Deflate-Gate is another example of how out-of-step running is in today’s sporting world. In a classic example of “all publicity is good publicity”, the NFL is going to see the highest rated annual TV show now go through the retractable roof next Sunday in Arizona’s University of Phoenix Stadium for Super Bowl XLIX, all because some footballs had two psi too little air in their bladder last weekend at the AFC Championship game in Foxborough, Mass. Or maybe running is just too pure for what the world has become.
You see, foot racing is really simple, point A to point B, first one in wins. No style points, no arbitrary ref calls (except for that indoor 3000 last year at the USATF Championship), and pretty much conscientious out-of-competition drug testing. If you lose, it’s relatively easy to accept, because it’s all on you. It’s not because the coach didn’t put you in, or the guy didn’t throw or kick you the ball. It’s start to finish, plain and simple. See you there. Obviously, there is cheating, but as we’ve seen with the recent Russian and Kenyan situations, the fight against it is ongoing.
Yet with its DeFlate-Gate kerfuffle the NFL has no one to blame (or congratulate, depending on your level of cynicism) but itself. It wanted it both ways, to seem to have a level playing field, while allowing the foxes to run the hen houses. So Instead of every team playing with the same footballs, like every baseball team plays with the same baseballs — a no-brainer in terms of an even playing field — the NFL caved in to the Dynamic Duo, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.
In 2006 Brady and Manning lobbied for visiting teams to be allowed to bring 12 broken-in balls of their own to every away game, because God knows it wasn’t enough to strip defenses from playing, you know, defense – for heaven sakes, don’t breath hard on the wide receivers — no, with all those passing records making billionaires out of millionaires and millionaires out of everyone else, and the NFL rising above baseball to become America’s new pastime, a little wink, wink, nod, nod at how the game is played isn’t going to be noticed, is it? Yeah, and all those home runs crushed by pharmaceuticaly enhanced head-swellers, where was the harm in that?
So now that Mr. Bill has explained scientifically how the game balls in the AFC championship could have possibly deflated slightly not through any mendacity, but due to atmospheric changes and ball preparations (i.e. rubbing, scuffing, chewing, gnawing), other coaches and players scoff and say, J’accuse!, because it’s just another Belicheat transgression ala Spy-Gate, and/or the NFL protecting its golden boy Tom Terrific, because Patriots owner Robert Kraft has made commissioner Roger Goodell his personal hand-puppet.
Imagine if the rule had been turned around. You’re not allowed to scuff the surface of the ball to make it easier to grip, but were allowed to manipulate the air pressure a little to achieve the same effect. Then, what they’re doing now would be a flagrant breaking of the rules. As it is, teams are basically doing whatever they want to break the ball in, and that’s fine. But can you Imagine a baseball pitcher being allowed to take a half-hour before the game to scuff up several dozen baseballs? Every pitcher would suddenly have Pedro Martinez stuff.
But behind it all, even the name Deflate-Gate – an ongoing homage to Watergate — shows a society that has become defined by opposition and suspicion, fear and paranoia. We have seen it in Washington since the beginning of the republic, but it has metastasized throughout the culture in the last several generations.
It’s the assumption that everyone cheats on taxes, inflates on resumes, and pads the expense account. It is legalized gambling to pay for education, as if that doesn’t teach a counter-productive lesson in itself. It is the politics of gerrymandering every congressional district until entrenched camps are pitted bitterly against one another with no middle ground left upon which to meet. It is the “Have it Your Way” Burger King marketing campaign of the 1970s brought into every one of life’s situations. And if that motto isn’t met, then bring out the heavy artillery and show ‘em who not to be screwing with.
DeFlate-Gate is just today’s cultural expression of an exhausted people looking for the worst in others to explain our fatigue and loss of standing.
Here’s the fix. You guys prepare your footballs, we will prepare ours. But just like in the prize fight game where a representative from each camp sits in to watch how the other fighter’s hands are wrapped so no funny business takes place, let a representative from each team sit in on game day ball selection and inflation. Then those are the balls that will be used.
Or, make it the way we used to split up our weed in college. One guy separates the pot into two piles, then the other guy gets to choose which pile he wants first. Believe me, if it works in the paranoid world of weed selection, it can work anywhere.
It is all arbitrary shit. Select the balls, play the game.