As more and more details come out on Deflategate, things are looking worse and worse for the Patriots. There are still more questions to answer, and there is no reason to jump to any conclusions yet, but at the moment all signs are pointing to New England screwing with their footballs in some way.
The initial response to all of this from Patriots Nation has varied somewhat; some of us are absolutely eating it up and fully embracing our role as heel. Others are pointing out how little the PSI in a football had to do with the Patriots spanking the Colts in the AFC Championship game. Still others are pointing out how every quarterback likes to doctor his balls (heh) in some way, this is simply a part of the league, and people are only making a big deal out of it because it's the Patriots.
And if I had to pick a camp, I guess I would put myself in the latter category. No, this isn't a big deal. Yes, Aaron Rodgers likes his balls overinflated. Yes, Eli Manning likes his doctored. Yes, the Vikings heated their balls up on the sideline. Yes, Brad Johnson paid $7500 to have his balls tampered with (heh) before the Super Bowl.And yes, this is only a big deal and a huge scandal because it's the Patriots. Absolutely nobody would care if this had happened to 31 other teams, and we all would have moved on a long time ago.
But at the end of the day, no matter how you try to spin it, the reason that this is a big deal because of the Patriots is because of what this team has done in the past and how they are perceived. And that is nobody's fault but theirs.
New England, because of both their string of unprecedented success coupled with SpyGate, lost the right to have the NFL look the other way when they participate in one of the tens of thousands of slightly shady and underhanded dealings that the rest of the league engages in on a daily basis. They no longer have the luxury of breaking a single rule, no matter how silly that rule may be. They can bend the rules with the rest, they can exploit the grey areas with the rest, but they are no longer allowed to break the rules the way that other teams are. It may not be entirely fair and it may be the result of a lot of bruised egos and jealousy, but it's also very much on the Patriots and the choices they made years ago. And once you have painted yourself in that light, you have no choice but to completely adhere to every possible guideline, even when your fellow colleagues do not.
Think of it this way: the speed limit on most highways is 65 miles per hour. 65 is the fastest that you are legally allowed to drive on most major highways in this country. Driving any faster than 65 means that you are breaking the law. Does every single citizen drive exactly 65? Of course not. Does that make the majority of Americans lawbreakers? Technically, yes it does. We are all criminals. Is it even remotely a big deal if you drive 70 in a 65? Nope. Is a cop going to pull you over for doing 70? Not even close. He has much more important things to worry about, he doesn't care, and he's more than happy to let you go on your merry way. As long as you aren't being blatant or a jackass about it, feel free to speed a little bit to your heart's content, and we'll all just get on with our lives.
But let's say that, a few years back, you got busted for speeding. You "misinterpreted the limit," you thought it was 75 when it wasn't, you were caught going 80, and you paid an extremely high penalty for it. And ever since that day when you got caught speeding, every single police officer knew who you were, had your license plate number, knew what kind of car you drove, and spent way more time than any sane person should watching you on the road to make sure you never sped again. Every lane change you ever make comes under scrutiny. Every Stop sign you encounter is examined closely to see if you rolled through it. Every parking space you pull into may be a no parking zone. All of your fellow drivers, and more than a few passengers, look at you like you singlehandedly ruined the entire entity that is transportation for everybody. No matter what you do as a driver, you have the police's full attention and they have never forgotten, nor will they ever forget, that speeding ticket you got all those years ago. You want to laugh at how utterly ridiculous the whole thing is, but laughter isn't going to chance the reality. When that's the case, you no longer have the luxury all of those other drivers have. They are still allowed to go 70 in a 65, and you are not. You have to go 65 on the dot for the rest of your time as a driver and if you try to do what everyone else is doing, you are going to get busted for it and thrown in jail. And why? Because you got that ticket when others didn't. There are likely plenty of others out there going waaaay faster than 80, but you know what? They never got ticketed, and you did. No way around that at all. It may be kind of a lame thing for the police to do, but at the end of the day, it's nobody's fault but yours, because you shouldn't have been speeding in the first place.
That is where the Patriots find themselves. They aren't allowed to go 70 in a 65. They aren't allowed to return their VHS rentals to Blockbuster without rewinding. They aren't allowed to prematurely cut the tags off the mattresses. They aren't allowed to doctor their footballs. If they do, it's going to be a huge deal. And the reason it's going to be a huge deal is on them and them alone.
We are all Patriots fans. We will all continue to support and root for this team. We will all get excited for the Super Bowl. But we also all have to own this. We can't pretend that the world is blowing this out of proportion, even though they 100% are, because for better or worse that right went out the window with SpyGate. It puts us on something of an island regarding what we can and can't do. And should the full results of this investigation come to light and does in fact implicate the Patriots in this whole pile of nonsense, our only real option is to accept whatever punishment the NFL inflicts and try to move on.