The best thing about deflate-gate is that it's kept anyone from asking Richard Sherman questions that allow him a platform to spew crazy, yet in some weird way, interesting comments. What I haven't heard anyone mention, but I'm certain someone may have, given all of the discussion over the inflation of the footballs at last week's AFC Championship game, is if it is such a big deal to the league, why wouldn't they maintain control of the balls throughout the game? I understand that tampering with the footballs is a rules violation of some type, but if it could really tip the competitive balance, why would the NFL give the teams ample opportunity to do so? Officials are in control of the kicking balls, and for good reason. The lighter the ball, the farther it goes when kicked. It's like using a golf ball that is outside the specification of the PGA, thus giving a player an advantage in distance, or spin, or whatever the illegal ball provides. But there isn't a consistent preference among NFL quarterbacks and receivers on what constitutes an advantage. That's why, I guess, each team gets to use their own assigned balls. So again, my point is that it appears the NFL is actually encouraging the teams to doctor the balls, with the assumption that they'll voluntarily stay within the specified guidelines.
My point in all of this is that I don't believe the NFL thinks this is such big issue because if they did, then the game-ball procedure would be a lot more stringent. Everyone I've been listening to on ESPN and even traditional news channels seem to think this is another example of Bill Belichick skirting the rules to gain an unfair advantage. That may or not be so, but what he and Tom Brady knew and when they knew it is also not very clear. The NFL is once again in a tough spot. Even if they don't think this infraction is particularly serious, what message do they send by giving the Patriots a slap on the wrist, maybe a $100,000 fine? And if they take away a draft pick or two, is that overkill for an offense they don't really consider that serious? Without the fact, however, it's impossible for anyone to come to a definitive conclusion. Unfortunately, the only person or persons with all of the facts is the one who tampered with the game balls, because that's the only certainty here: The balls were under-inflated from when they were tested prior to the game. If that person or persons fails to come forward or is not identified, then I'm not so sure what the NFL will have to work with.
Meanwhile, after what is usually a down week, we begin Super Bowl week in earnest. Since most sports journalists aren't particularly creative, the deflate-gate topic will continue to dominate the discussion, despite the fact that this is one of the most compelling matchups we've had since, well, last year. Brady vs. Sherman, Carroll vs. Belichick, Wilson trying to defeat another legend, Gronkowski vs.Chancellor, etc. I'm not much of Super Bowl hype kind of guy, so I tend to ignore the interviews and other noise, but the game certainly intrigues me. The primary difference between this year and last is that the Seahawks won't be a surprise this time around. They're tough and experienced, more than enough of a challenge to get the Patriots' full attention and preparation time.
Don't forget to check out my new book, "Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel" available in print and e-formats at Amazon.com and Smashwords.