Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Thanks to the Patriots, the NFL is in a Dangerous Position UPDATED

After the infamous SuperBowl XL in 2006 in which the refs, particularly one from Pittsburgh, helped the Steelers steal another Super Bowl, I was one year away from swearing off the NFL.  I decided that if there was another Super Bowl presented to the Steelers on a silver platter by the league in the near future, I would stop watching the NFL.

And that was something coming from this lifelong NFL fan.  Heck, I remember my Dallas mom being unhappy about the Ice Bowl.  I’ve had NFL Sunday Ticket for years.  But my attitude has long been that if I liked rigged sport, I would watch pro wrestling . . . and I don’t.

The reason I bring up this dark memory is I suspect millions of NFL fans are now at the same spot I was back in 2006.  2006 was the NFL’s fault – a ref from Pittsburgh for that Super Bowl?  Really?  But this time it is the Patriots’ fault for deflating footballs.  The NFL has good reason to be upset, and they are.

One source described the league as "disappointed ... angry ... distraught," after spending considerable time on the findings earlier Tuesday.

I expect they will crack down hard on the Patriots.  But more than footballs are in danger.  The NFL itself is.

For now if the NFL is to avoid lasting damage and massive fan defections, there is one thing that must not happen.  If the Patriots win the Super Bowl accompanied with a widespread perception that the refs helped them so to do, that would tip this Patriots scandal over into an NFL disaster.  I would not swear off the NFL, but I bet millions would at least become much less enthusiastic about the NFL should that happen.

And the refereeing would not have to be as outrageous as that in 2006.  There is already widespread hatred of the Patriots.  There is the earned perception that they cheat already with a current episode of such in the news.  A Patriots win in the Super Bowl would not be good for the NFL.  If there is the perception that the NFL helped it out with questionable calls, it could be disastrous, destroying already damaged NFL credibility and alienating fans.

No I am not a Patriots-hater.  But it is hard to miss that Patriots hate is that strong out there – and that the NFL has already had a bad season with scandals, bad calls (especially the Dez Bryant catch reversal), and more.  More than footballs are in danger of being deflated by the Patriots.  Fan loyalty is as well.

All the more reason to root for the Seahawks as I will.

Deflategate is getting worse.  Now there are reports the Ravens believe the Patriots used underinflated balls against them.  Remember that playoff game was not a blow out; the Ravens were up 14, twice.

And how many other times have the Patriots literally taken the air out of the ball?

Again, I am no Patriots hater . . . but I may be becoming one.  More importantly, the NFL must take strong steps to defend both the reality and the perception of “the integrity of the game.” 

So do not be surprised if they crack down on the Patriots, hard.

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