Wilson's Word: DeflateGate just won't die

It's probably impossible for Colts fans to let go of controversy involving their hated rivals from New England. But please try.

Have you moved on from DeflateGate yet?

If not, and you’re an Indianapolis Colts fan, please do.

That might be a bit difficult because we in the media keep it at the forefront of NFL news. New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is sticking up for quarterback Tom Brady, as you would expect, and getting a lot of national pub.

But as Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano recently said, “We’ve moved on.” I know I did a long time ago.

A fan and longtime diehard supporter of my work asked for an opinion, so I wrote it. Once. A long time ago, back on Jan. 23.

Bottom line, under-inflated footballs didn’t impact how the Colts lost 45-7 to the Patriots in January’s AFC Championship Game in Foxborough, Mass. The balls were properly inflated in the second half, when the Patriots outscored the Colts 28-0. So in terms of what should matter to the losing team, the better team prevailed. And it wasn’t close.

My resistance to revisit this issue is probably short-sighted because those who live in the online world prosper on stuff that generates clicks. It seemed like anything else written would be strictly for my business purposes, not shedding any interesting perspective on NFL business.

But it’s May, and there’s still buzz. So I revisit, then will move on yet again.

It’s understandable for Colts fans to get excited about this. In walking around Indianapolis Motor Speedway the last week, people have repeatedly brought up DeflateGate, as much as anything involved with the Indianapolis 500, to be honest.

Passionate Colts fans, the most intense, hate the Patriots. They can’t stand the sight of Brady or head coach Bill Belichick. These guys have beaten the Colts so many times over the years, including the last two playoffs by double digits.

Sports rivalries with true contempt are part of the fabric of the NFL. Colts fans want to see Brady go down, if not on the field, then off it.

But I would submit as a reminder that the only truly satisfying result is for the Colts to beat the Patriots, Brady and Belichick, on the field, especially in January. That’s why that AFC Championship Game in 2007 at the RCA Dome ranks as one of the greatest in this franchise’s history since arriving in Indianapolis.

DeflateGate became more about something else than just the weight of footballs. It won’t go away because Brady didn’t give up his cell phone as part of the investigation. He didn’t fully cooperate.

The perception is that the Patriots, specifically Brady, are challenging the authority of the league. And it’s easy to assess guilt based on the previous SpyGate transgression, a 2007 videotaping violation that cost Belichick $500,000, the Patriots $250,000 and a first-round draft choice.

This time, Patriots fans will echo Kraft’s contention that the evidence is circumstantial and it can’t be proven Brady knew what was going on. But, two Patriots employees mentioned prominently in the Wells Report for their roles in the footballs being under inflated were suspended by the team. If they didn’t do anything wrong, the team wouldn’t have done that.

And more to the point, why would these guys take it upon themselves to do this to the footballs? Brady didn’t know? Seriously?

The NFL smacked the four-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback with a four-game suspension, an apology-demanding Mr. Kraft instead got hit with a $1 million fine and the team lost two draft picks, including next year’s first-round choice.

The punishment, of course, is being appealed. And it has been debated, everything from too harsh to too lenient. The debate will continue to rage on long after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell rules on the appeal.

From a Colts perspective, the only lingering question is whether Brady’s suspension will be reduced. If not, his first game back next season is against the Colts in primetime on Oct. 18 at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Yeah, talk about must-see TV. He’ll probably be more than ready to face the team that turned the Patriots in on DeflateGate, wouldn’t you say?

These days, a new Colts team is getting acquainted during offseason training activities. We talk to players once a week, and I’ll be sharing videos and stories as we head toward mini-camp in June.

Then there will be a break, until training camp opens, presumably in early August. The Colts will return to Anderson University and the same question won’t go away from the minds of the interested masses: Can this team beat the Patriots?

That’s what matters, knocking off the defending Super Bowl champs.

If the DeflateGate punishment holds up or is lessened, whatever happens, when there’s finally some absolute resolution on the matter, everyone can get worked up again. Reporters will milk it again (and I’m going to try not to be one of them).

Then maybe, just maybe, when games start being played, most will let it go for good.

That day can’t come soon enough.

Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.


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