Suddenly the mantra that the New England Patriots are cheaters has become the Mainstream Sports Media's rallying cry yet again, this time on allegations made by an Indianapolis Colts TV reporter (from WTHR TV; the story was almost certainly leaked to WTHR by the Colts, with some scuttlebutt being Jim Irsay himself leaked the story) than the Patriots were caught deflating footballs in the AFC Championship Game, a 45-7 Patriots win in rain. A D'Qwell Jackson interception of Brady ostensibly began the story.
Jackson, though, has denied his involvement, and a subsequent story that the Baltimore Ravens alerted the Colts to impropriety has also been disproved. It is the first of the immediate problems with the story. The league controls the footballs on gameday and between referees, security teams, and video cameras it is physically impossible to tamper with them. Also, deflated footballs tend to be inferior in throwing, thus quarterbacks insist they be properly inflated (Aaron Rodgers' now-famous CBS interview in the 2014 season is an example); moreover the allegation that deflated footballs offer more grip is not plausible in game conditions.
The atmospherics of footballs do change in game conditions, like NASCAR tires - David Pearson for one famously always told Glen and Leonard Wood, "blow the right rear up" to stagger the car and make it turn better; in the modern day of radial tires prerace underinflation is necessary to get pressures up to proper levels under racing conditions - and they are prepared for specific weather accordingly.
But it isn't stopping the media from fabricating a litany of cheating by the Patriots such as the four-lineman formation used against the Ravens. Sports Illustrated wants to portray this as a circumvention of NFL rules because the Patriots ran a hurry-up offense with it. It's no circumvention of anything. SI also tries to claim Patriot ball boys spy on opponent locker rooms, except it physically can't be done; visitor team security controls visitor team locker rooms. The story also dregs up Spygate, ignoring it was refuted by the fact of what the rulebook actually says, and even claims a gigantic television screen atop the CBS Scene somehow helps the Patriots sideline when it cannot be seen from inside the stadium. Even worse, the piece claimed the NFL made rule changes in the wake of Brady's injury in 2008 - except the change in question happened in 2006 because of injury to Carson Palmer.
The bottom line is there is no evidence of tampering - and on the contrary the actual evidence is indicative that no tampering happened. The much-discussed Chris Mortenson report that eleven game balls were found underinflated loses credibility with each hour - according to Andy Hart the actual figure given was 0.2, not two - and following Belichick and Brady press conferences there clearly is some kind of disagreement between the Patriots and the league over what constitutes "underinflation."
The media's hatred of the Patriots is based on hatred of their "no-fun" approach to football. They approach it as a machine-like endeavor instead of as a slapdash freelancing exercise. Thus they lack the "fun" of other teams that don't win. There is also the groupthink mentality permeating the media in general and the sports media in particular, where analysis counter to the established storyline has a habit of being suppressed - a saner media would have by now given substantial coverage of exculpatory information regarding the Patriots.
The entire episode yet again showcases the need for a substantial ideological change in the sports media (an example of such dissension can be found in this point-by-point examination of the Michael Rosenberg piece). There is not supposed to be any groupthink, and objective benefit of the doubt is supposed to exist. Sports Illustrated should be mocked and ridiculed for posting a dishonest story about the Patriots; instead the fact of the story being false is widely ignored.
The other angle is yet another reappraisal of Roger Goodell's competence as commissioner. Adam Schefter has reported extreme difficulty at finding evidence, but the more plausible explanation is the league is trying to save face with an investigation it had no business undertaking. It is indicative of Goodell that an investigation was launched at all and has floundered on its own lack of credibility.
Also warranting condemnation are the Indianapolis Colts, whose complaints initiated the controversy and which clearly had no justification for being made.
The smearing has to stop.