Nathan Graziano is a Patriots fan. And Deflate-gate leaves him a little unsettled.
Like most Patriots’ fans, I was quick to take the “nonstory” angle on the absurdity that the media has labeled “Deflate-gate,” yet another bilious allusion to the inglorious fall of former-President Richard Nixon.
At first, it seemed like sour grapes on the part of the Indianapolis Colts, another whiny way of justifying a 45-7 ass-kicking in the AFC Championship game and another opportunity for Patriots-haters to air their ire and sully the Superbowl for New England fans. When you’ve had the type of success the Pats have had under Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, you have to expect some detractors.
Then, on Monday, SI’s Michael Rosenthal published a scathing article, a clinic in yellow journalism lathered with animus and vitriol, convicting Belichick and the Patriots of foul play before the whole story and the evidence had come out. As I’m writing, the whole story has yet to come out, but the more that is leaking (pun intended) about these deflated footballs and the team’s alleged complicity, the worse this is looking for the Patriots.
The main reason that this story continues to gain traction is that this is not the first time Belichick and the organization have been accused and/or caught cheating to gain a competitive advantage.
Yes, deflating footballs, if it was indeed intentional, is a fairly innocuous offense. Taking a little air out of a ball does not explain away the 45-7 drubbing on Sunday night. The big problem, however, has more to do with the Patriots’ legacy, and the way fans of the game—and even fans of the team—will view the coach and the organization’s integrity through the lens of history.
You only have to look at the MLB and the stars of the Steroid-era to see how such indictments can tarnish an entire career of stellar performances and competitive excellence.
Now, I realize that the analogy is far from perfect. In no way am I comparing deflating a football or video-taping a practice with taking PED’s; however, should the Patriots beat Seattle on Feb. 1, I fear their victory will be marred by the same unsightly asterisk that has followed Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Maguire’s statistics and subsequent victories in the record books.
Additionally, the same excuses are being bandied around that you heard from baseball players of the Steroid-era: Everyone does it, and it is no big deal. It is just a player’s preference. You still have to go out and win the game. Sadly, cheating is cheating, and if these allegations are proven true, this could be devastating for the franchise’s legacy.
As a Patriots’ fan, I would love to sit smug with this entire ordeal and throw the middle-finger at the rest of the football world, but I can’t. There is something about this that is starting to unsettle me to my core.
If it comes to light that the Patriots did cheat, again, like Nixon, this will forever affect the way that history sees the team. And, sadly, it should.
Photo: Associated Press