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Quick Inside Slant: Conference Championships

Impressions of the 2014 NFL Season as perceived by a Creative Writing graduate student, part-time amateur stand-up comedian and collegiate intramural flag football legend.

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By: Dustin Fisher

Yea...not really sure a deflated football helped give the Patriots a special advantage on this transaction.

Yea…not really sure a deflated football helped give the Patriots a special advantage on this transaction.

Deflate-gate may seem like the dumbest sports controversy ever – and it is – but it may also turn out to be the biggest one of our time.

Before I get into the dirt, when I first heard that 11 of the 12 Patriot footballs were underinflated – possibly intentionally, I had three thoughts in rapid succession.

  1. First, I thought the same thing everybody did, and most still do. That it was 17-7 at the half and the Pats scored four touchdowns in the second half with correctly inflated balls. That this didn’t matter and it’s just another example of sour grapes over a better team winning, something the Patriots are used to from games as recently as the previous week.
  2. Second, I thought “Damn you, Tom.” So many people hate the Patriots for what they say are a myriad of reasons, but what really boils down to the fact that they’re better than everybody else. I hear things all the time to the effect of “They haven’t won anything since they were caught cheating.” Anything? Really? Those people tire me and I’d like to see Brady win another Superbowl just to shut up those that overvalue championships as the only measurement of success. But as important as ball quality is to the quarterback, there’s very little way that Tom isn’t at least partially complicit in all this, even if it’s something he casually decreed to an assistant equipment manager back in 2007 to “see what you can do” with a little wink. And as a former ref, I’m having an internal crisis defending a cheater like that.
  3. Then I thought why does the PSI matter that much? Wouldn’t the game be better if the quarterback was more comfortable with the ball he was using? Aren’t we trying to improve offense and wouldn’t this be an easy way to do it without making any waves at all? No head injury penalties that refs can’t enforce, no illegal contact flags that make the game excruciating to watch. And for every fewer pound of air pressure, there’s a trade off of how far the ball will fly. If the league is going to allow the teams to use their own balls for reasons of having the quarterbacks comfortable with them to the point where they can scrub and scratch them as they please, why micromanage the air pressure?

Did the NFL Fix the AFC Championship?

But all that is pedestrian compared to what could be the biggest controversy in NFL history. And here’s the question at the heart of the real issue.

Did the NFL try to catch the Patriots in the act?

It sounds innocuous at first, but if the NFL did indeed allow the Patriots to play the first half with knowingly deflated balls so that they could catch them in the act, the league knowingly allowed a team to have a competitive advantage in the AFC Championship game. And that is inexcusable. What if it had been a 3-point game? Or what if those four unanswered touchdowns were scored in the first half? Players and teams have been trying to bend the rules in their favor for years. It’s part of the game. “If you ain’t cheatin, you ain’t tryin,” Hines Ward and many other have said before. But it’s up to the league to do what it can to make every game as fair as it can within their power.

Is the NFL putting a target on Tom Brady's back, trying to catch him and the Patriots cheating?

Is the NFL putting a target on Tom Brady’s back, trying to catch he and the Patriots cheating?

Could it be that the NFL, desperately needing a win in a year where they seriously botched the Ray Rice investigation, with the stench of Bountygate still stuck to them, opted to compromise the integrity of a championship game just to win an investigation?

It isn’t that far-fetched a scenario. Ed Werder tweeted “When told of suspected cheating by #Pats, #NFL tried to catch them in act rather than reminding them of rules. Is something wrong with that?” Reports have surfaced saying that there were complaints from multiple NFL teams, including the Colts and Ravens, that the Patriots were using underinflated balls during the regular season and possibly the playoffs. Jay Glazer, who people trust more than the NFL at this point, reported that the NFL always planned to check the balls at halftime. Why? Why not before the game in light of these reports? You know, for the sake of competitive balance?

The NFL has proven to see themselves as above the law, stealing brains and discrediting neuroscientists with a barrage of lawyers that would make Monsanto proud. They also handle opposition like a street thug being stepped to. So when the Patriots acted above the law to prove their dominance, and the Colts were just in their way, the league stepped in. But rather than remind them calmly of the rules, in an effort to defend the shield, they decided to act above the law themselves. And the Colts were just in their way.

It’s just a shame nobody will launch an investigation into that.

Dustin Fisher is a writer, comedian, storyteller, and stay-at-home dad. Follow along with his dad blog at http://daddyneedsanap.com/ or buy his first book, Daddy Issues.

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Dustin Fisher is an amateur standup comedian, storyteller, freelance writer, and stay-at-home dad, all of which are just better ways of saying “unemployed.” He worked in the area of collegiate recreation for the previous 14 years at UMBC, Miami University and the University of Baltimore. There, he became somewhat of a folk legend on the flag football field and actually got paid to play fantasy football. Dustin is currently in the MFA program at the University of Baltimore seeking a Masters degree in Creative Writing. He has made contributions to various publications including The Good Men Project and the Baltimore Fishbowl. For more about Dustin, check out his stay-at-home dad website, Daddy Needs a Nap. Dustin lives with his wife and daughter in New Carrollton, MD in a house surrounded by too many trees to get the Dish Network.

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