Roger Goodell Must Not Give Into the Mob, Rule with Sanity
Let’s clarify a few key points here. Admittedly, this task is more challenging than penetrating the defense of the best NFL teams in the current era, but it’s worthwhile.
The inflation levels of the footballs did not determine the AFC Championship game victory; after all, the essence of football lies in the excitement of playing, watching, and making a living from it, right?
Can we pinpoint a moment during last week’s Indianapolis/New England game when an under-inflated football would have genuinely mattered?
Was it before or following LeGarrette Blount’s impressive performance, where he bulldozed through the Indianapolis defense with 30 carries, accumulating 148 yards and scoring three touchdowns?
Or did it hinge on Tom Brady’s performance, where he resembled the quintessential Tom Brady, completing 23 of 35 passes for 226 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception? In reality, the level of inflation didn’t make a difference.
Throughout the week, game balls are extensively utilized in practice and are meticulously examined by NFL personnel before the game.
We’ve all heard in excruciating detail how these footballs are scuffed to the quarterback’s preference, ensuring a consistent feel throughout the week. These footballs were indeed subjected to inspection.
Is it plausible that they were never precisely measured but rather examined and given the green light?
It’s as conceivable as all the other outlandish conspiracy theories that have dominated the media discourse this past week.
This is a lose-lose for the pigskin despot. Any ruling will have to be both appropriate to the infraction and not provide a distorted message relative to what actually happened.
I consider myself lucky to have had the opportunity to snap the ball as a center, occasionally filling in as a short or long snapper in every conceivable weather condition, short of a full-blown sandstorm.
In this realm of football, we’re dealing with a genuine pigskin, not the Kardashian sisters.
My primary responsibility was to deliver that perfect snap and give it my all to secure a win rather than fretting over minuscule fluctuations in the PSI readings of the football.
If a quarterback prefers to throw a beach ball or a shot put, who’s to fuss? In the grand scheme of things, it’s inconsequential.
If the NFL was genuinely preoccupied with maintaining a level playing field, why would they allow teams to utilize the same footballs throughout the week leading up to the game and then only introduce pristine kicking balls just before the game?
After all, scoring touchdowns is what draws fans and drives ticket sales, not tallying points through field goals.
The NFL has gone to great lengths to ensure it remains a thrilling, high-scoring offensive spectacle, ensuring that fans keep flocking to the stadiums and marketers see their dollars rolling in.
This is evident in the recent stringent enforcement and alterations to the rules concerning defensive pass interference throughout the season.
Media pundits are attempting to amplify the notion that a slightly deflated football confers a substantial competitive edge.
If that were the case, then why not outlaw every potential “competitive advantage,” such as receivers’ gloves, taped ankles, or the invaluable input of strength and conditioning coaches? Consider this: Odell Beckham’s spectacular catches might not have been possible without those gloves.
Jerome Bettis might have experienced more fumbles in his illustrious career without the supportive neoprene sleeves on his arms holding the ball securely.
Demarco Murray’s agile cuts could have been less effective without the layers of ankle tape enhancing his stability. J.J.
Watt’s defensive dominance could have been compromised without his rigorous offseason training regimen. In essence, each of these elements, depending on how they are harnessed, bestows a degree of competitive advantage.
Those who harness them most effectively gain the upper hand. The lens through which we perceive these competitive advantages shifts when opportunity, significance, and alleged impropriety converge.
Streamlining the rules and discarding the extraneous is a sensible approach. As mentioned earlier, if quarterbacks prefer to throw a football that’s been through more wear and tear than a leather seat at Fenway Park, so be it.
The uproar surrounding this issue lacks grounding in reality. An under-inflated ball didn’t prompt the Colts to tackle poorly, falter in run defense, throw interceptions, or mishandle punts.
Should we seriously entertain the notion that a slightly more inflated ball in the first half of Sunday’s game would have made Josh Cribbs more prone to drops?
This line of speculation is so far-fetched that it’s not worth the cognitive energy expended on it. Ultimately, the player’s performance is the sole determinant of the outcome, both then and in the future.
Opposing fans may point fingers and cry foul regarding competitive advantages when it suits their interests. Still, much like a politician’s promise, these accusations hold little weight for those who are actually on the field.
An under-inflated ball pales in significance compared to the relentless three-to-four-yard surge executed by the New England offensive line on every play. However, rules are rules, and a minor infraction has been blown out of proportion to volcanic proportions.
Should there indeed exist a comprehensive record of physical inspections detailing the weights and inflation checks of every ball, which subsequently prove that they were deflated after inspection, Roger Goodell finds himself in a rather precarious situation.
The media, with their relentless pursuit of the latest scoop, will scrutinize every detail and overturn every stone in their quest to expose the NFL’s top authority, leaving Goodell staring back blankly at them once more.
This situation poses a lose-lose scenario for the football overseer. Any decision he arrives at must strike a delicate balance, addressing the infraction appropriately while refraining from conveying a distorted message regarding the actual events.
Goodell’s track record in messaging has already been undeniably lackluster.
In the absence of Bill Belichick’s reputation and the exaggerated claims of cheating, this issue would likely not be a matter of great significance.
Belichick is renowned for pushing the boundaries, but regrettably, he coaches in an environment where the media vultures are quick to pounce, unconcerned with the fact that he would be the first NFL head coach in recorded history to be involved with, or even remotely focused on, game ball management over coaching his team.
The possibility of impropriety becomes a plausible reality due to these perceptions.
How Roger Goodell handles this situation while maintaining the trust of team owners and NFL fans in the integrity of the game is the pressing question. Coach Belichick, in line with what any NFL head coach would assert, stated that game balls are not his concern on game day.
It’s a reasonable wager that we’ll eventually discover that the version of the “facts” pertaining to the footballs has been inflated more dramatically than any pigskin last Sunday.
Hopefully, Roger makes a judicious decision by maintaining perspective and not yielding to the demands of the torch-bearing mob.
The passionate desire to harm the coach in any way possible is evident among the outraged masses, but, unfortunately for them, there’s no concrete evidence linking him to this matter.
There may be a moment of vindication for those seeking retribution when Goodell issues his decree, with a sense of satisfaction as they hear the sound of a few dollars leaving an account.
Nevertheless, if the response is not grounded in the modest reality of its impact on the games in question, Goodell risks repeating his past missteps once more.