#360view: Outrage over NFL's Deflategate

Jay Asser 09:34 09/05/2015
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Tom Brady and the Patriots have come under criticism since the release of the Wells report this week.

Tom Brady is a cheater. The New England Patriots are cheaters. That’s the general consensus among NFL followers since the release of the Wells report this week, but it was also the thinking when Deflategate or Ballghazi or whatever you want to call it reared its ugly head back in January after the AFC Championship between New England and the Indianapolis Colts.

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People were so ready to have their initial belief affirmed that all it took was a report with no clear proof and circumstantial evidence that falls short of convincing to call for Brady’s head.

The Wells report itself states in deliberate language that it’s “more probable than not” that Patriots personnel deflated footballs and Brady was “at least generally aware” of it.

After nearly four months and using a whopping 243 pages, the report is fundamentally saying it presumes Brady is guilty based on the evidence gathered. That doesn’t sound so strong.

Spare me the law lesson. Yes, “more probable than not” is the standard for proof in civil cases. It’s also a lower threshold than “beyond a reasonable doubt”, which must be proved for criminal cases. The difference stems from civil liability being considered less blameworthy.

So if we go by the language used by the Wells report, it’s not black and white that Brady and the Patriots are in the wrong. 

There’s room for error, but the majority of people don’t want to take that into account. They want blood.

If someone asked if you wanted to meet for dinner and you felt there’s a 60 per cent chance you could go, but a 40 per cent you would not, you wouldn’t flat out say ‘no, I’m not going’. You would say ‘maybe, but probably not’. So why aren’t Brady and the Patriots being afforded the same grey area?

The answer is Spygate, the scandal in 2007 in which the Patriots were disciplined for illegally videotaping opposing teams. Once you have a strike to your name and have been labelled a cheater, you apparently don’t get any benefit of the doubt.

It doesn’t matter how much Spygate or Deflategate actually resulted in an advantage, they compromised the integrity of the game. Cheating is cheating is cheating.

If we want to go down that road, then fine. Let’s always hold up the integrity of the game, not just when it seems convenient in condemning a franchise that’s been the most successful in football this century.

A player taking steroids or other performance enhancing drugs is cheating. Pumping crowd noise through speakers is cheating. Those offences receive their punishments, sure, but in the court of public opinion they’re swept under the rug.

How about we direct our outrage towards players who commit actual heinous crimes and the teams that continue to employ them, instead of focusing so much energy on the bending of rules for a competitive edge?

This is the NFL. It’s a bloodsport for entertainment which has proven over and over again that it lacks the morality we wish existed.

If a low-stakes issue like deflated footballs is what’s going to so collectively grab our attention, we need to rethink our priorities.

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