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The New England Patriots’ post-game celebration started to deflate shortly after the AFC’s championship game concluded. This sudden release of tension occurred due to questions related to the Patriots’ adherence to the NFL’s game rules and ethical standards.
At this point, there isn’t evidence that the Patriots’ were unethical and cheated by purposely adjusting the game balls’ pressure to below the minimum standards. However, the denials by both the quarterback Tom Brady and Coach Bill Belichick about any knowledge about the game balls pressure change is questionable.
Brady has played long enough to detect a difference in the pressure of a game ball. Also, by Brady’s on admission, he prefers a ball that’s inflated on the lower-end of the NFL’s guidelines. Therefore, as an experienced professional, Brady should be able to determine if a ball is closer to his preferred tension.
The most troubling answer Brady provided during the press conference was related to his answer to this question: “Is Tom Brady a cheater?”. Brady’s answer was very aloof in which he said, “I don’t believe so. I feel like I’ve always played within the rules. I would never do anything to break the rules. I believe in fair play and I respect the league and everything they’re doing to try to create a very competitive playing field for all NFL teams.”
The challenge with his comments is that he didn’t provide a definition negative response after he was asked “Is Tom Brady a cheater?”; instead, Brady’s answer began with “I don’t believe so…”. The other interesting response was the part that he said, “I’ve always played within the rules”. Brady, again, didn’t definitely say that he adheres to the rules.
In terms of Coach Belichick, this isn’t the first time that allegations of wrongdoings have surfaced. Earlier in Belichick’s career, he was fined by the NFL due to accusations of spying on an opponent’s game signals. The NFL’s previous penalty against Belichick should make individuals consider his honesty, sincerity, and desire to win --- maybe at any cost.
These allegations of questionable behavior also raise larger concerns about ethical behavior and the amount of controls that are used to validate compliance.
Why might the NFL allow each team to maintain its own inventory of balls, which are only checked prior to the start of a game? This practice is based on trust, but whenever there’s faith in compliance without periodic independent verification, then there’s an opportunity for unethical behavior. Consequently, the NFL must revise its game rules to require random inspections during the game, along with an opposing team having an ability to challenge a ball’s inflation during the game.
Furthermore, the NFL should consider increasing the lower range for a ball’s minimum pressure, which should also take into consideration a statistical average of ball pressure loss during a game. This methodology will account for the possibility that a football might lose pressure and become under-inflated during a game.
Ultimately, the NFL might not be able to determine if the Patriots violated its rules by purposely adjusting the balls’ pressure to below the minimum standards. Notwithstanding, it’s clear by the NFL’s investigation that the pressure for the majority of the balls were below the required standards after the post-game inspection.
If the Patriots game balls were inspected prior to the game, remained in its control, and during the game the majority of its balls were no longer in compliance, then what conclusion(s) might be reached? Also, if it’s determined that anyone on the Patriot’s team intentionally violated the NFL’s rules (whether an individual or a team action), then the NFL must take decisive action, disqualify the Patriots, and not allow the team to play in Super Bowl XLIX to maintain the game’s integrity.