“At last, the long, arduous wait for payback is over.”
That’s how Jackie MacMullan’s story started on ESPN.com on Wednesday.
Of course, MacMullan, who made her name as a Boston Globe sports writer, was referring to the New England Patriots vs. Indianapolis Colts game this Sunday night.
The article continued: “Patriots Nation has seethed for months in anticipation of the moment when it could unleash five magical words: We are on to Indianapolis. The players and coaches of the 4-0 New England Patriots insist it will be just another football game on Sunday night at Lucas Oil Stadium. We know better.”
I don’t get it.
There’s this notion that the Patriots have some sense of righteous indignation. MacMullan’s story explains how the Colts ratted out the Patriots to NFL officials then had the audacity to leak the news to a reporter—WTHR-TV’s Bob Kravitz.
“When the Patriots square off against the Indianapolis Colts, they will be staring down the instigators of DeflateGate, a controversy that sullied New England's franchise quarterback and once again impeached the integrity of owner Robert Kraft's football team,” MacMullan wrote.
Instigators? The Colts?
Did I miss something?
Aren’t the real instigators the ones who broke the rules? And that would be, uh, the Patriots.
To have righteous indignation you first have to be righteous. And I think just about anyone outside New England would agree the Patriots are not righteous.
It is undisputed that the vast majority of the footballs the Patriots provided and played with during the first half of last year’s AFC Championship game were underinflated—in violation of NFL rules. Only after NFL officials confiscated them and inflated them were they inflated to the specification of league rules.
There were no similar problems with the Colts’ provided footballs in the same game.
Patriots’ owner Bob Kraft later accepted heavy sanctions handed down by the NFL for the rules violation. Kraft and his legion of followers only became miffed after golden boy quarterback Tom Brady was dragged through the mud—and suspended four games—and Kraft’s advisors subsequently told him that his and his team’s brand were being irreparably tarnished.
But let’s not let the facts get in the way of a good column.
“The NFL was largely indifferent to the pounds-per-square-inch levels and pregame protocol of its game balls until the Colts backed the league into a corner and demanded action in the middle of the AFC Championship Game in January,” MacMullan wrote. “Colts general manager Ryan Grigson confronted NFL vice president of football operations Troy Vincent in the second quarter and said his team believed that the game balls were underinflated.”
If I follow MacMullan’s logic—and she’s far from alone here—this mess really is of the Colts’ making. It hardly has anything to do with the Patriots at all.
The national storyline of DeflateGate has shifted to this: How dare the Colts poke the mighty giant of the NFL? Now, it’s time they get their comeuppance!
MacMullan calls Grigson “Public Enemy No. 1” when it comes to Patriots Nation.
I was always taught that when you are faced with a liar and/or a cheater, you call him out. You stop injustice in its tracks. As a journalist I’ve been trained to shed light on those things people want kept in the dark—because the very things people wouldn’t dare do in the light of day tend to be those things they shouldn’t be doing in the first place.
The Patriots are clearly one of the best teams in the NFL. They might beat the Colts Sunday in Indy by three touchdowns—maybe more. Brady might score a touchdown and spike the ball—hard—as an in-your-face to the Colts. He may even spike it hard enough to take some of the air out of the ball.
Sunday’s results might even boost the Patriots’ sense of indignation.
MacMullan’s article concludes: “And somebody is going to pay.”
That all may be true.
But none of that will change the facts of what happened last season.
Nor will it make the Patriots righteous.