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Who deserves blame for Deflategate? Start with the media

This isn't usually my way. I usually finish one column and immediately start thinking about the next one without looking back or feeling a need to defend myself. No matter where people fall on a particular issue, there are always others who have an opposite view. It makes no difference to me either way.

With that we return to Deflategate, the media-driven mountain that has evolved from the mole hill since Sunday.

My column that followed said it was overblown because it involved the Patriots leading into the Super Bowl. I wrote it had no impact on the outcome against the Colts. I provided one example of a player, pitcher Gaylord Perry, who doctored balls for years and landed in the Hall of Fame.

Rather than read the column for what it actually said, several people read into the column, misinterpreted what was written, drew inaccurate conclusions and claimed I missed the point. Somehow, me saying Deflategate was overcooked led others to believe I was oblivious to integrity and fair play. Or they somehow deduced that I was an advocate of breaking rules, which somehow turned me into a proponent of robbing banks.

Really? Really.

Just so we're straight, nowhere -- nowhere -- did I suggest that cheating was OK. In fact, here's a cut-and-paste directly from the column: "Cheating isn’t right, but it’s hardly a novel concept. It started in sports when they began keeping score." The two sentences were written because ... it's true. Shame on me for believing it was common knowledge in this sports-crazed nation.

Athletes have been modifying equipment and crossing the line with rules for generations. Was there this much outrage when Perry threw spitballs? No. Did networks break into daytime TV for a news conference when hockey players were caught with illegal sticks? No. Did we stop the presses when goaltenders used pads the size of basement doors or NASCAR drivers drove illegal cars or basketball players took Oscar-winning dives? No.

Raiders cornerback Lester Hayes was lathered up with so much Stickum that the NFL banned its use in 1981. The league also needed to address offensive linemen applying slippery substances that made it tougher for defensive linemen to use their hands. In both cases, and many others, they gained distinct, unfair advantages. It wasn't right, but such transgressions didn't turn into national debates.

If deflated footballs were uncovered after the Bucs-Falcons blowout in Week Three, there wouldn't be anywhere near the outrage you've heard over the past five days, if any at all. In all likelihood, the NFL would have sent a memo to all 32 teams reminding them to meet air-pressure standards. And that would have spared you from continuous nonsense over the past five days and counting.

Deflategate has turned into a controversy because it's the Patriots, and it's the Super Bowl. That's what I said. That's what I meant. That was my point all along, and it hasn't changed.

Most amusing are people who remind me about the "integrity of the game." The NFL preaches many things, but the sanctity of sport isn't one of them. The NFL apparently didn't think deflated footballs were a big enough deal to interview the quarterback whose used them. It's the same league that former players say distributed painkillers like fruity snacks, trivialized concussions and was a decade behind the steroid issue. The league was soft on crime for years while protecting its multibillion-dollar industry while coming down hard on players who broke uniform codes.

And we're going to discuss the integrity of the game or expect its participants to uphold values we teach in our children? Good heavens, people, wake up.

Integrity goes to the heart of golf. The entire sport is built around honesty. Sad but true, other sports don't take the same approach. It doesn't make it right, it's certainly not pretty, but it's reality.

What about Bill Belichick, who already was busted for Spygate? Well, this isn't Spygate. It's not a coach setting up surveillance in an effort to steal plays being called from the sidelines. Teams are still trying to steal plays in other ways, which is why offensive coordinators cover their mouths when calling them. But stealing plays during the game has become an accepted practice even though the premise, gaining an unfair advantage, is the same.

Make sense?

OK, you say, what about Tom Brady? It was tough to believe anything he said during his news conference Thursday, but he could very well have told the truth. It's possible that he didn't know how the footballs were deflated. It's possible he didn't know that they were deflated. Officials where throwing and catching balls back and forth from the sideline throughout the game, and they didn't notice they were deflated.

You would think the Pats would have played better offensively with the deflated football in the first half than they did after the balls were properly inflated for the second. New England scored twice as many touchdowns (four) in the second half with the inflated balls than they did with the deflated balls in the first. Yes, I know, that's getting away from the point about intent and integrity. Still, it's another point worth making.

For now, people should remember what Brady said while waiting for contradictory evidence. It doesn't mean people should believe him or like him. But before people draw their own conclusions and criticize him for lying, they better be darned sure that he was. The worse crime would be blowing things out of proportion and condemning him for something he didn't do or didn't say.

And by all means, if all else fails, blame the media.

 

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