Open Letter to Jake Rich on Deflategate / by Eric Emma

An Open Letter to Jake Rich:

I have been writing and developing Klack and Roe with Jake Rich for about two years. There isn’t anyone else I’d rather be in the creative trenches with then Jake. Through writing to production, he’s a gem, however, one issue will always separate us, he’s a Bills Fan and I’m a Pats Fan. And on the eve of what should catapult Tom Brady and Bill Belichick into GOAT (GREATEST OF ALL TIME) discussion, he wishes to sour that with such a silly thing as DEFLATE GATE and bringing back Spy-Gate. So for him, I write this letter as to why he is wrong, the Patriots are the greatest in the world, and what is absolutely wrong with humanity!

Dear Jake,

I hope all is well with you. Your thoughts on the Patriots have stuck in my craw ever since this “deflategate” nonsense began and I have now ascertain why, it’s because it is everything that is wrong with humanity. Don’t mistake me, you’re one of the finest folks I know, but in this particular instance, you have succumb to the paradoxical weakness of self-consciousness: hysteria.

This began as a simple reply to your facebook post, but then that evolved into a few paragraphs, and then into a full-blown essay so I apologize for the length, but I realize this is a far bigger issue than I thought. When this whole “deflate gate” thing started, it didn’t even register as a real issue for me. I remember listening to Tom Brady on his weekly radio appearance, laughing it off as nothing, but an annoyed Indy reporter stirring the pot. Within a few days, it had gripped the entire nation and it became a galvanizing call for all to pin the Patriots as the ultimate evil. As a mockery of American Spirit, we fight hard, but we never cheat. The problem with all of it… The Patriots may have done nothing wrong.

Let us begin with where you have the most issue that the Patriots cheated. Let us tackle this in the simplest of terms before we begin to discuss all the complexities that mire this case.

Cheating: To break a rule or law usually to gain an advantage at something

The rule is that the balls used in the game be between 12 ½ to 13 ½ PSI. Each team brings their own set of balls and gives them to the referees two hours before the game. The balls are checked and locked up. Fifteen minutes before the game, they are given back to the teams. Now so far, this is what is known. The refs checked the balls and they were fine. There is absolutely no log or any other evidence that can verify the balls were fine beyond the word of the referee. The balls were given back to the team as per normal procedure. Now allegedly, I do not know if it has been confirmed yet, the Patriots ball attendant stop in the bathroom for 90 seconds with the bathroom. Then the balls were brought to the field. The game began and then at half-time, they checked the Patriots balls and they were under the PSI limit. There have been various reports, but the latest indicates that only one of the balls may have been seriously deflated. They replaced the balls with properly inflated balls and the game resumed. The Patriots beat the Indianapolis Colts with a score of 45 – 7, in a game where the patriots ran the ball for 177 yards.

From that summary alone, a couple of inferences can be made. First, the inflation/deflation of the balls weren’t a factor to the game. Statics back up this inference:

Let’s move to the next point, did the Patriots break a rule? To use a football analogy since it seems proper, it’s like when a referee goes to replay to determine if a right call was made. When you view something in slow-motion, the amount of detail maybe deceiving. Bill Belichick said in his press conference that he knew nothing of it and has nothing to do with the balls being ready or not ready. I do not know why people have reason to believe he is lying. He’s a head coach of a NFL team. He has 52 players on the roster, 10 coaches, and who knows how many other personnel. Why would Bill Belichick have anything to do with the balls? Why would he care? Secondly, quarterbacks do all types of things to their balls. (Take that anyway you like)

Let’s take Joe Montana’s thoughts on the situation. I think we can all agree he’s one of the best quarterbacks to play the game and so therefore his opinion, holds some weight on the subject:

“If I ever want a ball a certain way, I don’t do it myself,” Montana said, via the Boston Globe. “So, somebody. But I don’t know why everybody is making a big deal out of trying to figure out who did it. It’s pretty simple. If it was done, it was done for a reason.”

“I mean, it’s easy to figure out who did it,” Montana said. “Did Tom do it? No, but Tom likes the balls that way, obviously, or you wouldn’t have 11 of them that way without him complaining, because as a quarterback, you know how you like the ball. If it doesn’t feel like that, something is wrong. It’s a stupid thing to even be talking about because they shouldn’t have the rule anyway. If you want to see the game played at the best, everybody has a different grip, everybody likes a different feel.”

I don’t agree with his assessment that “Tom did it” because that’s a bit too simple, however, it does address what I am saying that Bill Belichick had nothing to do with it. So if that’s the case, it has no real relation to spy-gate, but we’ll get to that soon enough. The more important point is why is this a big deal? It’s a personal preference that doesn’t affect how the Colts play and the objective of any sport is for two competing teams or athletes to play at their very best. However, rules are rules. But where I’m going with this is if we want to assume that something did happen to the balls in those 15 minutes, why are we assuming it was nefarious in nature?

Aaron Rodgers tries to sneak balls pass that are OVER-INFLATED pass the limit?  Eli Manning has his balls doctored up MONTHS before the game.

My point here is that within the league, this is common practice. If Tom actually ordered the balls to be underinflated, there’s just as good a possibility he didn’t realize it was that serious. However, nothing to that extent has even been proven. The real question here is did it break the integrity of the game? Did it give a clear advantage that would make it unfair for Indy? Since this is why cheating is so wrong. Sports are supposed to show us humans reaching their maximum potential through hard-work and dedication, not by taking short-cuts and handicapping their opponents.

Well let’s go with the easy one first. As shown, there was no correlation between a deflated football and a fully inflated football having much of difference on the play of the game. Therefore, we can now infer that Tom, if he in fact did deflate the balls, just prefers the feel of the ball and it’s more mental. So on those grounds alone, this is not a major issue and at worse, deserves a fine or some other punishment if he did something wrong.

The harder point is the integrity of the game. Did this in some way hurt the integrity of the game because if we’re looking at this as if this is the only infraction that has happened, does this hurt what we see on the field? This I believe is an opinion, but let me give mine, which is no. It’s a slightly deflated football, and we don’t even know how much, and as already mentioned, quarterbacks and teams have their own individual preferences.  And let’s put it in context.

This is a team that has had unparalleled success for 15 years. The NFL is designed so that the good teams eventually become worse through having low draft picks and those team’s free agents becoming too costly to retain. This is an incredible achievement and this is more insulting than anything else, that when you give that much credence to the amount of inflation in a ball actually is a huge part of that success it is an insult. Let’s also bear in mind, this is a team that ESPN and everyone else marked for dead four weeks into the season after they were blown out by Kansas City.

Trent Dilfer offered a mea culpa after claiming the Patriots were done and that he made a knee jerk reaction. The New England Patriots are an oddity to the NFL sports world and their success flies in the face of everything that is normal, therefore people are apt to jump on the bandwagon tearing them down. It also shorts a lot of the good about the organization does. Bill Belichick often will bring in veteran players and cut them early if he doesn’t think they’ll make the team so that they have a chance to catch on elsewhere. His organization gives everyone a fair shot to compete regardless of draft or hype. And he’s completely honest with his players.

Logan Mankins held out in 2010 for more than half of the season before coming back to the Patriots. He played the rest of the year went to the pro-bowl and then received a contract in the following off-season making his the highest paid guard. Vince Wilfork had a very public spat at the beginning of the season and threatened to hold out after the Patriots wanted to restructure his contract. Even to the point where Wilfork was requesting a trade. The Patriots worked it out and Wilfork is having a phenomenal year. Now at the beginning of the year, Logan Mankins was traded because his value didn’t match his contract. The Patriots are certainly not saints, but they play the NFL game and they do the best they can to respect their players and the community. Does Welker, Edelman, Ninkovitch, and plenty of other players that were not house-hold names have a career if it weren’t for Bill Belichick and the Patriots?

This now leads to the rest of the league. If you want to continue to say that the Patriots are a horrible cheating franchise that destroys the integrity of the league. Let’s look around at the rest of the league. The Saints gave bonuses for injuring players.

Greg Williams, Saints Defensive Coordinator at the time, told NFL investigators, “"rolling the dice with player safety and someone could have been maimed." You can also look at Michael Vick’s case. Now regardless where you stand on it, Michael Vick went to prison for his involvement with dog fighting. The Falcons kept him on the team for two years so they could recoup their money, the Patriots cut Hernandez immediately after they discovered what he had been involved in.

I can also point to all the stories off the field regarding Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, Ray McDonald, and it goes on. Or how about the Richie Incognito story from last year? And if we want to talk about the integrity of the league, let’s look at the Patriots opponent, the Seahawks.

Seahawks led the league in suspensions for PED use. In all fairness, the Patriots, though not as much, has had a few suspensions for it as well. PED use would be a far more credible argument, but we don’t bring it up. The reason it’s not brought up is because it’s a wide-spread issue with no real answer. Testing is difficult and the NFL has made no real progress with the players union towards consistent testing.

Fran Tarkenton, NFL Hall of Fame QB, brought this very point up accusing every NFL team of using PEDs and frankly, finding deflategate to be a joke. Why don’t we go after this issue?

One of the unfortunate realities of the internet age (and capitalism) is that we live in a 24 hour news cycle that feeds off hysteria and ratings, rather than hard journalism. I was talking with my father last night and the conversation happen to have a neat juxtaposition, we started talking about “Deflate-Gate” and then he had shifted the conversation to “The Interview” controversy and wanted to know my opinion on it. It was in that moment, I realize the connection between the two incidences. In both situations, there is mass hysteria being driven by a manufactured controversy based on shoddy journalism.

“The Interview” is a generic comedy pumped out by the Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg machine. To be fair to Rogan and Goldberg, they are very very talented guys and have made movies that are awesome. The issue with “The Interview” from the outset is that Rogan and Goldberg have specialized in taking unhappy and unmotivated characters discover some kind of strength to rise to the occasion. Look at their three most successful movies “Superbad, Pineapple Express, and This Is the End.” Each of them focuses on selfish potheads discovering their failings have more to do with themselves then others. In a country, where unlimited success is considered entirely possible unless you work for it and being average and living off the teat of the government is practically sin, Rogan and Goldberg’s films are endearing as well as hilarious. “The Interview” went into territory that didn’t feel nearly as personal or endearing, instead it is a xenophobic celebration of America. Basically, Goldberg and Evan relied on their honed comedy chops and took their everyman characters and threw them into their Americanized view of the world.

Why do I digress into this? It’s to illustrate that “The Interview” was heading straight for a relatively quick theater run and then to the forgettable dredges known as “Netflix” library where most decent, but not great movies of the last year go to die and be turned on, while we perform such tasks as doing our laundry or wondering whether our significant other is going to sleep with us that night. However, something very fortunate happened to “The Interview.”  Sony was hacked. 1000s of email were leaked by a group called “Guardians of the Peace” and the biggest story that came out should have been the inherent racism in Hollywood and unequal pay for women.

Shortly after the leaks? The Guardians of the Peace made a vague threat that if the film “The Interview” were released then terrible things would happen. Sony notified the FBI and the FBI announced that evidence was pointing that the cyber-attack and threat was coming from South Korea kicking off a flash-in-the-pan controversy similar to “deflategate.” Before the threat regarding the Interview, no one had made any connection to North Korea.

Just in like “deflategate”, there is no smoking gun tying North Korea to these attacks. In fact, the evidence that Sony and FBI has is tenuous.

Further Reading on that subject:

The first link discusses the tenacity of the evidence, while the second brings up that evidence has come to light that the Guardians of Peace may in fact be former disgruntled former employees of Sony. The other important note for context is that SONY has a history of hacks.

Let’s disregard that for right now, the important thing to focus on is that the narrative that gripped the country regarding the Interview controversy was, “American Values Are Under Attack!” All of a sudden, this story got far juicier. Initially, there were stories of pay disparity based on gender and an inability for films to be made not featuring white character, yet those stories die and what becomes front page news is INDIGNATION over an allegation. Within a day, what was allegation had somehow become fact that North Korea was behind the attack and that our freedom was under attack. We live in a world where our government tracks our every movement, runs black-ops mission to kill hostiles in other countries without the country’s permission, and they have back-doors into our e-mail… And this is an attack on our freedom?

Perspective. The US government had no censored the Interview. Copies still exist. No one was burning copies of it and no one was going to jail over it. This was no censorship. The theaters decided not to show it. Now here is the rub. Because of this, the knee-jerk reaction by everyone was the dangerous precedent it was setting and the Interview transformed from mediocre movie into a symbol of freedom of speech. With each development into this controversy, the news media outlets reacted. As mentioned, we now live in the 24 hour media circus. TV News is beholden to ratings. Actually reporting of the news is not entertaining, they need flavor, they need to be pointed, so most news shows are actual a blend of reporting and editorial. The O’Reilly Factor’s, Fox News’s flagship news program, slogan: “The No Spin Zone” almost feels like a snide joke. None of the other networks are any better. So as this farce went on, everyone started chirping on it.

The issue became so clear. This evil country run by a crazed dictator that duped and manipulated his poor subjects was trying to censor our art because he was jealous, and we as Americans needed to do something before we lost the very thing that makes us American, our freedom of speech. What a juicy narrative and it has such a clear and achievable end. In fact, when finally, and predictably, some theaters said they would release the film. Seth Rogan tweeted: “The people have spoken! Freedom has prevailed! Sony didn't give up! The Interview will be shown at theaters willing to play it on Xmas day!

Here’s the problem, anyone with any sense of logic or intelligence, knew even if South Korea did do this, it was silly. South Korea is a middling power and compare to the US, it’s a gnat. What else could South Korea possibly do to us? What other possible consequence really awaited us. And then the true irony that the stories this whole controversy managed to bury was that there are American stories that aren’t being told as revealed by the e-mails those of minorities. That is not a sexy narrative that plays off people’s feeling and has a nice, neat resolution. The other issue is that unlike sports, where the only real consequence of perception is denial into the hall of fame, in international affairs and real news, it can lead to real world consequences.

The fever pitch was so furious over the Interview Scandal that it pushed Obama to call out North Korea, who as I mention may or may not be involved. North Korea countered that it would help in the investigation, but that it had no involvement. This led to Obama imposing sanction on North Korea in the beginning of January.

The President is forced into a course of action because the entire country believes that North Korea did this. The entire country whipped into a frenzy over unsubstantiated allegations. And the worst part of all this? The film after the initial theater release, was then released on Google Play where it made a killing, and then a deal was made to show it on Netflix. So in the end, Sony wins, it made a profit on a film that’s BO potential was looking doubtful.

My greater point here is that people are driven towards narratives, especially narratives that are easy to understand. People do not want to hear thing like due to our economy doing well, it has raise the value of our dollar, which will now hurt our economy and slow thing the economy down. How does that make sense? Nor do they want to hear about real issues in politics or in American culture. It’s easier to take these simple controversies and blow them up because they have simple solutions, but the truth is there’s nothing there.

Let’s return back to football and go back to Spy Gate since that’s the usual justification over this witch-hunt involving “Deflategate”

On the subject of “Spy Gate”:

The article goes through the entirety of the Spy-Gate debacle even giving a history off notable shady practices in the NFL. In a nutshell what Spy-Gate boils down to is the Patriots got caught filming the coaches’ signals during a game against the Jets at MetLife stadium from a prohibited space. On its face, if you know nothing about football or are casual fan, this may seem incredibly horrible. However, the real issue wasn’t that the Patriots were filming, but rather where they were filming. Coaches are allowed to film the game so they can have a better idea of what’s working on their team and what the other team is doing. HOWEVER. They are only allowed to film the game from certain places in the stadium. The Patriots broke that rule and worse, they’d already been warned once not to do it and a memo had been sent out to all the teams to follow the rules on filming, but they did it anyway.

Bob Kraft poignantly recounting the following exchange between him and Belichick:

 “How much did this help us on a scale of 1 to 100?” Kraft reportedly asked Belichick, via Gary Myers’ book Coaching Confidential.

“One,” Belichick replied.

“Then you’re a real schmuck,” Kraft replied.”

The issue with “Spy-Gate” is that it doesn’t fit the narrative that the media and people want to buy into. That narrative is that what Bill Belichick and Co were doing was this horrible practice that gave them a significant advantage. There also were many reports that turn out to be false such as the Patriots filming opponents’ practices which is ridiculous. In fact, the data actually shows the Patriots have been better since Spy-Gate.

My point here is that we can keep bringing up Spy-Gate and even use it to justify suspicions regarding “deflategate”, but at least place it into context of what it was and why it was done. When the Patriots were caught filming signals from an inappropriate angle, it was the latest in a tit-for-tat between the Jets organization and the Patriots. I’m not going go over all of it here as you can read the article that I posted, which explains all of it, but the reason Belichick did what he did was more out of stubbornness and arrogance towards the Jets than anything else. Bill admitted to what happen and apologized. The league HEAVILY fined the Patriots. Taking away a draft pick and levying a severe monetary fine. However, when fully examined and looked at, it certainly doesn’t justify the slandering and insulting that the Patriots have endured.

So let us return now finally return and end this conversation on “DEFLATE GATE.” Since the beginning of this whole controversy, there has been no official word from the NFL with any actual findings.  The NFL didn’t even log how much PSI was in the balls before the game so there’s no evidence that they were actually properly inflated outside of the word of the ref.  In fact, Goodell in his press conference today said: “"We don't know enough in this case to know who is responsible or if there was an infraction"

With all that said, Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and Bob Kraft have all said in no uncertain terms that they did nothing wrong. And here’s the most crucial piece. Bob Kraft waited an entire week before coming out and saying this. The Patriots completely complied with the NFL in the investigation. So you’d have to assume that Bob Kraft did his own digging and feels safe to completely put his credibility out there. This is very different from Spygate in that Bill Belichick admitted to that. In the end, my point is this, we can keep throwing out Spygate, Deflategate, etc with no real context, no real understanding, the same way that the Interview controversy took off.

And here’s my ultimate point, true understanding takes time, it takes reading, and it takes deduction. That is the point of this massive letter filled with tons of links to other material. Life and situations can’t be boiled down to cute sound bites. It’s not as simple as there are good guys and bad guys. In the end, this is yet another media witch hunt that allows people to talk about something that has an easy resolution even if the reality is anything, but easy.

Patriots are awesome. Hopefully, someday the Bills get close to that.

Kind regards,

Eric Emma