Oh, ESPN…you just keep doing you.
The World Wide Leader in Sports seems to have realized they got played by the NFL last year during the heyday of Deflategate, as the network reported NFL leaks seemingly every day, and most of them were blatantly wrong.
Chris Mortensen’s "11 of 12 footballs were 2 pounds underinflated" report? Nope, not true.
Chris Mortensen’s other report that all of the Colts footballs were regulation pressure? Well, that wasn’t true either.
Kelly Naqi’s report about the Patriots trying to put an unapproved kicking ball in the AFC Championship game? Swing and a miss, turns out it was actually an NFL employee that did that. Oops.
You get the idea. And based on ESPN’s tone on Deflategate ever since they got all the real facts, it doesn’t sound like they’re too stoked on the NFL using them as leak central to push their agenda.
And that brings us to today’s main course from ESPN writer Kevin Seifert and NFL Nation, which sounds awfully salty about the whole thing.
Observe! Seifert’s piece is titled "500 days later, Deflategate is still full of mystery", and here’s the first sentence:
"Deflategate is 500 days old and we still don’t know if it happened."
If that’s par for the course, let’s keep reading!
"Real doubt exists at the most basic and existential level imaginable. Did anything unnatural happen to footballs used in the 2014 AFC Championship Game? The NFL, backed by a multimillion dollar third-party report, believes it did. Science, reason, and innate skepticism diminish the certainty of its answer."
"Yet for all of that time, not to mention an estimated $22.5 million and rising in legal fees, incredible gaps remain in any objective collection of unassailable facts."
"…But there is no direct evidence that the locker room attendant, Jim McNally, removed air from the balls or that Brady instructed him to do it."
"For all we know, and plenty of scientists have attested, the footballs deflated because, well, nature. According to the Ideal Gas Law, atmospheric and temperature changes can impact the pressure inside a football (pounds per square inch, or psi)."
"It's hard to say, of course, because up until that moment, the NFL never recorded psi measurements. It has refused to release results of 2015 spot checks. Deflategate might not be a unique event. It could very well happen every week in the NFL."
Now we’re cooking. Take it home, Kevin!
"The NFL authority structure supports and, in some cases, encourages the imposition of discipline independent of the availability of indisputable facts."
"If it wasn't clear during the muddled Bountygate investigation, it's obvious now. The NFL's collective bargaining agreement with its players provides enormous latitude to accuse, convict and penalize with evidence far short of a legal standard. The standard is simply to have "more likely than not" engaged in an activity."
"Unchecked, this authority has enormous implications. It's not difficult to pursue an agenda based on 51 percent certainty. You could quite easily (if expensively) assemble enough evidence to, say, take down the face of the most successful and enviable franchise in the game. Deflategate has shown us how."
To his credit, Seifert went off on the NFL a few months ago, too – in a piece called "Stacking the NFL’s Offseason Agenda", he led off with the haymaker line "The NFL is now in its 13th month of pursuing justice in a case it proved to no one’s satisfaction but its own".
And in March, ESPN’s public editor Jim Brady wrote a longwinded explanation called "Lack of transparency on Deflategate made journalism tougher to judge", which, to be fair, explained quite a few things that ESPN did during Deflategate, but still came off with a "sorry we’re not sorry" type of arrogance.
Compare that to ESPN in between the AFC Championship Game and Tom Brady taking the case to court. Remember Mark Brunell choking up like he was watching a John Hughes movie in his "I just didn’t believe what Tom Brady had to say" sob speech? Stephen A. Smith saying he "heard", but "doesn’t know" that Brady destroyed his personal cell phone? Jackie MacMullan breathing fire in her "Arrogance demands consequences" column that called for Bill Belichick to be suspended for the Super Bowl? Damien Woody telling everyone that "...this action has happened multiple times. I'm looking at it as this has happened multiple times, not only this particular situation, but it's happened in the past before"?
It’s hard to think of a more complete 180-degree HOT TAKE flip than that.
But hey, ESPN, you keep doing you. Surely your business model is sustainable enough that embarrassments like this won’t hurt the bottom line or anything.