The NFL’s latest PR crisis in a season full of them is the equivalent of a speeding ticket.
And if it were any other team and any other head coach, a story that somehow has become A1 news would be fading.
The case of 11 slightly deflated football thrives for a few reasons: It’s the Patriots, it’s Bill Belichick, and this feeds our insatiable desire to see people we perceive as pompous jerks burn and our chance to bring another winner down.
What Confucius said about when seeking “revenge, dig two graves” does not apply here.
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What the Patriots did — and they did — was a nothing. Even the Colts conceded their blowout loss in the AFC title game had nothing to do with the ball.
What the Patriots did is home cookin’.
On Monday, Dallas Mavericks center Tyson Chandler told me the story about how one NBA Western Conference team was known to put more air in the balls. Every player knew it, and I asked him if that meant Tom Brady knew the footballs he was handling were different.
“He knew,” Chandler said.
The team wanted a harder bounce, and a harder missed shot that would create a longer rebound. It’s a clear violation of league rules, but all parties involved dealt with it.
I asked him if what the Patriots did was cheating, or home-field advantage.
“Home-field advantage,” he said.
Agreed. This type of activity has been going on in pro sports for decades, and given enough time, such stories become warm and fuzzy, and full of nostalgia.
Sports is full of bedtime tales of teams bending the rules at home to their advantage. During the Showtime days, the Lakers were known to put more air in the ball because Magic Johnson liked the high bounce.
The Celtics were known to turn up the heat in the opposing locker room at the Boston Garden. And every home clock operator is fast or slow on the finger, depending on the situation.
As long as it doesn’t involve a syringe, “home-field advantage” is accepted with a wink and a shrug. Only the Patriots could screw up this long-accepted practice.
On Monday, a report from Fox’s Jay Glazer said that the league has a talked to a ball boy, who is “of interest,” and might have a video of the footballs in question. You know you are having a bad day when your ball boy is a person of interest. And it’s funny how the league can find this video but not the Ray Rice footage.
The Patriots do not get a pass for simply exercising home-field advantage, and not because they have a track record of living in the grays of the rules. Do not believe for a minute Belichick invented these behaviors, whether it was taking some air out of a football, or spying on another team’s practices. His mentor — Bill Parcells — has won two Super Bowls.
The difference is we in sports hate Bill Belichick. Outside of the greater New England area, we can’t stand The Hoodie. That is all this is about.
It is comical that the man who has enabled Belichick’s success —Tom Brady — has avoided our wrath for the duration of the Patriots’ run even though he has directly benefited the most from his head coach’s envelope-pushing ways. Brady has escaped the hate because he’s pretty, he has a smokin’ hot wife, he was funny on Saturday Night Live, and he is mostly kind in front of the cameras.
What Belichick is going through right now is a result of his insistence on acting like a Grade-A horses you-know-what. If he had ever bothered to act remotely decent and kind, the NFL would not be forced into the situation of knowing it must bring the hurt on a guy who has done what so many coaches have done for decades.
Outside of New England, there is no love for this man. There is nothing but envy, whether it’s from fans, media or NFL people who want to see him get got.
If this was your team, you would be rationalizing and justifying his behaviors to the letter because he’s one of yours...whatever that means. But the Pats aren’t your team, and this is not your head coach.
What this should be about is just another case of home cookin,’ but it’s much more than that because we simply don’t want to see the Bad Guy keep winning.
Confucius is right about revenge, but sometimes we can’t help ourselves.
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