Does anybody out there have an opinion on whom Richard Sherman will cover, and how might it turn out a week from Sunday?
Right now, nobody has said word one on Super Bowl XLIX itself, which at present is still listed as pick âem in Las Vegas between the Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks.Â All anyone can talk about is DeflateGate, made worse thanks to the NFL revealing that it has found that 11 of the 12 game balls used by the Patriots from Sundayâs AFC Championship at Gillette Stadium against the Indianapolis Colts were two or more pounds per square inch below NFL standards.Â It has become a national news story, way beyond any local spin or muse.
Both Bill Belichick and Tom Brady held press conferences on Thursday to address this issue.Â Belichick said he had no knowledge of any wrongdoing until he was informed of the situation on Monday morning.Â He offered that quarterbacks and specialists like to have the ball a certain way, and that any questions should be directed to the proper affected individuals.Â This would seem to throw Brady under the bus, and that may have been the Patriot game plan all along.Â Brady denied any wrongdoing, spoke in very somber tones about the integrity and respect for the game, and also offered that âmore people have more information on this than I do.â
Tom Brady has denied altering game footballs and has said he has no knowledge of such on Sunday during a press conference on Thursday.
(USA TODAY Images)
This subject has completely dominated the Boston sports scene.Â It is all anyone can seem to talk about.Â Entire talk shows deal with this one and only subject.Â Opinions are flying all over the place, ranging from the national and local perception of the Patriots to the audacious and hyperbolic view that the Patriots should vacate their conference championship and not go to the Super Bowl.
Enough already.Â Letâs just talk football.Â To be more specific, how in the hell are the Patriots going to beat the Seattle Seahawks next Sunday night.
This column does not advocate cheating or subverting league rules.Â If the Patriots did something wrong, let them be punished for it.Â If you are a Gilbert and Sullivan aficionado, you might want to remember the famous line âLet the punishment fit the crime!â and work off it.Â But even before considering what should happen to the Patriots if it is concluded that they did indeed doctor footballs for the AFC Championship Game, or other games as well, letâs analyze this whole situation and expose it for what it really is.
This has become a story.Â A very juicy and seductive story.Â A story with legs more beautiful than Betty Grable’s.Â This Super Bowl promises to be one of the best matchups on paper in years, if not ever.Â Add a story like this to the mix, and you have the makings of this Super Bowl being the biggest spectacle in the last 50 years.
The NFL has to be doing cartwheels and summersaults.Â It is feeding the story-hungry media just right, and thanks to the interaction between the two of them, you are looking at a huge advertising bonanza for the league.Â Both the league and media are getting what they crave:Â money and copy.Â To both entities, it is the equivalent of being alone with the object of your desires and you just got the green light.
The NFL will propagate this story to the maximum, let the media do their thing, raise the level of interest to the prospective viewers who will turn in to the broadcast, especially those outside of New England and Seattle, and then start lining their pockets when itâs time to set advertising rates.Â The media will take this story and run with it like they have never run with a story before, generating more web hits, viewers and listeners to listen to and read every word they have to say.Â Actual game analysis will have to be set aside.Â This story is much more important to both the league and the media.
If you are paying close attention, all you are hearing is reaction from the media.Â NFL players who are going on record are not condemning the Patriots or the practice of preparing game balls.Â Aaron Rodgers has said on several occasions that he prefers harder balls.Â Brad Johnson, the winning quarterback for Tampa Bay in Super Bowl XXXVII, said he had balls scuffed on a regular basis.Â Former Arizona quarterback Matt Leinart dismissed all this as a non-story and said that it goes on all the time.
And how about the Colts?Â An ABC News report said that DâQwell Jackson, who intercepted a Brady pass on Sunday which more or less became the linchpin for this whole thing, said that he didnât feel anything unusual about the ball he picked off.Â âIf anybody recognized anything, it definitely wouldnât come from me,â said Jackson.Â Tight end Dwayne Allen tweeted â(The initial report on Fox was) not a story.Â They could have played with soap for balls and beat us.Â Simply the better team.âÂ Nobody in the Colt organization has cried foul.
If the Patriots are indeed found guilty, fine them and take a way a draft pick.Â Period.Â Then get on with things as usual.Â Quit this vacating the conference championship malarkey.Â Quit this condemnation of the Patriot brand.Â Quit this overblowing of some indiscretion which probably goes on all the time and which had no effect on any game.
If anyone needs scrutiny, it is the NFL itself.Â Once the balls are inspected and marked by the referee (Sundayâs referee at Gillette Stadium was Walt Anderson), why give them back to the Patriots?Â In MLB, the home team provides a gross of baseballs which go to the umpires to get rubbed up with Delaware River mud and retained by them for use during the game.Â It is foolish for the referee to mark the balls and then give them back to the home team, leaving the possibility of skullduggery open.
The NFL needs to revamp its handling of game balls before each game.Â League officials, not home team officials, should take charge of all game balls two hours before game time.Â The home team should furnish their mandated quota of a dozen footballs, then relinquish all control of them two hours before kickoff, and let league appointed officials take complete control from that moment on.Â That way there will be no chance of any irregularities taking place, in the name of gamesmanship, cheating, or otherwise.
Until this happens, this affair will continue to be more than what it really is.Â The NFL wants more notoriety added to this game, and the media needs stuff like this to keep themselves busy and relevant.Â Unless you take the time to listen critically, you will be sucked into this maelstrom of shock journalism.
Meanwhile, one has to wonder how much more time will Belichick and Brady be taken away from what is really important, that being how in the hell they are going to beat the Super Bowl Champion Seahawks.
And would some reporter or sports talk show or commentator offer up some idea as to who Sherman will cover, how his left arm will hold up, and what Bradyâs second and third options should be if Sherman blankets Julian Edelman.
At least we know that football inflation or deflation wonât be a problem.Â Thank goodness.