The price tag for a football from last season’s AFC Championship game has been inflated to at least $25,000.
The ball, one of 11 New England Patriots game balls used during their 45-7 win against the Indianapolis Colts on Jan. 18, is up for auction at Lelands.com with a $25,000 minimum bid.
After many of the balls used by the Patriots that day were found to have been below the National Football League’s permissible inflation level, the league conducted an investigation. Last month, the NFL fined the Super Bowl champions $1 million, stripped them of two draft picks and suspended quarterback Tom Brady for four games, a ban he’s appealing.
According to investigator Ted Wells’s report on the officials’ treatment of the balls, “the NFL had tested the Patriots game balls at halftime, found that they were all under-inflated, and had re-inflated them back to a pressure level within the permissible range.”
That places the Lelands.com offering, which fans Laura and Matt Nichols obtained after a third-quarter score, at the center of the controversy.
With about two minutes remaining in the third quarter, Patriots cornerback Darelle Revis intercepted an Andrew Luck pass and returning it to the Colts’ 13-yard line. On the next play Brady handed off to LaGarrette Blount, who ran for a score that gave New England a 38-7 lead. The ball was then dropped by a celebrating Blount and picked up by wide receiver Brandon LaFell, who handed it to Laura Nichols in the stands.
Nichols and her husband, Matt, posed for photos with the ball before leaving during the fourth quarter to get out of the rain.
The football includes referee Walt Anderson’s initials in gold Sharpie marker and shows the word “PATRIOTS” faintly imprinted in black just below the seam under the NFL shield.
The deflated footballs are perhaps the most memorable aspect of an NFL season that ended with New England’s fourth Super Bowl title, though Blount’s touchdown ball is probably less valuable than the one that was intercepted on the goal line in the game’s closing seconds.
For memorabilia fans seeking a bigger football bargain, one signed by much of the 1979 Patriots team that went 9-7 is also up for auction. Asking price: $100.
The auction closes July 17.