This was the kind of story I had hoped would die out. However, when “it was a phone!” persistently echoed weeks later, I felt it was necessary to clarify the truth.
Similar to how anti-Patriots fans would casually mention the videotaping of walk-throughs almost a decade later as if it were a well-established fact, this Big Ben cell phone incident needed clarification before it became entrenched as a falsehood in the public consciousness.
Amid the widespread misinformation during the Deflategate saga, Patriots fans consistently held the moral high ground as each falsehood was debunked.
Surviving all that made it detrimental to perpetuate an untruth, so it was time to end this issue.
The reason so many believed Ben Roethlisberger was holding a cell phone on the sideline during the Ravens game on that national TV broadcast was threefold:
The video circulated globally that night on social media was a camera phone recording of a TV screen.
In other words, it had low resolution and was misleading. The object couldn’t be seen clearly until the following day when the HD feed from the broadcast was available for download on NFL.com through the Game Rewind app.
Still, photos from that initial blurry video made their way across the internet, paused in a way that made it seem like there were buttons on the side of the object. However, it was just glare that shifted from frame to frame.
The broadcast cameras quickly panned past Roethlisberger, resulting in the object’s low resolution through the camera phone video and the fleeting nature of the shot, causing many to overreact to the thing (a black, fabric, and plastic play-call holder unfamiliar to those outside of football).
There hadn’t been a need for an “investigation” because when faced with this “scandal,” all the NFL had to look at its feed on a monitor and slow it down. It wasn’t a phone.
Most viewers at home might not have been familiar with what an NFL wristband play-call holder looks like, although it’s an everyday accessory worn by players in the NFL and, unsurprisingly, by Pittsburgh Steelers quarterbacks (see below).
When not worn on the wrist and held flat with the laminated playsheet inserted, it might resemble a phone to someone unfamiliar with these items, especially in a blurry video shot from a cell phone at a TV screen.
But that’s why fact-checking is necessary – this one took minutes.
The Deflategate fiasco had shown that launching “investigations” into trivial and easily verifiable matters was imprudent. When straightforward facts are at hand, biases for or against a specific player or team shouldn’t play a role.
The league and its followers attempted to undermine the Patriots but were revealed to be reckless with the facts.
While I understand the urge for some Patriots fans to desire equal recklessness from the NFL, that’s the opposite of what should have been learned.
The football game takes place on the field. Turning every minor thing into a scandal before pausing to ascertain its truth was demonstrated to be a colossal waste of time, money, and energy.
Patriots fans had the moral high ground. Let’s maintain that position.
Share this column, bookmark it, and do whatever is necessary to ensure that this falsehood about the phone isn’t reiterated in conversations years from now, akin to the uninformed references of “taped practices” and “unnaturally deflated footballs.”
Let’s return to enjoying football. Moving forward.