It’s the scandal that defined the 2015 NFL Playoffs and evolved beyond anyone’s wildest imaginations. When news broke that the New England Patriots were using deflated footballs during the club’s AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts on January 18, everyone within the Patriots organisation was implicated.
Conspiracy theorists have tried to pin it on the Colts and anyone with a profile in sport has given their two cents worth on the issue. Comparable to the drugs scandal that engulfed the Essendon Football Club and the salary cap scandal that disgraced the Melbourne Storm and NRL, Deflategate is a minor offence.
However, each of them in their own way brought the game into disrepute and damaged the integrity of the sport. Essentially it became a subtle and indirect way for the Patriots to cheat the Colts and their quarterback Andrew Luck an opportunity to throw and run the ball the way they could throughout any regular season game.
On February 1st a report from NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport concluded that 11 of the 12 footballs used during the match was “just a few ticks under the minimum” 12.5 PSI regulation levels. In the eyes of the public the Patriots were guilty of tampering with the balls and salvaging the PR disaster from there was always going to be a tough order.
What conspired was a 3-way public battle between Tom Brady, coach Bill Belichick and maligned NFL commissioner Roger Goddell. Endless television interviews and press conferences verged on becoming a farce, as each of them tried to spin the story to suit their own image and agenda.
What frustrated fans was a complete lack of clarity and responsibility over exactly who deflated the balls. Rumours of mysterious locker room attendants, people on the coaching staff and players were all tarnished with the same brush because no one had the guts to come forward.
A series of reports, sanctions, appeals, motions and hearings dragged Deflategate from the court of public opinion to the actual courts, with Tom Brady successfully challenging the NFL’s 4-game suspension handed down to him. Brady makes his living as much from his image as his ability to throw the football, moving heaven and earth to protect his integrity.
Needless to say Deflategate became one of the great sporting scandals of the 21st Century. Whether it was Saturday Night Live, Jimmy Kimmel or South Park, it transitioned from a football issue to a punch line in quick time.
As it stands, the Patriots are hit with a $1 million fine and a loss of their number one pick at the 2016 Draft, but as far as identifying the guilty culprit, well that still remains something of a mystery. For Tom Brady, he either is or isn’t guilty depending on your interpretation and allegiances.
The End Result:
- Tom Brady won court decision over his 4 game suspension against the NFL
- Patriots fined $1 million by the league
- Club lost their 1st pick in the 2016 Draft
- Deflategate became part of the lexicon and NFL fans outside of Pats Nation now have another reason to hate the team
- The Patriots destroyed the Colts 45-7 in the controversial game in any case and would go on to beat the Seattle Seahawks 28-24 at Super Bowl XLIX
- Appeals and hearings are still ongoing and the court could arrive at new sanctions if evidence is presented