Newspaper article International New York Times

Patriots Drag N.F.L. Back into Turbulence

Newspaper article International New York Times

Patriots Drag N.F.L. Back into Turbulence

Article excerpt

The New England Patriots are caught up over whether they deflated balls for a playoff game.

Just when you think that the N.F.L. has temporarily halted its descent into the maelstrom, here comes an old reliable, the New England Patriots.

In an almost hilarious Keystone Cop-ish turn of events, the Patriots are being accused of deflating footballs. When the news broke early Monday, it sounded silly. We were still talking about Seattle's miraculous victory over Green Bay and the Patriots' 45-7 flogging of the Colts, a game in which New England could have probably used a medicine ball on offense and still won.

But by Tuesday, no one was laughing, and the Patriots, the team found guilty of illegally videotaping the Jets in the Spygate scandal, were once again under suspicion of not abiding by the rules. Two news outlets -- ESPN and The Boston Globe -- reported that the N.F.L. had found that some of the balls the Patriots used during the A.F.C. championship game had in fact been partially deflated, the motivation apparently being that the balls would be easier to grip and throw and catch in the wet conditions on Sunday night in Foxborough.

The Globe claims to have obtained a letter from the N.F.L. stating that officials inspected the balls used by the Patriots at halftime of Sunday's game and found that some were improperly inflated. ESPN reported 11 of 12 balls were found to be underinflated.

The argument now being made on the Patriots' behalf is that even if the balls were underinflated, it hardly matters because they won the game by such a substantial margin. But that point of view misses the larger point -- whether New England, the pre-eminent N.F.L. team of the last 15 years, went into the game intending to cheat.

To a large extent, enjoying the N.F.L. these days requires one to put aside any high standards -- which is just what plenty of people do every Sunday and will continue to do.

Here is a league that deceived players and withheld information about long-term health risks involved in playing the game. The N.F.L. still has not come clean with an admission about just how stark the physical realities of the game are. …

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