Rumor has it the Super Bowl will be played this week — so can we please talk about football?
Not the science of footballs. Not the grip of footballs. Not the PSI of footballs.
No, we’re talking about actual football. Matchups, offensive and defensive strategies, key injuries. That sort of thing.
Super Bowl XLIX has the makings of an epic contest. The Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots finished the regular season as the NFL’s two best teams. Both are vying to cement their legacy in league history.
The game offers two great quarterbacks, two great coaches, tons of terrific and intriguing matchups.
Will Tom Brady throw at Richard Sherman? Can Russell Wilson win his second championship in three NFL seasons? How will Seattle’s defense cover Rob Gronkowski?
Even Marshawn Lynch’s one-word answers sound more appealing than the theater of the absurd involving underinflated footballs.
Deflategate is now ingrained in our collective vernacular, a controversy that, while important in its essence, has become mind-numbing in its coverage.
Did the Patriots doctor footballs in the AFC Championship Game? Seems fairly obvious at this point. But does letting air out of a football constitute a national crisis? Please.
Most reasonable people would agree that cheating should not be tolerated. Integrity of the game remains a vital tenet of any sports league. No argument there.
If the NFL ultimately determines that the Patriots willfully skirted rules, punish them as repeat offenders and move on. If Bill Belichick and/or Brady orchestrated the whole thing, penalize them in some fashion next season.
But it’s laughable to suggest the Patriots shouldn’t be allowed to play in the Super Bowl. Or that the NFL should suspend Belichick or Brady from the league’s biggest stage.
Because somebody let some air out of footballs? Come on.
This isn’t Ray Rice punching out his wife in an elevator, or the New Orleans Saints’ bounty scandal from a few years ago. This latest “gate” just seems minor compared to some of the other troubling stories we’ve witnessed around the league in recent years.
But this one involves the Patriots, an organization widely despised because of its success, its involvement in Spygate and the perception that Belichick will use any loophole to gain a competitive advantage. And it’s the Super Bowl, an event so grand in scale that a hangnail becomes front-page fodder.
And so we’ve flipped out and treated this story as if the Patriots hacked into a top-secret government computer and swiped nuclear launch codes.
The networks led their nightly news with it. One headline in Boston read: “What can I tell my kids about Deflategate?” And, no, that wasn’t from The Onion.
The Patriots held multiple news conferences last week, including one by Belichick on Saturday that was so bizarre and confusing that it felt like the Twilight Zone.
Belichick discussed atmospheric conditions, the rubbing process and equilibrium state of a football and something about a football’s bladder. He came across as a mad scientist until he dropped a glorious reference to the movie “My Cousin Vinny” in noting that he’s not the “Mona Lisa Vito of the football world.”
The only thing that would’ve topped that moment is if he blamed the whole thing on the “two yutes.” Speaking of which, Fox Sports reported Monday that the NFL is focusing its investigation on a locker room attendant who handled the footballs before the game. Hmm.
Belichick’s lecture prompted some scientists to conduct experiments to see if his explanation for the deflated footballs was plausible. We’re still waiting for NASA to chime in.
This entire episode serves as a fitting conclusion to an NFL season that veered off the rails in one big ball of controversy. The spotlight focused as much on misdeeds off the field as it did the performance between the lines. All of it occurred on Roger Goodell’s watch, the commissioner who seems to land in a pile with every step.
The league’s investigation into Deflategate won’t conclude until after the Super Bowl — shocking, right? — but that story undoubtedly will linger all week. It’d be nice if we can talk about some actual football, too. The matchup looks fabulous and hopefully the game equals the hype.
Normally, fans and media mock the microscopic analysis of a Super Bowl. We tend to view it as overkill. But now? That sounds downright pleasant compared to more discussion about a football’s bladder.