By Vinny Varvaro
More probable than not.
The above terms and phrases became all the rage (and sometimes the butt of some jokes) from January 18, 2015 after the AFC Championship game between the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts, all the way until the start of the 2015 regular season.
Little did Patriots quarterback and pop culture lightning rod, Tom Brady, know that a first half interception-turned souvenir for Colts’ linebacker D’Qwell Jackson would turn out to be a history making pick for all the wrong reasons AND in a game that New England would win handily.
The Colts’ equipment guy that was going to adorn Jackson’s INT with the customary date and game day data for a trophy case, illegally measured the air pressure of the freshly intercepted ball because it felt off. The Colts’ told the gameday officials and then ALL the Patriot’s footballs would be measured for PSI at halftime, an occurrence that had rarely taken place, if ever, to anyone’s recollection.
New England lead Indianapolis 17-7 at intermission, with Brady throwing for a “sizzling” 11-21 and 94 yards and that fateful INT with supposed deflated footballs.
It’s still not clear if back-up footballs were put in play for the second half for the Patriots, or if the original balls were re-inflated to an acceptable PSI, but New England would go on to score 28 unanswered points in a resounding 45-7 win that saw Brady throw for 132 yards on 12 of 14 in the second half, before back up Jimmy Garoppolo came in for mop-up duty.
On to Seattle and the Super Bowl as New England Head Coach Bill Belichick would say. Well, not before endless press conferences about the footballs used in the AFC Championship Game. Belichick has no idea how Brady likes his footballs inflated, or probably how he likes his steak cooked or what product he uses in his hair, but Mr. Excitement (Belichick) said in no uncertain terms he has no idea what is up with the balls, but will cooperate fully.
New England would go on to defeat the Seattle Seahawks in a classically fought Super Bowl game that came down to the Patriots defense winning the game in the final seconds.
Brady said this whole thing was ridiculous and this isn’t ISIS (probably not his best quote ever.)
Then what ensued was a myriad of high school science experiments by really smart men who took time out of their multi-degreed careers to assist the NFL and all involved to solve a mystery of how air may or may not escape a pigskin with a rubber bladder due to the cold air in Foxborough, MA, or if hot air pumped into a ball by a certain type of pump.
This story continued and then the NFL hired a former employee (a lawyer, surprise surprise) to get to the bottom of this. So Ted Wells was the man to attempt “to get to the bottom of this” and see if a ball inflated to an improper PSI would cause the outcome of a game to be determined, but most importantly if procedures and rules were violated and if these missteps were going to cause suspensions and fines of historical proportions.
At the risk of this recap/review/regurgitation being as long as the 243-page Wells Report, I’ll try to keep the rest of this brief (ha, brief another legal term. Just saying.)
One of Wells’s conclusions to this Black Sox-level situation was that is was “more probable than not” that equipment personnel tampered with footballs and that Brady was “generally aware” regarding his knowledge of what occurred on January 18, 2014. And in a not one of his finer moments, Brady destroyed his cell phone which probably contained texts from those locker room guys presumably about gameday inflation rates. Names like Jim McNally and John “The Deflator” Jastremski became household names for the summer.
On May 11, Brady would be suspended without pay for the first four games of the upcoming season and his notso clean reputation took further hits within the league and football fans outside of the New England region.
Brady appealed his suspension, and his camp actually went to court to take on the shield (the NFL.) He even had the support of a fan who went out of his way to write a 59-page amicus brief, which essentially is a document filed by “an interested party not directly involved in the case,” which was admitted by the court to defend Brady. Who knew we could do such these things?
Appeals and motions, and appeals and motions kept Deflategate in the news for most of the summer right up until the end of training camp when Judge Richard Berman threw out the suspension the NFL wanted to levy against Brady due to unfairness to Brady. Yes, that’s right, the NFL was unfair to Tom Brady (due process-wise, but unfair nonetheless.) Please don’t laugh.
Fast forward to the 2015 regular season and the Patriots have yet again clinched the AFC East for the umpteenth time and will be one of probably three teams favored to represent the AFC in Super Bowl 50 and all accomplished presumably with legal footballs.
So now Deflategate will be forever linked to the Patriots, who were this close to not having to be reminded of another illegal act in their recent history, Spygate. Thank goodness the Tuck Rule was an officials’ blunder and not something that Brady did intentionally.
So he says…..