In any argument, but especially arguments involving sports, the third party who reinforces your point is praised as a genius and elevated to demigod. The third party who disagrees, or, heaven forbid, uses facts to refute your case, is dismissed as a bunko artist who probably never played a sport in his life.
Never before has this mentality crept in so wholeheartedly as we await what will be called, if we can glean anything from last year’s bullying novella, the Report to the National Football League Concerning…Deflated Footballs in the 2014-2015 AFC Championship Game. The ellipses being an editor’s note, of course, to highlight the absurdity of this year’s Wells Report (opposed to last year’s, as it’s becoming an annual tradition for the NFL, one still more sensible than the Pro Bowl).
As Monday marked the 100-day point in the investigation, Roger Goodell recently said the report should be ready “soon”. Thanks Rog, no time like the present.
Besides the fact that it’s taken forever, the NFL has good reason to release it now. The draft is behind us, meaning picks weren’t docked and, more importantly, people can’t moan about who did or didn’t have picks docked. Until next year’s draft, at least.
As a Patriots fan, I’m in the camp hoping the Colts and somehow the Ravens are guilty of conspiracy, with help from Mike Kensil and other league stooges. While a long shot, a variation of that scenario isn’t any further fetched than the alleged air-altering by the Patriots.
In regards to the opening premise…
If the Wells Report finds the Patriots innocent of wrongdoing, it’s a thorough report that was money well spent. The league will have done its due diligence and finally gotten something right. It was a witch-hunt all along, fueled by paranoia, irrational hatred, and page views. Bravo, Goodell and Wells. On the other hand…
If it finds the Patriots guilty of tampering with footballs, then the fix is in and the NFL tampered with the Wells Report. Goodell knew there was nothing on Belichick, and when the Super Bowl week leaks couldn’t shake anyone down, he told Wells to plant some evidence, fabricate some interviews—whatever it takes. The Patriots never stood a chance.
Other fan bases will feel the exact opposite. The Patriots skating equates to Goodell writing an apologetic love letter to Bob Kraft, while nailing the Patriots will validate every fan who’s ever hated Bill Belichick and Tom Brady because their teams don’t employ them.
The most fun outcome, in the sense that faux outrage would hit an all time high, is seemingly the most likely outcome. The report claims the footballs were illegally underinflated, yet there’s no hard evidence that the Patriots tampered with them. You’ll have Patriots fans accusing the league of being lazy and arriving at a generic ruling that covers up some deeper, nefarious plot against Brady and Belichick. You’ll have 31 other fan bases saying the league has evidence against New England but couldn’t use it because they won the Super Bowl and well, that wouldn’t look so hot.
Deflategate is on the short list of the most outrageous and memorable sports stories of our lifetimes, if not of all time. The timeline. The hysteria. The leaks. The national nightly news. The Super Bowl (which ended up on the short list of greatest football games ever played)
When the Wells Report finally does come down, the nation will instantly revert to the pack of wild hyenas we all morphed into for two weeks this past winter. If the end really is nigh, we’re ready to froth all over again.