More likely than not, nothing will come from the investigation by the NFL into the allegation that the New England Patriots deliberately tampered and deflated footballs in their playoff win over the Indianapolis Colts. This franchise has a shadowy past when it comes to bending the rules, but there has to be a point in which people stop taking these allegations seriously.
It wasn’t the Colts complaining about the issue. It’s a game official that start it all, and everything took a much bigger scale the moment a TV station in Indianapolis reported the story. Now everyone is an expert in ball air pressure and the proceedings before a game starts – how many balls each teams gets, how many go to the kickers and what the penalty is for actually tampering with footballs, making them easier to throw and catch with less air pressure in them.
The Patriots are taking this with humor, trying to make it seem like just another attempt by the “Haters” to vilify them and belittle their achievements. Sure, there was Spygate which they were punished for, although we never will know the full extent of what was on those tapes because of the mafia-like behavior of Roger Goodell; the Tuck rule is always regarded as cheating by the Patriots, although it was an official making the mistake. Tom Brady getting away with certain things other players never do, from getting in referees face or trying to break Ed Reed’s leg paints him in a bad light. But deflated footballs?
For those unaware of the rules, each team gets their own set of 12 balls before the game, approved, weighed and measured by the officials, plus six more “neutral” balls for the kickers. No one on any team is allowed to tamper with the balls in any way whatsoever. Referees, as you all know, get to touch the balls after every play, and if something doesn’t feel right, they toss that ball aside and take it out of the play.
There’s a very real chance that the balls lost air pressure due to the conditions in the stadium. The rain, the cold, players spiking the ball after touchdowns. Referees are allowed to get rid of balls they feel have been softened by the play, which did happen during the game. But right now we’re not being given any numbers by the NFL of what is a normal amount of balls to go through ‘natural’ deflation during games, and what seems to be more than just the conditions playing their part.
Whether this is something that will actually result in a fine or simply another case of nitpicking and trying to find anything to throw against the Patriots just because they’re successful and perceived as arrogant, it won’t change the most important thing: The Patriots are going to the Super Bowl, with or without another fine (or maybe even more) to not care about. Maybe there was some wrongdoing in a small way, but they didn’t win 45-7 because of air deflation. It had more to do with them simply being a lot better than the Colts.