Last Sunday in New England, the Patriots suited up to play the Indianapolis Colts, who were fresh off of destroying the AFC’s #2 seeded Denver Broncos. After Andrew Luck and the Colts dismantled everybody’s favorite quarterback, they entered into the AFC Championship against New England as decided underdogs. It didn’t take long until the Patriots proved the odds makers right, routing the Colts 45-7 in the most lopsided match-up since last year’s Super Bowl.
However, shortly after celebrating their big win, talks began to arise about a potential cheating scandal involving the Patriots. No strangers to bending and breaking the rules, the Patriots and their cloud of doubt instantly created an epic storm, with everyone in the sporting world assuming that, whatever the accusations, the Pats were guilty. What was their supposed crime here? The Patriots deflated their game footballs to give Tom Brady a better grip in the elements.
To understand why this is against the rules, you have to understand the anatomy of a football. A regulation football that’s fully inflated (to about 13 PSI) is very hard to grip. You need huge hands, strong fingers, and enough palm strength to dig into the ball for a solid grip, particularly in the rain and cold. With a deflated football (about 11 PSI), your hands can easily dig into the leather, thus allowing a QB to throw the ball more accurately, grip it more assuredly, and for running backs to actually cut back on their fumbles.
The Colts had accused the Patriots of doing this earlier in the year, and this time the Pats were actually found guilty of deflating 11 of 12 footballs during the pre-game routine.
While coach Belichick has denied involvement, someone is to blame for the scandal, and the league is undoubtedly going to come down hard. But what are the implications going forward?
In my opinion, this move by the Patriots is going to eat away at starting times of games. Instead of teams allowed to bring their own balls to play with, the league is now going to have to start a new position to monitor the state of the footballs. And while this not only adds more bureaucracy to the league, it also makes the pre-game process longer. With equipment under more of a microscope, we might start seeing start times pushed back five or more minutes. Why? Well, you know that coach A is going to have a complaint about team B, and the poor guy in charge of testing the equipment is going to have to test it again and again and again.
Whether or not the Patriots got a real advantage from this, it’s hard to say. But in terms of the carry-over for everyone else, the Pats have just assured a more complicated pre-game process going forward for every team.