The initial DeflateGate results are in, and it doesn't look good.
There's really no way around it: this absolutely sucks. What should be a time for celebrating, enjoying the moment, and getting excited for the Super Bowl is now going to be two straight weeks of finger pointing, expressing disgust, and exclaiming complete outrage. The league has been quoted as being "disappointed, angry, and distraught" over all of this, and if the investigation ultimately reveals that the Patriots were indeed trying to manipulate the rules to their advantage, they have every right to be.
There are still a lot of unanswered questions - whether any of the Colts footballs are also being tested to judge if it was a game-wide event caused by the weather and conditions, why the refs never said anything at any point, whether this is the Patriots deliberately manipulating the ball or the referees failing to do their job adequately, how and why any of this went down - but to be honest, none of that matters anymore. Any further information that may or may not come to light over the next few days is all irrelevant. The narrative, for better or worse, right or wrong, has now been set in stone:
If the Patriots win the Super Bowl, the victory is now tainted and completely meaningless. If the Patriots lose the Super Bowl, they have been exposed for the frauds that they are and are completely incapable of winning without cheating, and justice has been done.
That's it. That's the storyline now. There's nothing anyone can do about it, there's no arguing the point with anyone who already made up their minds a few days ago when this story first came out. The effect that DeflateGate had on the Colts game isn't important. That the Patriots would have won regardless of the amount of pressure in the footballs doesn't matter in the slightest. That this might be 100% on the refs and 0% on the Patriots isn't even in the conversation. You can try to spin this any way you want, but to a very large number of people the Super Bowl that was supposed to cement Brady's legacy as the greatest QB of all time will now be forever be associated with something as ridiculous as the amount of air in a football. Get ready, Patriots Nation - that's the reality now. Should the Patriots beat the Seahawks, you are going to have to spend the rest of your days arguing with those who put zero legitimacy on anything that happens from here on out.
On it's own, this isn't a big deal. Aaron Rodgers is on record saying that he likes to overinflate balls. The Minnesota Vikings were caught heating balls up earlier this year. This kind of thing isn't all that uncommon at the end of the day. But the bottom line is that the rule is in place, and rules are rules. And since this is the Patriots, a team who has already been caught and disciplined for illegally taping opposing signals in 2007, this is all going to be magnified one hundredfold.
There were already plenty of people who were going to be rooting hard for Seattle in this game; not only is that number going to increase, but they will now be rooting for a 75-0 blowout in which Bill Belichick is so thoroughly humiliated that he skulks away and is never heard from again.
The real question you need to ask yourselves, at this point, is whether or not people who make comments on articles carry any weight with how you go about your life. Whether or not talking heads on sports channels ranting and raving over this is going to make you angry. Whether a week and a half of football talk that is about the actual football and not the game itself is going to ruin your day. If so, I advise you all to just turn off your TVs and radios until about 6PM on Sunday Night. Because this isn't going anywhere anytime soon.
To be honest, I'm pretty upset about this. Maybe I shouldn't be, but I am. It isn't so much the story itself - contrary to the way people are talking, the Patriots have not been setting puppies on fire - as it is how much less I'm going to enjoy my Super Bowl experience now that this is going to dominate the headlines. I wasn't planning on spending these next two weeks trying to defend my team as they get relentlessly attacked from all angles by those who aren't even remotely interested in discourse and are currently doing cartwheels in the streets over this news. But that's the reality now. Even if the Patriots are completely exonerated in this whole thing (I can't see how they will be, for the record; even if this is on the refs, they still turned in the footballs), the spin will be the NFL wanting to sweep this all under the rug and hiding obvious evidence in order to further support New England. This is now how I get to spend my Super Bowl weeks. And that just sucks.
I still support this team. I'm still rooting for them as hard as ever. I'm still happy to be where I am and wouldn't change anything about my fan allegiance for anything. But I'd be lying if I said this didn't hurt. This one is a gut punch. Hopefully more evidence will come to light that shows that New England did everything right and in no way should be implicated in this nonsense. But even if that does happen, the damage has already been done.