By RISHABH KAPOOR, junior
Football has finally taken over baseball as America’s national pastime. Every Sunday, the entire league plays the game and teams are cheered on by their countless fans; whether at the stadium screaming in team-colored face paint or at home excitedly jumping and tipping over the snack table, fans of football have proven that they are now the majority of the country. So if there were to be a huge cheating scandal in the National Football League (NFL), everyone would know about it. And if you have checked the news on the TV or online anywhere between now and last January, chances are you’ve heard of it too: Deflategate.
As football fans will know, the New England Patriots won the Super Bowl this year, closely defeating the Seattle Seahawks in a 28-24 win. The celebration by the Patriots organization and fans alike was very well deserved, after working hard to maintain a 12-4 record throughout the season and overcoming a fairly tough road in the playoffs. The victory was especially sweet because of what had been said recently about the Patriots and their star quarterback Tom Brady. The team’s fearless leader had been thrown around in articles and the news, with experts questioning how much time the quarterback has left on the field, as he is thirty-nine years old. The past few seasons, the Patriots had missed the opportunities to get themselves back into the Super Bowl, losing in the playoffs after consistently dominating during the regular season. The dynamic duo of Coach Bill Belichick and Tom Brady was being criticized for having gone on too long. However, with another great season last year, this time concluding with the acme of winning the Super Bowl, Belichick and Brady had instantly silenced the skeptics.
It wasn’t until the unfathomable euphoria faded away that many realized there was an enormous scandal underneath. According to reports by ESPN, eleven of the twelve footballs used during the first half in the Patriots’ AFC Championship Game vs. the Indianapolis Colts were significantly under inflated compared to standard regulations. During the game, Brady threw an interception to Colts’ D’Qwell Jackson, who then gave the football to a Colts equipment manager for safekeeping. The manager measured the pressure of the ball on the sideline, and found it to be less than usual. Chuck Pagano and the Colts then told the officials, who then measured the twelve Patriots balls during halftime. The findings were shocking, indicating that eleven of the twelve were underinflated, likely due to human tampering. Early reports revealed that the balls were two pounds per square inch lower than the regulated amount. This was imperative to the scandal because having it deflated that much could mean a huge difference for the players. It is very possible that the Patriots and Brady like playing with deflated, less airy footballs. Otherwise, they could have just been trying to throw off the Colts in an unsportsmanlike manner such as this. However, these reports were later refuted, saying that only one of the eleven was two pounds lower than the regulated amount.
In May 2015, the NFL began an investigation into the deflated Patriots’ balls. Coach Belichick stated in January that the Patriots would “cooperate fully” with any investigation, even though he didn’t know anything about the under-inflation of the balls until the day after the game. Tom Brady called the allegations “ridiculous,” denying any possibility that he tampered with the balls to make them easier to throw or catch. The Wells Report was published by the NFL on May 6, which stated that it was “more probable than not” that the Patriots broke the rules deliberately. It also said that quarterback Tom Brady was probably at least “generally aware” of the situation beforehand and as it happened, doing nothing to prevent it. The report focuses on locker-room attendant Jim McNally and equipment assistant John Jastremski. Texts between the two were found to have used the words “deflation,” “inflation,” and “needles” several times. It says the two likely deflated the footballs after being tested by some officials. The report also included many scientific studies, supporting the fact that no physical or environmental factors could account for the deflation other than human intervention.
After many mixed reactions from the report, the NFL announced on May 11, 2015 that it would suspend Tom Brady for four games in the 2015 season without pay. Whether or not you agree with the decision, NFL’s Commissioner Roger Goodell believed at the time that it was the right thing to do, saying the decision was based on “conclusive evidence” that Brady was involved in the deflation of the footballs. However, an appeal was filed to finally put the entire scandal to rest for the good of the sport. This September, U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman erased Brady’s suspension, saying that Goodell went too far in punishing the quarterback.
It’s now well into the 2015 season, and Tom Brady and the Patriots are on a roll. They’re undefeated so far, into the first three games. Brady has been as efficient as always, and no one can tell from the way the team is playing that they have just recently concluded one of the biggest scandals ever in the NFL. That can only be a tell-tale sign that this was one of the most overly dramatic scandals as of late. Tomorrow, when all is said and done, no one will remember or obsess about the the footballs in the first half of the AFC Championship Game. All that will be remembered is that deflategate was very much overinflated.