Thursday, May 14, 2015
We need to keep what the Patriot did to the game balls in perspective
The Patriots and Tom Brady have had a tough week with the issue of the NFL's final report on the modifying of the game balls. The punishment came down with suspension of Tom Brady for four games, and the Patriots loss of the two draft picks over the next two years. The public comments on this have abounded many with everyone weighing in as to what the appropriate punishment should be and what kind of infraction this should be considered. These comments have been over the full range of suggestions with heavy weights at the extreme of the possibilities.
One of the comments I hear is that the infraction damages the integrity of the game. I do not believe this to be accurate. Attempts to modify the equipment is a long standing effort in sports that there are rules against. All those who get caught modifying the equipment should be punished but all those who have modified the equipment do not get caught. The key here was that Tom and the Patriots were caught breaking the rule to the preponderance of the evidence. This simply does not rise to the level of game fixing or point shaving and should not be treated as such an infraction.
Baseball is a sport known most for these types of equipment modifications. Batters use corked bats and pine tar to gain an illegal advantage while pitchers scuff balls or coat them with foreign substances to improve their results. These actions have not hurt those reputations or the sport's. Whitey Ford is probably the originator of the scuff baseball, and Gaylord Perry was ejected for throwing spitballs. Both men are respected in baseball and members of the Hall of Fame.
In the NFL players modify the equipment as well to get an edge. Lineman use vaseline to make it harder for rushers to grab them, receivers use stickum to improve their ability to catch a ball, and quarterbacks modify the football to increase their grip. QB Brad Johnson and Receiver Jerry Rice admitted this. Lineman from the Denver Broncos and others were fined for this. The issue here is that the NFL does not catch enough people cheating. The odds of getting caught are too low in the NFL. The NFL must do a better job of finding people that cheating and punishing them appropriately.
Tom Brady and the Patriots did what any competitive person and organization will do. They took whatever advantage they could even if it was illegal because the risk of getting caught was almost zero. Make enforcement better and keep giving out harsh punishments for cheating, and Tom Brady and the Patriots won't cheat. Neither will all the other teams and players that are cheating along with Tom and the Patriots.