Say what you want about the NFL, but they certainly know how to generate pageviews.
News recently broke that the league is investigating whether or not the New England Patriots used deflated balls in their 45-7 victory over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Game. At one point in the third quarter, the referees stopped play, inspected a football, and replaced it with another. Early Monday morning, local Indianapolis beat writer Bob Kravitz broke the story that the Patriots might have tampered with the footballs, and while it would in no way affect the outcome of the game, should the allegations prove true, there will be some form of repercussions.
I didn't think much about it when I went to bed last night, figuring that it was just some hack trying to get his name out there and generate some controversy. But when I woke up this morning and discovered that the investigation is in fact going to happen, I could only react in one way:
This is brilliant. Absolutely, certifiably BRILLIANT. The NFL strikes again.
There's absolutely no denying that the vast, vast majority of football fans hate the Patriots. And I only use the word "hate" here because there simply isn't a word in the English language that describes just how despised this franchise is outside of New England. There just isn't any way to accurately portray how deeply our beloved Patriots are loathed by pretty much everybody. I'd even go so far to say that, for some fans, hating the Patriots is even more enjoyable than rooting for whatever sadsack group of misfits they have hitched their wagon to. And while said haters are always quick to point to SpyGate or Belichick's demeanor or Tom Brady's fashion sense as the main reason behind their fury, the fact of the matter is that there is one reason - and one reason only - why the Patriots are so universally disliked, and that reason is because they are good. They consistently win games. They have been dominant for 15 straight years now, occupy a large amount of media time, and are difficult to avoid if you consider yourself an NFL fan. Yeah, their coach is standoffish and their quarterback is a prettyboy who takes his fashion very seriously, but the only reason anybody cares about that is because the Patriots win games. If New England didn't win, nobody would care, and there isn't any disputing that. They aren't unique in that, every team that wins a lot is hated, but it's especially relevant in a league specifically designed to prevent this kind of run. And so, because of that the Patriots are hated far more than most.
However, the major problem with the "you win a lot, so I hate you" narrative is one that makes it more or less impossible for fans to come away from that situation without coming across as butthurt and whiny. There is also no real logical reasoning behind it other than petty jealousy and consistently being on the receiving end of a New England-generated beatdown. Thus, when something like SpyGate comes around - an actual, tangible, legitimate reason to not only hate the Patriots, but irrationally justify why they have been so successful for so long - people cling to it like a life raft in a monsoon and will never, at any point, let go. I get it, and I don't blame them; in fact, I encourage it. Hating other teams is fun, and I would never want to deprive somebody of that smug, self-righteous feeling that you get when you have successfully trolled somebody else or gotten under an opposing fan's skin. I will take issue with those out there who truly and genuinely believe that SpyGate is the sole reason for the Patriots' string of success, but those people are few and far between and also wear tinfoil hats as they try to disprove the moon landing. For the most part, I tell Pats haters to take SpyGate and run with it. Bringing that up constantly has to be a lot of fun.
The problem with that, though, is that should the Patriots win Super Bowl XLIX, one of anti-Patriots Nation's favorite lines - the Patriots haven't won a Super Bowl since SpyGate - suddenly goes away. That beautiful, glorious nugget of hate is no longer applicable. The Patriots will be able to silence a lot of haters should they find a way to win against the Seattle Seahawks, and that, I'm sure, has a lot of people fired up about this matchup.
I'm trying to make sense of all of this and how this is even a thing, but I just can't. If both teams submit their game balls to the refs hours before the game, the balls are all inspected and then marked, and are then kept with an official member of the staff as the game goes on, I just can't figure out when or how the Patriots would be able to deflate footballs during the course of the game. I don't know, maybe they did, or maybe there is something I'm missing here. But to be honest, at this point, what the NFL discovers is completely irrelevant; the storyline has been created and is fully and deeply embedded in the psyche of every single Patriots hater on the planet.
Take a step back and look at this whole thing for a second; can you think of a single scenario in which anyone just lets this go? If the NFL comes back and says that everything was completely legit, there was absolutely nothing wrong with any of the footballs, and the matter is officially closed, will that really mark the end of people associating this upcoming Super Bowl with DeflateGate? Of course not; this is going to be a nonstop running storyline for the next two weeks, and probably longer, regardless of the outcome. I mean just think about the term "deflated balls;" I can think of at least 40 jokes off the top of my head that can build off that phrase and I'm not even trying. Why would any Patriots hater in his or her right mind pay a lick of attention to what the actual ruling is? Why wouldn't you take that and run it into the ground? How happy must this investigation make you if you hate the Patriots? It just opens up so many more avenues for jackassery that were previously closed. Whether you decide to go full-on DeflateGate Truther (The Colts win that game with regulation balls. Think about all the drops! Think about Vinatieri's kick! Think about Luck's inaccuracy! None of those things happen if the Patriots didn't cheat like the classless bunch of jerks that they are), Thinly-Veiled Objective Observer (I mean obviously the Patriots being a bunch of cheaters ultimately didn't affect the outcome of this game, but to sit here and say that it had zero impact on how things shook out is simply ignorant. A deflated football has a bigger impact than you'd think), or the What Do You Expect Dismisser (just another classless move from the most despicable franchise in all of professional sports), you're going to absolutely love every second of it and make no apologies about it. Deflated balls are now forever attached to this Super Bowl (man is that phrase a comedic goldmine) regardless of how any of this plays out, and so any of you hoping that the NFL will simply dismiss all of it and allow us all to get back to breaking down the game itself should realize that that just isn't going to happen. The trolls have been fed, and they are lapping up every greasy drop of it.
And to all that, I say Thank You. Thank you so very, very much.
I personally love it when stuff like this happens. The Patriots are just so deep inside of everybody's heads that they completely consume their every waking thought. The notion of the New England Patriots even existing on this planet is enough to send a fair number of people into a rage. I don't hate anything as much as some people hate the Patriots, and hopefully I never will. That's serious power and control right there. That's more evidence of just how good this team is than any stat or win/loss record could ever be. That the Patriots have been so good for so long that their haters will go to great lengths just to make sure that the rest of the strangers on social media they will never meet know that they think that the Patriots are cheaters... it's just so damn wonderful I want to start dancing right here in my living room. My favorite team is in your favorite team's kitchen and they are eating all of your food. Then they are going to put on your robe and take a nap in your bed while you take to the internet to express your rage over what a disgrace they are to make yourself feel better.
So more Tweets, I say! More Facebook posts! More comments! More articles! More trolling! More Cheatriots! More Belicheat! MORE! MORE!
And while you guys do all that, we'll be busy preparing for the Super Bowl.