On Monday afternoon, the National Football League became an oxymoron. At about the same time the league was stripping their Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots of two draft picks, fining them a record one million dollars, and levying a four game suspension against defending Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady, Denver Broncos defensive end Antonio Smith was taking the podium during a regularly scheduled presser at the team’s Englewood, CO headquarters.
During that press conference, Smith was asked a rather timely question by KKFN’s Darren McKee. “What do you think about quarterbacks who cheat?” McKee asked. Smith replied, “If you ain’t cheatin’…you ain’t tryin.” That’s a disappointing response. However, it’s not surprising. Neither was Deflate Gate.
It should be noted that I wholeheartedly endorse the punishment the Patriots received on Monday. For nearly six months, all New England has done is lie and deny. Tom Brady has yet to come clean with any type of admission, despite the mountain of circumstantial evidence pointing to his guilt.
In this case, the punishment has little to do with two dopey ball-boys sticking needles into oblong pigskins. It has everything to do with what happened afterword. In this case, as happens so often, the cover-up was worse than the crime. The Patriots deserved what they got.
However, if you truly believe the New England Patriots are the only dishonest organization in the National Football League, you’re either blind or naive. Since you’re reading this in print, you’re probably not blind.
The NFL has a rule about the maximum length of a cleat spike. NFL rule 04-04-e reads, “Conical cleats with concave sides or points which measure less than 3/8-inch in diameter at the tips are prohibited, or cleats with oblong ends which measure less than ¼ by ¾-inch at the end tips are also prohibited.”
Yet, former Steeler, Seahawk, and Patriot Chad Brown said, “If you walk into any NFL equipment room, you’ll find a pile of cleat spikes that are far longer than the mandated size. Equipment managers swap them out on game day.”
Every single player in the NFL does what he can to gain an advantage. Some things are small and perfectly legal. For example, Peyton Manning wears a glove to get a better grip on the football post-neck surgery.
However, some things are bigger, and illegal. Manning’s champion 2006 Colts pumped additional crowd noise into their stadium during the AFC championship game, offensive lineman have been known to pad their gloves with Kevlar to keep their hands from wearing down during a game, the Super Bowl champion Broncos of the late ‘90s were notorious for spraying Vaseline, or silicone on their defensive linemen.
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All of these tricks were (and are) against NFL rules. Yet, believe it or not, teams still employ them. If casual NFL fans really knew how the proverbial sausage was made, the NFL would have fewer casual fans. For professional football players, gamesmanship, even if it falls into the category of cheating, is a way of life. The National Football League is fostering a culture of dishonesty. They know it. That’s what makes Monday’s ruling on “Deflate Gate” so important.
In 2007, the Patriots were given a fine, and stripped of draft picks for spying on opponent’s practices. However, that’s not what they were really being punished for. Prior to “Spy Gate” dozens of NFL teams were employing the same kind of surveillance tactics. The league sent out a memo telling them to stop. The Patriots didn’t. They were punished, and the league sent a clear message. This situation is similar.
Tom Brady is not the only quarterback in the NFL screwing around with the air pressure in footballs. The Patriots are not the only organization bending the rules to get an advantage. They’re just the ones that got caught. They’re the chubby kid who can’t keep his hand out of the cookie jar, no matter how many times Grandma yells at him. Just as it did following Spy Gate, the NFL needed to send a message to their franchises. This ruling does that and more.