simple rule change to prevent this over-zealous application of competitive instincts in the future, by everyone.

The Game has many (many) more pressing issues than BradyGate -- problems that are fraying its emperor's robes. That they have chosen to make such a spectacle of this one is not why they've lost me, but it's a part of why I won't be coming back, anytime soon.
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Posted by American, a resident of Danville,
on May 15, 2015 at 7:13 am

I don't thing anyone actually believes that deflated balls was a substantial factor in the outcome of the Super Bowl. I think the issue is having a rule that a team knowingly broke, and that the report suggest Brady more likely than not knew about, may have encouraged, and gave shoes or gifts to those who altered the balls allegedly at his request. It may seem like a small issue, but rules exist for the integrity of the game, and the league has a fiduciary duty to protect the integrity of the game.

Obviously, more important issues in the big picture involve the concussion problems, residual physical and mental affects of the repeated blows to the head, and the epidemic of players committing criminal acts off the field.(such as the Patriots star tight end committing murder)

I agree with you Tom that the passion and love of that game I had as a player and fan many years ago has diminished, particularly at the professional level, although I still love the pomp and circumstance of the college football atmosphere.

The Patriots also have a reputation as "pushing the envelope" when it comes to rules, and "Spygate" and other irregularities by their coach and team in general does affect the integrity of the game. I also think while some people love and cherish Tom Brady, a lot of people think he is a "whiner" and although he claims to be such a wonderful person he left his pregnant girlfriend who he claimed he was going to marry when he met a supermodel(who he later married). He has "lawyered up" with high price attorneys and investigators and will fight this, rather than do what many more honorable players would do by accepting the fine and suspension and donating the money to a charity(such as Rescue Dogs!)

Anyway, my two cents....Personally, I am more concerned about what Billy Beane has done to my beloved A's!

Posted by Michael Austin, a resident of Pleasanton Meadows,
on May 15, 2015 at 9:34 am

Michael Austin is a registered user.

I believe, in my life time, the NFL will implode.
The ridiculous high salaries, the ridiculous show boating on and off the field. The criminal element that is in the NFL, the ongoing injuries issue, the obsessive-compulsive disorder to win, all will cause the NFL to implode.

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