Deflategate and Media Sensationalism
by Sarah Ford on Friday, February 6th, 2015
Tensions ran high on Sunday, January 18th as the New England Patriots took on the Indianapolis Colts. Both teams stepped out on the field, ready to fight for a spot in the 2015 Super Bowl against the Seattle Seahawks. This Divisional Championship game would decide which team’s Super Bowl dreams lived on and which team’s dreams died. To the great excitement of New England football fans, the Patriots came out strong, ultimately defeating the Colts by a score of 45 to 7. The Patriots would go on to play in the Super Bowl as the team to beat, with many picking them to take home the fourth championship trophy in the franchise’s history. And indeed, that’s what happened.
The next day after the January 18th game, however, accusatory claims against the Patriots permeated the media. Reports surfaced that 11 out of 12 of the footballs with which the Patriots played were under-inflated by a “whopping” 2 pounds per square-inch. Football fans across the nation began to vilify the Patriots, deeming them as returning to their “cheating” ways (think SpyGate). Onlookers of the controversy labeled this newest scandal “Deflate-Gate,” but the most spiteful and slanderous critics were the media; before knowing what actually happened, they started to sensationalize facts they did not know to be absolutely true.
This frenzy surrounding Deflate-Gate came as no surprise to me. I may not be the biggest pro football fan out there, but even I know that the Patriots is the team that everybody loves to hate. They are the NFL equivalent of what the Yankees are in baseball, or what the Lakers are in basketball. The Patriots dominate games, so they are hated. Any claims against the New England team can potentially spark outrage, and they did.
However, many angered fans didn’t seem to question the credibility of these claims as much as they should have. Although the NFL’s conduction of the investigation was far from transparent, the ball-handling protocol is public knowledge. Each team brings 12 footballs to be used on offense. Team equipment staff readies the balls and delivers them to the game officials who then test the balls’ pressure. All the footballs’ pressures must be within 12.5-13.5 pounds per square inch. When all footballs match the officials’ standards, they are stored in bags on the sidelines. Even when the game begins, officials continue to check the pressure of each football in play between downs.
With this strict protocol, there is little room for Coach Bill Belichick or any of the players to have snuck out and deflated 11 balls. Furthermore, the Patriots defeated the Colts with such a large margin that the proper inflation of the footballs would never have drastically changed the outcome of the game. The Patriots won their place in the Super Bowl fair and square.
Coach Belichick, Tom Brady, and Patriots owner Robert Kraft all firmly reiterated this claim. Still, bitter football fans remained cynical. One media outlet even called in a gesture specialist to analyze whether Tom Brady seemed suspicious in his responses to Pre-Super Bowl press conference questions. An irritated Kraft echoed many Patriots fans’ frustrations when he demanded an apology from the NFL if the Patriots are found not guilty.
Perhaps that apology is well deserved. The NFL has zeroed in on a video showing an elderly Patriots locker-room attendant disappearing into a bathroom with the balls. However, new reports have also surfaced regarding the extent of the issue. As it turns out, many of the balls were not as under-inflated as first described. Several were just barely below the minimum pressure standard, and only one football was seriously deflated.
As the truth slowly but surely emerges, rumors continue to swirl. The media will continue to sensationalize lies and half-truths, in reports full of second or third-hand, unverified news. This cloud of bitterness surrounding the Patriots will surely continue to plague the team with false accusations despite contrary evidence. In spite of it all, though, their team’s haters should not dispirit New Englanders. Everyone hates the best, and the New England Patriots are the proud and deserving Super Bowl Champions of 2015.
Short URL: http://miltonmeasure.org/?p=6759