Friday night, after wrapping up my writing and doing some errands, I had me a Friday night. I went to IHOP. Who doesn’t love breakfast for dinner? Grabbed a USA Today to keep me company. Opened up to “Sports.” Began to read a column.
I was then informed that Tom Brady “has proved to be little better than Lance Armstrong, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and everyone else who broke the rules in search of an edge.”
Here’s the link to the column by Nancy Armour. It almost made me spit out my Smokehouse Combo.
Because a four-month investigation – commissioned by an NFL which revels in twisting the Patriots’ tail – concluded Tom Brady may have been “generally aware” it was “more probable than not” that a hiss or two of air was let out of a football, he is right there with the most reviled cheaters in American sports.
Get over yourself, Nancy.
There’s a dearth of critical thinking in the media when sensational stories break. We turn into carnival barkers. And the quickest way to get people gathered under our tent and gawking is by using our bullhorn – blogs, columns, radio mikes, TV shows, Twitter feeds – to make some over-the-top claim. If it’s laughably out of proportion, whatever.
Since the granddaddy of all the Gates – Watergate – it’s been said that it’s not the crime, but the coverup which really does the damage and becomes some poor sap’s undoing.
In this instance, it’s not the alleged “crime.” It’s not the presumed “coverup.”
It’s the breathlessness of the coverage, the one-upsmanship in trying to paint this as tearing at the fiber of our nation’s youth that is truly damaging.
Because by the time everyone’s done raising the bar of indignity, the infraction itself is forgotten. That a national columnist has the gall to include Armstrong, Bonds and McGwire in a column about altered footballs is all the evidence you need.
Just consider the NFL’s own rule, for God’s sake.
“Once the balls have left the locker room, no one, including players, equipment managers, ball boys, and coaches, is allowed to alter the footballs in any way. If any individual alters the footballs, or if a non-approved ball is used in the game, the person responsible and, if appropriate, the head coach or other club personnel will be subject to discipline, including but not limited to, a fine of $25,000.”
— From the NFL Game Operations Manual
A $25K fine. Not a $5M investigation. Or, perhaps, no fine and a “stop doing that.” Which is what happened in the case of the Panthers and Vikings when those teams were caught heating up kicking balls on the sidelines in late November.
“You can’t do anything with the footballs in terms of any artificial, whether you’re heating them up, whether it’s a regular game ball or kicking ball, you can’t do anything to the football,” NFL V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino said at the time. “So that was noticed during the game, both teams were made aware of it during the game and we will certainly remind the clubs as we get into more cold weather games that you can’t do anything with the football in terms of heating them up with those sideline heaters.”
You think that’s a bad comp because the guys were “cheating” out in the open? Maybe this is a better one.
The Chargers using a towel laced with adhesive in 2012. That’ll help the grip, right? They didn’t fork over the towel when asked. Tried to hide it.
They got a $20,000 fine for that and, in USA Today, there was eye-rolling that the NFL fined the Chargers at all. Coverup is worse than the crime. Unless it’s universally decided that we’re not giving a crap about the crime or the coverup.
The officiating crews have been so lax about checking PSI that Ted Wells specifically mentioned that AFC Championship Game referee Walt Anderson is “one of the few” that checks PSIs himself instead of kicking the chore down the line to some schlub on his crew. They’ve never logged the PSIs. If they found a ball was under pressure, they just shot some air back into it. Which might be how you get a ball pumped up to almost 16 PSI.
Joe Posnanski wrote a great column (as he usually does) on the absurdity of the actual “crime” and he uses as his launch point George Brett having too much pine tar on his bat.
Would that make Brett akin to Pete Rose in Armour’s opinion? Did Jerry Rice’s admission of using using Stickum after it was banned,
I’m aware I’m raging against the machine, here. The NFL will make its punishment decision conveniently after having a few days to gauge public sentiment.
The NFL season will open its 50th Super Bowl season with its greatest quarterback in leg irons for allegedly being generally aware that two guys were probably screwing with the air pressure in footballs, an infraction that just months before drew merely a “Cut it out.” And not even a stern one of those.
Get ready for us carnival barkers to take these words out for a spin: Taint. Stain. Smear. Tarnish. Sully. Blacken. Blot. Blemish. Mar. Defile. Soil. Muddy. Damage. Harm. Corrupt. Stigmatize. Besmirch.
Try to keep your Smokehouse Combo down.