The Winning Edge

Oh look, the Cheatriots got caught doing what they do. Quick, act surprised!

Okay, so maybe the drama over “Spygate” and now “Deflategate” are a bit, pardon the pun, overblown. Could 2 psi of air in a football account for a 38-point blowout? Probably not.

But it’s fair to assume that at least some advantage was provided. How do we know? Because they’re not supposed to do it, they know that, and they went ahead and did it anyway.

Same goes for Brad “Scuff” Johnson, who is just now admitting that he “paid some guys off to get the balls right” for Super Bowl 37 (this is America, there is no reason to use Roman numerals). See, when you’re having to bribe random individuals to tamper with the most essential piece of game equipment, you’ve already lost all moral ground.

Yes, the Raiders managed to self-destruct before, during, and certainly after that dismal game. But Brad Johnson felt entitled to pay “some guys” to help him out. What would Bucs fans think if the Raiders had won that game, and over a decade later, Rich Gannon makes that sort of confession?

The way the Raiders played that day, the Bucs probably would have won, no matter what. The way the Colts played against the Patsies on Sunday, New England almost certainly would have won. It’s reasonable to assume that in both those cases, the better-prepared team still won.

But the point about cheating and tampering is, we’ll never really know.

Obviously we all get the irony of a Raiders blog complaining about other teams doing unscrupulous things to gain some tiny advantage on an opponent. But I think that many of the things that were alleged to Al Davis were things that, true or not, Mr. Davis was happy to let people think were true. But here we have conclusive proof, and a retired player stepping forward to confess, long after there can be any consequences.

The NFL has had a pretty nasty run on its institutional integrity this year, really the past few years. From ignoring its despicable NCAA feeder system that makes gazillions off of broke “student-athletes”; to ignoring for years the effects of chronic brain injury, which has led to a growing number of player suicides; to trying to brush under Ray Rice’s brutal assault on his girlfriend (not even wanting to see the video before the case was quickly adjudicated), as well as any number of other domestic violence or alcohol-drug-related incidents, the league has always led from behind, scrambling to make things right only after the issue has been made public.

But just like with ensuring that the refs are as non-partial and detail-oriented as possible, this is an issue that speaks to the very integrity of the game itself. Especially at the tournament level, the NFL has to ensure that fans are watching a game where the ground rules have been rigorously observed and enforced, and that tampering — no matter how minimal it might seem — is taken seriously.

Again, it seems like New England should be able to win without these shenanigans. Which makes you wonder why they keep doing it.

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