The NFL did it again.
As we all know by know, The Wells Report is out. And while I don't plan on reading it, as it's 243 pages long, the major conclusion is in, rock-solid and as damning as they come.
It is more probable than not that New England Patriots personnel participated in violations of the Playing Rules and were involved in a deliberate effort to circumvent the rules.
After more than 100 days and more than 200 pages, we now know, with absolute certainty, that "it was more probable than not" that the Patriots altered the game balls. In other words, on the sliding scale with "Did It" on one end and "Didn't Do It" on the other, the Pats land somewhere in between "Might have done it" and "Possibly did it."
Genius, I say. Pure, absolute genius.
Plenty of people, Bob Kraft among them, are absolutely furious over these results, either due to their lack of evidence or their suggestion that New England did in fact have something to do with DeflateGate. And to a degree, I get it; after all, it seems like a whole lot of time, energy, and resources for what ultimately pans out to be inconclusive results, and by suggesting that it's quite possible the Patriots did in fact deflate those balls, it certainly paints the organization in a bad light.
As for me? I'm downright impressed. The Wells Report, in a brief 243 pages, summed up EXACTLY the climate of the modern-day NFL.
With very few exceptions, if you consider yourself a football fan you fall into one of two camps when it comes to the New England Patriots:
The Patriots are a disgraceful bunch of cheaters and rulebreakers who are constantly given the benefit of the doubt by the league and get away with things no other team would get away with.
The Patriots experience more sensationalism, controversy, and overreactions than any other team in the league because they are consistently dominant and continue to win games in a league set up for parity.
Love them or hate them, there are few teams as polarizing as the Pats. They are always in the news, always generate discussion, and produce the most visceral reactions from media and fans alike. Those who find themselves in one camp or another pitched their tents a long, long time ago, and no matter what happened or happens from here on out, absolutely nothing is going to get them to pull up their stakes and move on.
Luckily, absolutely nothing is what The Wells Report just delivered.
Let's not kid ourselves. The NFL cares about one thing and one thing only in this day and age, and that's the bottom line. Concussions, domestic abuse, player welfare, breast cancer, overall integrity - those are all nice things to talk about, but at the end of the day all that really matters to the league is making money. They care about nothing else. If they could get away with making guys play for free until they couldn't walk anymore and spent the rest of their lives in a wheelchair, they would. It's making money, nothing else, and if you believe otherwise I have a bridge I'd like to sell you.
And what better way to keep raking in the dough than to keep people talking about this event and allowing everyone to stay firmly ensconced within their own preexisting beliefs? What could be more effective than producing a report that doesn't condemn the Patriots, but allows plenty of wiggle room for those in the anti-Patriots camp to jump for joy over the possibility of "more probable than not"? What will generate more articles, discussions, blog posts, and pageviews than posting results that allow half of the country to take one stance and the other half to take another? What good would have come from completely exonerating the Patriots and putting this story to bed? This report is an absolutely brilliant move and the amount of momentum it has generated is already astonishing.
Patriots haters suffered a major blow this past February when New England won the Super Bowl for the fourth time. All of the SpyGate talk and no recent meaningful win rhetoric more or less went out the window, and a fair amount of steam on the AntiPats Express was lost. Now, though, there's a whole new controversy here to focus on, a delicious piece of low-hanging fruit for us all to grab and bite until the juice runs down our chin. We either get to jump to New England's defense regarding the complete lack of conclusive anything or we get to rip them apart for being disgraceful cheaters, depending on whatever makes you most happy as a fan. And while we all had our opinions 100% cemented about 45 seconds after that first Tweet leaked a few hours after the AFC Championship Game, The Wells Report gives everyone plenty of reasons to stand by those opinions and defend them to the death - all while the NFL once again takes center stage on the national spotlight during what is traditionally one of the more quiet times on the league calendar and the money keeps rolling in.
Sometimes, you just have to tip your cap to a worthy opponent, and this is for sure one of those times. I mean look at me; I dropped everything to write an article about a freaking five month old football game. I'm sure plenty of you are already all over the message boards bashing or defending the Patriots - and secretly (or not so secretly) loving every minute of it. Phones are blowing up. Networks are interrupting regularly scheduled programming to talk about it. This is going to be in the news cycle for at least a week. And all over a report that proved nothing, suggested something, and was worded in a way that allowed everyone to keep subscribing to and believing in their own personal narrative regarding the NFL's mos infamous team.
Well played, Mr. Goodell. Well played. You're making us all dance like puppets on a string, and we'll all be lining up to give you our money in a few months when the season starts up again.
Super Bowl Champs!