Ballghazi, because why not
As a Buffalo Bills fan I'm all for punishing the New England Patriots - fines, forfeited draft picks, vacated wins, suspensions, the razing of Gillette Stadium - but I can't believe the level of attention and outrage "Ballghazi" (better than "Deflategate") has gotten. I was talking about it last night without knowing the NFL had already handed out its penalty - $1 million fine, 4 game suspension for Brady, and the loss of a first and fourth round draft pick. The severity of the penalty simultaneously blew me away and brought me immense joy. In a classic Bills fan move I'm trying to decide if Rex Ryan will go 14-2 or 15-1 in his inaugural season.

It strikes me that the Patriots' own arrogance in this situation and in other cheating scandals is what is getting them the bulk of their punishment. It's pretty obvious that everyone spied on other teams back in the day, and everyone probably "adjusts" their footballs, but the Patriots flaunted it so the league had to act. It reminds me of Michael Pineda's pine tar incident last year. Pineda was obviously using pine tar in a game against the Red Sox in Yankee Stadium. The Red Sox ignored it because their pitchers probably do the same (you can find some images and/or video on the internet attempting to document it). The next week in Fenway Park Pineda very obviously did it again. Red Sox manager John Farrell was forced to call him on it when it was clear there was an unwritten understanding around the league that everyone does it. If the Patriots weren't so obvious and arrogant about it they would have gotten away with it.

Don't get me wrong, this is cheating so it deserves some sort of punishment. What gets me about it is the punishment is so arbitrary. The NFL has been doing this for a few years now. A scandal hits, calls for punishment arise, and Roger Goodell lawlessly decrees one. It's bad for the NFL as a product because it means the league will have more (arbitrary) power over the players, and will be likely to abuse it for their own gain (suspending players who speak out against the league, invalidating large contracts, etc). The players are the ones who put their bodies on the line, and they are the ones who deserve to be protected.

On a final note, there are two things about the rule that are perplexing to begin with. For one, why does the NFL allow teams to manage their own footballs? As a friend pointed out the other night, in every other sport the officials manage the ball. Second, why is this a rule? So it helps the offense to take air out of the ball...who cares? The NFL has spent years modifying rules to make it easier for quarterbacks to throw touchdowns. Who cares if they deflate footballs? Let them take all the air out and wing it around like a frisbee if it makes scoring easier. Put jet fuel in it and shoot it like a missile. Who cares?
 
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