Nothing should surprise me anymore when it comes to pro athletes. From cyclist lance Armstrong protesting his “I’ve never taken PEDs (performance enhancing drugs),” to baseball player Barry Bonds getting juiced and “earning” the home run title, it should be obvious that pro athletes are no longer role models for the young or anyone who wants to excel in sports. The narcissists have taken over; it’s only about product placement and money.
But I was surprised last week when I read that the NFL New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady “won’t accept his suspension” after being caught cheating during a playoff game last year. Yes, you read that right. He, and other members of the Patriots were caught cheating. Again.
During an AFC playoff game versus the Indianapolis Colts last year, game officials noticed something fishy about the footballs the Patriots were using in the game. They appeared to be “soft,” or underinflated. According to NFL rules, teams are responsible for providing their own game balls and must be inflated between 12.5 and 13.5 pounds; any less makes the ball easier to grip, hold and throw. This would become a major advantage during adverse weather conditions like rain, snow or very cold weather that hardens the ball and makes it slippery. Of the Patriots’ 12 balls, 11 were deflated. None of the Colts footballs were deflated. The Patriots won that game 45-7.
A formal investigation conducted by former FBI agent Ted Wells found that the Patriots’ footballs were apparently intentionally deflated and that QB Brady “was at least generally aware” the balls were deflated. The Patriots and their owner, Robert Kraft, vehemently denied that was the case but could not explain why the Patriots’ balls were deflated while, across the field, the Colts’ weren’t.
It’s worth noting that when Brady first started playing for the Patriots in the early 2000’s, he was the first starting quarterback to regularly wear gloves. He stated at the time wearing gloves allowed him a better grip on the ball.
After the Wells report, the NFL fined the Patriots $1 million, nixed a first round draft pick and suspended Brady the first four games of the upcoming season. But Brady was having none of that. He appealed the punishment last month, but the NFL still hasn’t released a decision on the appeal.
Sports websites were ablaze this week as rumors bubbled to the surface that Brady may accept paying a fine for “Deflategate,” as the controversy has been called, but would not accept a suspension. I guess in the world of New England Patriot football, cheaters and rule breakers have a veto over any punishment their league passes.
Who are the real losers here, other than the Indianapolis Colts? The kids of course, and aspiring athletes who look up to others as role models and examples to base their own behaviour on. The message is, “Yeah, you can cheat because the only thing that matters is winning. And if you get caught, make you sure you lawyer-up so you will never have to take responsibility for what you’ve done.”
Stu Salkeld is editor of the Leduc-Wetaskiwin Pipestone Flyer newspaper and thinks cheaters should be held responsible for their actions.