By now you've likely heard of "deflategate," which is the allegation that the New England Patriots were playing with under inflated footballs on Sunday against the Colts. ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported last night that the NFL found that 11 footballs were indeed under inflated.
The use of under inflated footballs makes it much easier to throw, catch, and grip the football in rainy conditions, like the conditions in Foxborough on Sunday night. But while it did give the Patriots an advantage, that wasn't the reason why they won the game. The Colts were using their own footballs and scored just seven points. And it didn't matter that the Patriots' footballs were deflated when the Colts couldn't tackle the ballcarrier. Maybe the game would have been slightly closer had the Patriots played fair, but they still would have won.
@nfl So we get to play the game again or nah?— Darius Butler (@DariusJButler) January 21, 2015
That won't happen. The Patriots beat the Colts, simple as that, and the NFL wouldn't dare to take a team out of the Super Bowl - especially not the Patriots. You see, the NFL likely gains more popularity and viewership from the Patriots playing. As we know with any truly compelling movie or story, there is a true villain who everyone roots against. The Patriots are the villain of the NFL. Pretty much everyone outside of New England dislikes them and roots against them. People will tune in to the Super Bowl solely in the hope that the Patriots lose. They're the villain, and the NFL reaps the benefits of it. Why would they take the Patriots out of the Super Bowl?
But at the same time, the NFL has to make a statement that the integrity of the game is important and that cheating won't be tolerated. And to do that, they should suspend Patriots' head coach Bill Belichick for the Super Bowl.
"But it might not have been him that did it," a Patriots fan will argue (because Patriots fans are the only ones I've found who don't think this is a big deal). Who cares? Remember back in "Bountygate" where the NFL suspended Saints coach Sean Payton? Commissioner Roger Goodell set a precedent by saying ignorance isn't an excuse. It was established then that the head coach of a team would be held responsible for what went on with the team. Payton was suspended after his first incident of cheating.
Belichick? This isn't his first offense. Back in 2007, the Patriots were caught cheating by videotaping other team's signals in what is known as "Spygate." The NFL's punishment that time seemed pretty severe, as they fined Belichick $500,000 (the maximum allowed), the Patriots $250,000, and docked them their first round draft pick. But what impact did those fines have on a coach and a franchise that have millions upon millions of dollars? And the use of a draft pick is all in order to get to the Super Bowl - which the Patriots have done.
Seriously, does anyone think a fine will this time cause Belichick to stop cheating? He's making millions of dollars, and I'm sure he'd be willing to pay a fine if he thinks it gives his team an advantage to get to and win the Super Bowl. And does anyone think a loss of a draft pick would cause Belichick and the Patriots to stop breaking the rules? The whole point of draft picks, again, is to win the Super Bowl. On February 1, the Patriots will be playing in the Super Bowl. You really think that they'll care about a draft pick when holding their fourth Lombardi Trophy? Does anyone think they'll care about losing a draft pick? They'll likely see that as a small price to pay for winning another championship. And does anyone think the bad publicity and being labeled a cheater will stop Belichick? He doesn't care about his public perception - just watch one of his press conferences and you'd know that.
And here's the thing: Belichick doesn't have to cheat. He's the best coach in the game, and it's not even close. He's got a very talented team led by a future Hall of Famer at quarterback. He doesn't have to cheat, but he does. He cheated with Spygate, and now it sounds like he cheated with deflategate.
This might seem like a minor issue to many, and I agree that with any other team it wouldn't be nearly as big of a deal. But the integrity of the game is being called into question right now. Does the NFL care? If they do, they'll suspend Bill Belichick for the Super Bowl.
"But that isn't fair," a Patriots fan will cry. That's ironic - the Patriots haven't been playing fair for years. This particular incident didn't affect the outcome of the AFC Championship game, but it does affect the integrity of the NFL. They can't tolerate cheating, especially from someone who's been caught cheating before.
I know it won't happen. The NFL will likely give Belichick and the Patriots a slap on the wrist again, if they find that there was indeed wrongdoing. And instead, we might be watching Bill Belichick and the Patriots hoist the Lombardi Trophy after the Super Bowl. It's well known that, for most incidents, teams have different standards for their best player than they do for the bottom of the roster guys. Does the NFL as well? Belichick is easily the best coach in the league. Would the NFL suspend it's best coach for it's biggest game?
It won't happen, but I'm arguing it should. Roger Goodell's prior punishment didn't deter Belichick and the Patriots from cheating again, so why should we think that it would this time? He needs to make an example out of Bill Belichick and make a statement that cheating won't be tolerated. He needs to suspend Belichick for the Super Bowl. And if not, the NFL runs the risk of Belichick, a cheater, hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. Now what kind of message does that send? That "cheaters never prosper?" When he's hoisting the Trophy that symbolizes the greatest accomplishment in football? No, the only course of action that would send a message and protect the integrity of the game is to suspend Patriots head coach for the Super Bowl, even thought that'd be deflating to the Patriots fan base.