Why deflated balls are a big deal

Fans across the NFL–including Packers fans–have likely had their fill of Deflategate. And as I post this column, the NFL Players Association is drafting Brady’s appeal to his four game suspension. Four games–a quarter of the season—all for a bunch of flat balls. Oh, that as well as a $1 Million fine and forfeiture of next year’s first round draft choice as well as their fourth round pick in 2017.

I could rehash the entire Wells Report and the whole Free Brady outrage, but I won’t.  Instead, let’s break down the apologist’s arguments and point out the painfully obvious and –oddly enough–how this scandal affects the Green Bay Packers.

  • Excuse #1: Big whoop, it’s just a bunch balls. And the advantage it gave the Patriots did not tip the game in their favor during their victory over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship game.

Yes, it’s true. The Patriots walloped the Colts. Probably would’ve done it, flat balls not withstanding, but why have rules if they are only suggestions? And guess what, the NFL has rules specifically addressing the condition of its game balls. In fact, the NFL rules pertaining to balls are pretty clear:

The ball shall be made up of an inflated (12 1/2 to 13 1/2 pounds) urethane bladder enclosed in a pebble grained, leather case (natural tan color) without corrugations of any kind. It shall have the form of a prolate spheroid and the size and weight shall be: long axis, 11 to 11 1/4 inches; long circumference, 28 to 28 1/2 inches; short circumference, 21 to 21 1/4 inches; weight, 14 to 15 ounces.

At the end of the day, the balls were not up to league specifications when they were prior to the game. Connect the dots how you may, but there was no man on the grassy knoll and the Pats have guy who was self-styled The Deflator.

  • Excuse #2: You hate us because you can’t be us. Everyone is just jealous of the Patriots success and/or everyone just hates the Patriots to hate the Patriots. Insert persecuted complex here, and the league is out to get us.

Not sure if that is a good enough argument to get out of jail. Yet there may be something to this, but it is self-inflicted. When you’ve previously been caught cheating, whether it is school, sports, work, or just life, everyone else is going to pay attention to your future actions a tad bit closer.

Spygate isn’t all that far in the distant past. The Patriots, while consistently one of the best in the league, want to have that competitive advantage, no matter how small. They got burned in 2007 and paid the price. And yes, they were labeled as cheaters.

As in life, there are the laws of natural consequences. Get labeled a cheater in the classroom, and chances are everyone in the room–students and teacher alike–are going to be watching you to make sure you don’t do it again. Cheat on your girlfriend once, and there’s a high chance she’s going to be suspicious every time you check your phone at to read a covert text.  A writer gets caught plagiarizing another’s work? Of course others will be checking any future writings to make sure it isn’t poached.

But that isn’t persecution. That’s life. The suspicion of future infractions goes up. So when the Colts grabbed that ball and it didn’t feel right, of course they’re going to be suspicious.

Don’t want to be accused of being a cheater, then don’t have a recent past history of cheating.

And no, the league isn’t out to get the Patriots. They’re equal opportunity league when it comes to breaking the rules.  The Atlanta Falcons were fined $350,000 and had to surrender their 2016 fifth round draft pick all over canned noise.

God knows that didn’t give them a competitive advantage. Yet they broke the rules and had to accept the consequences once caught.

  • Excuse #3: Aaron Rodgers is just as guilty. He admitted to cheating with balls and Roger Goodell chose to do nothing. He’s singling Tom Brady out.

(See what I did there? I actually brought this back to being relevant to the Packers.)

Yes, the Packers QB has admitted that he prefers balls over-inflated–which is counter to the preference of under-inflated footballs which are easier to grip and catch.

Is that cheating? No, it’s stating a preference. I like to drive 75 mph at times, but I don’t. It’s not exactly safe, and I don’t like speeding tickets. There’s a big difference between wanting and acting on something.

There’s also a big difference in preferring over-inflated and knowing that if they are above that 12.5 PSI when the refs inspect them pregame, knowing that any of them that are above it will have air decanted off and presenting appropriate-weight balls then slipping off to the bathroom mid-game to bleed some air out.

Then there’s the fact that on a really cold day, there’s a good chance that receivers won’t want to catch a rock-hard, over-inflated ball. Flat balls benefit receivers as much as they do passers. Easier to grip, and easier to catch. A 15 PSI rocketball is going to feel like a cinder block when rocketed at a receiver.

Oh, and then there’s the simple fact that the Packers haven’t been accused, caught or punished for cheating. So all of this “But Rodgers is a cheaterpants” is merely smoke and mirrors at  this point.

  • Excuse #4: All teams cheat. The Packers have a history of cheating. You are all hypocrites.

Yes, all teams have a history of cheating. There’s an entire webpage YourTeamCheats.com that outlines the infractions. But when someone wants to throw out there that in 1921 the Green Bay Packers were guilty of recruitment violations involving 3 Notre Dame that they were–clutch the pearls–thrown out of the league and had to buy their way back in as proof that Green Bay is a dirty team, then I am going to take this time to laugh my butt off.

They do realize that this occurred during Warren G. Harding administration, right?

But pay no attention to the Deflator and calluding quarterback behind the curtain with the ball needle.

Did the Packers cheat? Yes, but my grandpa was 12 years old at the time and Prohibition was still a thing. What on earth does this have to do with the New England Patriots getting busted for violating league rules twice in the past decade?

  • Excuse #5: Ray Rice originally only got 2 games for knocking his girlfriend out. Why is Brady getting double that?

Yes, the NFL has screwed up in epic fashion when it came to meting out punishments for violent offenses. But this is comparing apples to hippopotamuses. Good god, don’t make me go find my flying monkeys. There is no comparison. Oh, and while we’re at it, has Ray Rice played a down of football since his two game suspension?

At the end of the day, the NFL decided to play hardball with its rules. The New England Patriots were penalized not only for cheating but also for–and this is what seems to be conveniently swept under the rug–not cooperating, especially Tom Brady who refused to turn over cell phone records (ie, a transcript of his texts because, well, the actually messages are easily deleted off cell phones and Wells respected Brady’s privacy.)

It’s showing that Robert Kraft, while highly influential in the NFL, does not have any more sway or preferential treatment than any other team or owner across the league. It means that fool me once, shame on you and that there will not be a fool me twice within a decade with the Patriots and their cheating.

The Patriots aren’t being persecuted. But they aren’t going to be treated preferentially. Break the rules and there will be consequences. Don’t cooperate with the investigation and there will be even more consequences.

Pundits have no problems laying down the law with dirty players like Ndamukong Suh breaks the rules. And it shouldn’t matter if you are a known dirty player like Suh or the supposed choir boy like Brady. Both broke different rules, and both should accept the lumps that come with willingly breaking rules.

Jealous because the Patriots beat us? That’s what they say. They hate us because they can’t be us.

No, that isn’t the case. The Packers mopped the floor soundly with the Patriots, flat balls notwithstanding, last December. Oh, and then there’s this thing called Super Bowl XXXI…

No, I’m pretty sure it isn’t a jealousy thing.

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Kelly Hodgson is a writer for PackersTalk.com and you can listen to her as a Co-Host of Out of the Pocket. You can also follow Kelly on Twitter at @ceallaigh_k

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  • Hank Scorpio

    Brady’s lack of cooperation into the investigation also factored in to the length of suspension. As did his less than credible claim he did not even know McNally, The Deflator.

    That lack of cooperation extended to the organization as well. I’ve seen several people that took the time to read the entire report note that Wells made it clear he felt they got less than full cooperation from the team

    The NFL takes that point very seriously according to everything I’ve ever read.

  • Horse

    Actually, the gauge that the ref recalls using before the game indicated that only 1 of the 12 Pats balls measured at the half would have been slightly below regulation psi at the start of the game, once the drop in temp was taken into account. They measured halftime psi in only 4 of the Colts’ 12 balls. You can look it up; I suggest reading Florio’s stuff from this week.
    As for “competitive advantage”, Brady was much better in the second half.
    The NFL doesn’t use gauges that are anywhere near accurate enough to satisfy people who can’t grasp nuances of the game and life but have a point they need to prove.

  • Pedro Maiz Creel

    Robert Kraft is crafty. He will do anything to negate the punishment, watch and see.

  • Shavager

    Patriots got fined because they’ve a history under Belichik of pushing rules to the limit of and including cheating to get an advantage–fool me once you’re a fool, the NFL’s not gonna be caught looking foolish again. Brady should’ve come clean and acknowledged knowing–every NFL QB who’s been asked has admitted they would KNOW the ball is not correctly inflated so Brady can’t use that excuse. As far as the Packers beating Patriots last Nov. 30, Gostkowski missed a 47 yd FG that would’ve made that game even closer than the 26-21 win by Packers. I don’t think I’d call it “mopped up”, McCarthy as usual went conservative too much after getting a lead and Pack’s defense let Patriots hang around too long. As for SB XXX1–that was a Brett Favre led Packers win over a Patriots team coached by Bill Parcells FOUR years before Brady would even be selected in draft by Patriots. That’s too far back and too many different players to be relevant to this current coaching staff and players and I believe Parcells had too much respect for football and NFL to tolerate this.

  • Archie

    Brady is a liar and a cheat, not to mention arrogant. I would have suspended him for 16 games. Nuff said.