Patriots kickoff season amidst firestorm

Unfurl 4th Super Bowl banner
Fri, 09/11/2015 - 8:30am
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The summer sun is setting as the football season is upon us, but the smear campaign employed by the NFL and ESPN rages on. After Tom Brady beat the NFL in U.S. District Court fair and square, leading to his four-game suspension being vacated by Judge Richard Berman, it seems that the league and its Public Relations wing, known as ESPN, can’t let it go.

The NFL season was expected to kickoff with great fanfare Thursday night as Brady and his Patriots hosted the Pittsburgh Steelers at Gillette Stadium where banner number four was unfurled and celebrated by team owner Robert Kraft and company. It had to be sweet vindication for a team that endured a nightmare of an offseason, with its star quarterback being villified and having to spend time in a Manhattan courtroom while the organization was busy gearing up for another Super Bowl run.

Brady and his golden boy image may have been sullied by a poorly written Wells Report and the league’s insistence that he committed wrongdoing with no evidence to prove that he was involved in the deflating of footballs used in a playoff game. You can almost hear Nick Carraway from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby calling out to Jay Gatsby across his manicured lawn, saying, “They’re a rotten crowd. You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.”

It seemed like it was Brady and Deflategate 24/7 during the offseason, as the star quarterback’s battle with the league was prominently featured in the news. It was Brady versus the NFL (and its 31 owners) for seven months in a game of chicken over a curious issue that was blown way out of proportion. Never mind that the whole affair wasted peoples' time, was bad PR and cost the NFL millions of dollars for conducting a bogus investigation under the directive of its misguided figurehead, Roger Goodell.

Now ESPN, operating as a quasi-Public Relations wing for Goodell and the league, has published a 27-page, 11,500 word article that regurgitates the Spygate story, and intimates that the Patriots are chronic cheaters. I guess ESPN feels that they need to defend the Commissioner, and the league, by issuing a slanted, ridiculous missive that takes another shot at the Patriots. Sorry ESPN, but this pseudo-article resonates as sour grapes.

All of this comes after the Patriots won their fourth Super Bowl in February, after marching over the Colts and Ravens in the playoffs, which enraged the other teams, along with their owners and coaches. It looks like that’s exactly what Deflategate is all about: jealousy and loathing directed at a successful team when there is supposed to be parity in the league. Nothing more. Nothing less.

That’s why it’s hard not to see Deflategate for what it is: a sting operation facilitated at the highest level. Nobody knew anything, nor cared what the PSI of a football was before Deflategate.

My apologizies for rehashing the whole Deflategate saga once again, but I believe we must first have closure before moving on to more important things, like the game on the field. And I believe that it is worth exploring this debacle just one last time to reveal it for being exactly what it is: a witch hunt hatched by envious competitors whose sole intention was to attempt to weaken a successful, winning team.

How did the whole Deflategate story begin? Well, that's a good question, and one that can be answered by shedding a light on the alleged masterminds of this charade. It can also be answered by illuminating the shenanigans that went on behind the scenes at the Patriots/Colts AFC Championship game on Jan. 18.

First off, and most importantly, the news reported to the public about the deflation of the Patriots’ footballs was erroneous information leaked to Chris Mortensen, an ESPN reporter, to initiate the orchestration of the smear campaign at the Patriots/Colts game. During the ensuing months, there were reports that refuted Mortensen and ESPN's claim that 11 of the Patriots 12 footballs used in the first half of the game were two pounds under the 12.5-PSI minimum.

It was later reported that only one of the Patriots’ footballs was two pounds under the PSI minimum, while several other footballs were about a pound under the league’s PSI minimum. There was also information that some of the Colts’ footballs were underinflated as well. So, the question is: why was there a disparity between what ESPN reported and the truth?

What’s interesting about this issue, as Judge Berman pointed out in court, is that the Patriots, playing with footballs that were checked and approved by league officials at halftime, scored 28 points in the second half to win the AFC championship game 45 to 7. The Patriots were also winning 17 to 7 at halftime and were clearly overmatching and overpowering the Colts throughout the game. Now, I don’t claim to be a science expert, but I’m pretty sure that the inflation or deflation of footballs had no impact on the outcome of the game.

It should also be pointed out that the NFL's own guys, the officials, were responsible for the condition of the footballs that were introduced into the Patriots/Colts game. During every single series of plays, to my knowledge, the officials handled the balls and were not alarmed by any of the Patriots' footballs that were spotted on the field. But I digress.

Another thing that raises suspicion about the integrity of the league and its conduct is that Ravens head coach John Harbaugh reportedly contacted the Colts after losing to the Patriots in the divisional round playoff game. It seems conceivable that Harbaugh, upset by Brady stating in a postgame news conference that the Ravens should have read the rule book after being confused by some of the Patriots’ offensive formations, conspired with the Colts, and the league, to catch the Patriots in the act.

It’s also curious that a former Jets employee, Mike Kensil, who now works in the league’s front office as the NFL’s VP of game operations, was at the game and as one Boston reporter put it, “was the driving force behind the investigation” known as Deflategate. That same reporter said that Kensil was Mortensen’s main source for the erroneous PSI measurements.

So, that brings us full circle. How and why did Mortenson, and ESPN, erroneously report that 11 of 12 of the Patriots’ footballs were "significantly" under-inflated in the first half of the Patriots/Colts game, when in actuality they weren't? (It should be noted that on Aug. 4, six months after Mortensen tweeted about Deflategate, he finally deleted his inaccurate tweet.) 

You see what I'm getting at with this whole Deflategate thing? It's pure craziness, and appears to be nothing more than a smear campaign designed and orchestrated at the highest levels to diminish and punish the Patriots because they win. Plain and simple.

Despite the salvos thrown the Patriots’ way by the league and its PR pundits, the team, in particular Brady, had its day in court and won. And, although the Patriots were forced to surrender an unprecedented $1 million and two draft picks for an infraction that called for a token $25,000 fine, the beat goes on. It’s the Patriots against the world, just as it’s always been under Belichick’s reign. Hold on to your hats. It should be an interesting season.