There is a fly in the super bowl this year. It is the air of infallibility and it isn’t flying well.
For those of us now hearing about this issue for the first time, I will try to recap succinctly. The New England Patriots are accused of ‘cheating’ in the NFL’s AFC Championship match-up last weekend against the Indianapolis Colts. They have been dubbed the ‘Deflatriots’ by one reader at www.profootballtalk.com for using 11 out of 12 deflated footballs when they were on offense. One allegedly left inflated for kickoffs, field goals and punts.
Well it was raining dontcha’ know.
Their theory must have gone along the lines of: if we take some air out of the football itself, our quarterback Tom Brady will be able to grip the ball better for passing. Heck, we may even be less likely to fumble.
They did not share this view with the Colts nor did they share this view with the officials.
Ah Yes! The officials, our saviors on the field, known also as referees and field judges, are the whistle blowers. They are the gentlemen on the field well known for wearing the easily recognizable striped uniforms and regulating the field of play with their non-negotiable understanding of the rule book.
These referees have many tasks. Apparently some of these tasks occur before the kickoff. Aside from calling penalties for improper play after the kickoff, they check the air pressure of ALL of the footballs to be used in the game before their own breath graces that first whistle.
Who knew these guys were such experts at air pressure? Not only with footballs, but also with the whistle. They know just the appropriate level of air to push through their whistle which causes the perfect pitch and tone to alert the players, coaches and viewing public of play stoppage or infraction on the field. If this first level of appropriateness does not gain them their desired effect and any funny business continues among the players, they then inflate the level of their breath into whistle. This compensatory breath causes more air velocity through the whistle achieving the desired result of inflated tone and pitch.
Upon compliance, the next play cannot be initiated until a referee acting as a ball placement specialist, gives the go ahead. The ‘go ahead’ is in the form of a deflated whistle blow as the crowd noise has now dissipated with the level of excitement on the field. These are all acceptable and expected levels of whistle blowing. And the referees all know it.
Yes, they know it. In the playoffs, the officiating crew selected are the ‘Best of the Best’ performers throughout the regular season. And being the best assures that they are air pressure experts whether it comes in the form of pre-game ball squeezing or on the field blowing.
Which leads us to our dilemma. As the game progressed, improperly inflated footballs were officially placed for each team. Well, certainly for the Patriots. Yes, we can surmise that these best of the best knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that something was up. Who could ignore the fact that some were super firm and others were flabby? That doesn’t take an expert!
We really should ask: why did this proceed the entire game? Why was Andrew Luck, the quarterback of the Colts, solely stuck with super-firm, over-inflated and hard to handle footballs, while Brady enjoyed the flabby, under-inflated and easily-manageable footballs? Don’t these officials want to be considered Professional?
The game officials on the field had the experience, power and control to have made this a non-issue but didn’t! All they had to do when first noticed is to approach the Patriots’ sideline (at a commercial break no less…plenty of those) and tell them to stop with the funny business.
So why aren’t the referees held accountable as well?
While it is mostly true that no one can bad mouth nor dispute any official’s call, maybe they have grown accustom to care less about us knowing of their hyper-inflated air pressure expertise than they do about shoving their hyper-infallibility down our throat.
Patriots and Officials, “A plague o’ both your houses!”