The New England Patriots are no strangers to controversies, but when reports came out that they intentionally deflated balls used in their AFC Championship Game win over the Indianapolis Colts last Sunday, it seemed a farfetched theory. Even a franchise with their reputation wouldn't stoop this low to gain an advantage over opponents.
But it turns out, the allegations might be true.
As per a new report by ESPN's Chris Mortensen, the NFL's investigation has found that 11 of the 12 game balls used by the Pats in their lopsided 45-7 win over the Colts were underinflated by 2 pounds per square inch. It could've been chalked up as a coincidence or a human error had one or two of the balls been like this. But when only one ball was regulation, it adds credence to the foul play theory.
The fact that Tom Brady admitted in a 2011 interview that he prefers underinflated balls adds weight to this controversy.
All referees are required by the NFL to inspect game balls two hours and 15 minutes before kickoff, meaning either the #DeflateGate happened after that, or it had more conspirators than just the Pats.
One could point to the Colts' 38-point loss to argue that even with normal balls they would've gotten beat, but that's not the point. The NFL's image is already tarnished enough, thanks to the nonstop controversies of the past 12 months. For it to condone cheating or simply issue the standard $25,000 fine would bring further disrepute to its name.
As much as the Colts may want it, sending them to the Super Bowl instead isn't the answer here. Perhaps, the Pats will learn to obey the rules if they're banned from using any of their draft picks for the next season. If #DeflateGate does turn out to be true, this would be the perfect way to teach a lesson to repeat offenders like the Pats.