The NFL season starts the week of Sept. 7, 2015, when the defending Super Bowl champions, the New England Patriots, play host to the Pittsburgh Steelers at 8:30 p.m. on Thursday. The annual rite of kicking off the NFL season goes to the defending Super Bowl champion every year, and this year will be no different. The league does this partly as a reward and partly as a marketing strategy, but then again, everything the NFL does is part marketing strategy. This year the focus is not on the game, but on superstar quarterback and league poster boy, Tom Brady. With all of the off-the-field controversy surrounding the league and its players, the choice to get tough on the issue of Brady’s under-inflated balls has left many fans confused.
For many fans, the opening of the NFL season signifies many things; a turn in the weather, the kids finally going back to school, the chance to spend time with friends and family eating countless buffalo wings, and consuming one-too-many adult beverages. The reason the NFL is so popular is that it gives the regular working guy a chance to fantasize what it must be like to be Brady, winning Super Bowls and being married to a supermodel who goes by one name. This year, with all the talk of Deflategate, air pressure, PSI, and ball boys, the anticipation just does not feel the same. After all of the legal wrangling regarding Brady’s role in the scandal, it is hard for the average viewer to “get ready for some football.”
Football has long passed baseball as America’s favorite sport, and many greatly anticipate its start. This year feels a little different. Perhaps the feeling is due to Brady’s public fight with his boss, and perhaps it is the realization of how ridiculous the NFL truly acted in regards to the quarterback’s over-inflated footballs – in a game he ended up winning by a score of 45-7. The outcome of that game was not decided by the amount of air in nine footballs, but by the dominance of the New England Patriots.
For all who clamor about how Gisele’s husband broke the rules, there are just as many who remember the old pro wrestling adage that if one is not cheating, one is not trying. In every sport and every competition, there are people bending the rules to get every advantage they can. The official of the game in question never thought the football felt funny enough to warrant a check. In addition, every team has a special kicking ball to be used when punting or kicking off. This is done to make sure that the “kicking” balls are a little older and slicker, which will make it harder on the opponent to catch the punt or kickoff.
Another reason people are fed up with hearing about Deflategate is that it violated the basic American belief that the punishment must fit the crime. If the penalty suggested had been one game only, it would have been viewed as more fair, but four games seemed like too much. The suspension for Greg Hardy’s violent attack on his ex-girlfriend got him a four-game suspension. The punishment for using steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs is also four games. It seems strange that putting illegal, dangerous chemicals into one’s body in order to gain an edge in strength and speed on your opponent, or even beating up your girlfriend, should mandate the same punishment as having footballs that are under-inflated, so fans are confused as to why the NFL finally decided to get tough on this issue.
The NFL has had many ugly incidents; from Ray Rice punching his fianceé, to Aldon Smith’s three arrest for DWIs, to the Hardy situation. The commissioner, Roger Goodell, has been publicly questioned for not being tough on player misconduct, making some feel as though Brady is being used as an example by the commissioner to show how tough he really is on player misconduct. After all, if the poster boy for the league can be suspended for four games, the public must surely see how the NFL is now a league of integrity and morals. Never mind the ongoing public debate about player concussions and safety or the myriad amount of players being arrested for assault, DWI, and other crimes; the NFL chose to get tough on Brady’s under-inflated footballs, leaving many confused fans scratching their heads.
Commentary by Adam Hovorka
ESPN: Judge Rules in Favor of Tom Brady in Deflategate; NFL Appeals Decision
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