It Is What It Is – Despite the dumpsterfire that Deflategate has become, at this point it doesn’t appear that the NFL is going to change much, at least when it comes to putting an increased focus on standardizing the referee’s pregame management of game balls.
A report from our friend Football Zebras (also known as Ben Austro, who provides smart and reasoned analysis on all things referee-related on his Twitter feed) on Monday indicated that at an introductory officiating clinic for the 2015 season this past weekend, there was no discussion regarding the standardization of game balls. Austro Tweeted that it’s possible “there will be extra security or changes to chain of custody,” but that, at least at this stage, it will “not a major effect on (referees)” for the upcoming season.
And there it is, in all it’s glory. A near perfect example of the rampant, unapologetic hypocrisy of the National Football League in 2015.
Since late January, there has been no issue more important to the sanctity and integrity of the game than how the footballs are handled. The mere unproven suggestion that they might possibly have been touched before the AFC championship game was enough to cause widespread panic across the land. A story from the referee in that game that he didn’t know where the bag of balls was for a few minutes was met with horror and alarm. A $10 million indictment was brought against the quarterback who was accused of being the mastermind of the plot and he’s been docked a quarter of the season and his reputation lies in ruins.
But do anything about it? Make a change to the way the balls are dealt with on game day? All of a sudden it becomes “Why bother? They’re only the footballs. What’s the big deal?”
And it’s impossible not to look back at the hysteria of the last six months and not point out what the few rational people on this issue were saying. That at worst – meaning if Tom Brady was completely guilty, which I am not – what we were talking about here was a minor equipment violation. The equivalent of Pedro Martinez cutting the inside seam of the sleeve on his pitching arm or a hockey player over-curving his stick blade. And now, at long last, the NFL appears to agree with us.
If the the footballs were handled in a way that matches the over-exaggerated importance the league has given it through this mess, the psi would be measured live on national TV and the balls delivered to the field in a Brinks truck by a phalanx of heavily armed guards. But the NFL all of a sudden thinks paying much attention to them is silly. Well, welcome to the club.
Unfortunately it’s too late for them to admit their cavalier attitude toward the whole issue because it will point out what duplicitous, sanctimonious liars they’ve been throughout the process. It’d be like the Salem town council at the end of the witch trials saying, “We never meant to suggest witchcraft is such bad a thing. What gave you that idea?” Of course, fat lot of good that does the women you burned at the stake and the fellas you crushed to death with big piles of rocks on their chests. Too little, too late, NFL.
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