Cheaters Sometimes Win

What to make of Tom Brady, the Patriots, and "Deflate-Gate."

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Deflate-Gate has turned out to be a brilliant tactical development for the New England Patriots, who I predict will win this year’s Super Bowl.

The Pats have evolved this week from a pack of blatant cheating weasels to the unfairly persecuted, a dramatic transition last seen in Godfather II. In front of a special Senate Committee, Michael Corleone denied he was remotely involved in organized crime, and urged the committee to absolve him of guilt with the same enthusiasm with which they accused him. Meanwhile, Tom Hagen was screaming, “This committee owes an apology Senator!”

Patriots owner Robert Kraft pulled a similar trick out of his hat a few days ago when he lectured the press and the public about accusing his organization of cheating. Kraft was crafty in his wording, but only an idiot couldn’t see through it. He said “if” the NFL’s investigation turned up no evidence of wrongdoing, he hoped that everybody was prepared to beg the Patriots for forgiveness. Or something like that. He didn’t say “when” the NFL finds no evidence of wrongdoing. He was spitting into the wind. Just like Michael Corleone.

But here’s the thing. Corleone was a gangster. And the Patriots did cheat. And no smoke-and-mirrors, fancypants dialogue can wriggle human beings from hard, cold reality.

What happened here Robert Kraft, the Immaculate Deflation? Measurements proved the balls the Patriots used in their AFC title game win over the Colts were two pounds of air under the minimum inflation levels set by league rules. Somebody on the Patriots staff had to have taken that air out of those balls. We know that Tom Brady, the quarterback, had professed a like for underinflated balls. We can surmise that there was some kind of backdoor deal between Brady and his equipment staff. A wink and a nod. Or somebody on ball duty just wanted to please his buddy, the quarterback, who at the end of the season undoubtedly parcels out big locker room tips. Somebody did it. And Kraft acting all high and mighty is an insult to anyone with half a brain.

For the record, I believed Bill Belichick when he said wasn’t involved in the football deflation caper. But Belichick is one of these psycho competitors who would do anything to win. The Pats would be the baseball manager who would order the grounds crew to over-water the dirt area around first base if he was playing a team that had good base stealers. He’d be the basketball coach who would tighten the arena rims when facing an opponent who had accomplished outside shooters. So even if Belichick didn’t touch a football, he created the climate that makes the Patriots’ organization cut corners. Remember Spygate?. This is a team that has absolutely no moral fiber in their pursuit of winning. I’m sure their fans appreciate that very much.

Now Tom Brady is as guilty as sin. His press conference on the matter the other day reminds me of the smarmy, greasy lawyer played by Martin Short in a popular Saturday Night Live skit many years ago. Sweat poured down Short’s face as he denied wrongdoing, his cigarette ash growing longer by the second.

There is no question in my mind that Brady orchestrated the whole thing. It was the AFC title game. It was cold out. He needed to maximize his performance with a softer ball. Easier to throw, easier to catch, easier for a running back to hold on to. In this press conference, Brady was Pinocchio. He said he didn’t notice the ball was softer than usual. This is a man more familiar with the touch of the pigskin than his wife’s skin. All right…maybe not. After all, it’s Gisele. But you get my point.

The beauty of this whole thing is that it’s going to gild the Patriots for this Super Bowl. It’s them against the world now, much like the old Georgetown basketball teams of John Thompson.

So let that be a lesson to all you kids out there. Cheaters sometimes win. Unfortunately.

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