22 January 2015


It's been an awkward and unpleasant week here in Patriots Nation, to put it mildly. Instead of enjoying the afterglow of another AFC championship win, another trip to the Super Bowl, another chance to add to the team's impressive roster of victories and legacy of success, all of us have to suffer the embarrassment of another scandal, another accusation of improper actions. I wasn't planning on or even thinking about writing anything, but as a fan I decided my thoughts are worth as much as anyone else's.

I suppose I should be starting from a presumption of innocence, and of course when these latest allegations surfaced I wanted to believe that they were wrong, but in my gut I feel that someone knew what was going on and allowed it to happen. This is not the first time that the team's behavior has been scrutinized and criticized, and the truth is that each new instance makes it worse. Everything that the team has accomplished now gets called into question and is tarnished by association.

Even if it turns out that a lone equipment manager was acting on his own, the air of impropriety surrounding the team won't go away. I'm not a parent, but I'm sure a lot of parents are having difficult conversations with their children about what's going on and what it means. Teams should not put their fans in such a position, especially young ones.

Outside of New England a lot of people hate the Patriots and/or Tom Brady. I used to think that was silly, but even if I don't feel that way myself, I'm beginning to understand why others might. To invoke another sport analogically, it's kind of like what happened with Barry Bonds; the Patriots will always carry the stigma of all these unsavory incidents like an asterisk, even if it's only a mental one. It's indicative of a general and unfortunate trend in our society to cut corners, to bend rules or think one is above them.

I've seen scientists saying that the weather could account for the fluctuation in inflation pressure, and I want to believe that's the explanation. It's also possible that this behavior has been going on for years and that all the other NFL teams have done it too. There's a lot of missing information about who handles the game balls and what happens to them after they have been checked. It also raises the question of why there hasn't been stronger security around game balls, why teams supply balls and not the league. It's all pretty murky, but that's exactly the sort of environment that leads to situations like this.

For me, the worst part of it is knowing that the team doesn't need to resort to cheating or any sort of questionable behavior to win. Regardless of who knew about it, it's hugely disappointing that someone thought it was necessary. Of course I still want the Patriots to win another Super Bowl, and I'll still watch the game (and I'm sure the balls used for it will be very carefully monitored), but even another Lombardi trophy isn't going to alleviate the feelings of hurt and distaste this week has brought.

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