You might not know this, but there has been an actual high tech cheating scandal in Major League Baseball that was lost in the shadows of DeflateGate. An employee of the St. Louis Cardinals was charged with hacking the computers of the division rival Houston Astros in order to steal player scouting reports, draft evaluations, and trade discussions.
The reports surfaced on June 16th, 2015. The employee charged with the hacking was sentenced to 46 months in prison on July 19th, 2016. The Cardinals could be penalized draft picks and/or a fine upon further evaluation by the league.
For those keeping track, this scandal lasted 399 days. DeflateGate started well before and will last far beyond as the NFL Players Association works on bringing their case to the Supreme Court.
I bring this up to frame the absolute insanity of DeflateGate. There is zero proof that anything happened to any footballs by the Patriots that night (there is plenty of evidence that a league employee was stealing footballs), and yet a few well placed leaks by the NFL launched the dumbest scandal ever.
Just check the search results. There are 494,000 Google results for “Cardinals Hacking” versus 1,170,000 for “Patriots DeflateGate”. For whatever reason, the world cared far more about the possibility of the Patriots having cheated than about the Cardinals breach of security and actual crime, even though St. Louis has more World Series titles than the Patriots have Super Bowl trophies over the past decade.
You can be certain that if the Patriots were linked to a computer hacking of a division rival that head coach Bill Belichick would be banned for life and the story would headline every newspaper and television channel for the next year (well, maybe not ahead of this election cycle, but you know what I mean).
Is it the popularity of the NFL over MLB that caused DeflateGate to gain traction? Was it the Patriots history with SpyGate that led many to jump to conclusions without proof? Is DeflateGate just that catchy of a phrase and if the Cardinals scandal was called “AstroNoNo” or something would it have been more popular?
Or did the popularity stem from the systematic leaks from the NFL headquarters in order to steer the narrative against the Patriots in order to justify a losing investigation?
At the end of the day, DeflateGate lasted far longer than it ever needed because NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was hellbent on getting a “win” after screwing up with Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson, and with players retiring with concerns of head injuries.
It was far easier to discuss a manufactured scandal than to turn the mirror on serious issues that could have a lasting impact on the health of the league.