Wednesday, January 21, 2015

How do we know what actually constitutes "cheating"?

I'm trying to do my best to wrap my head around this deflated ball controversy from an unbiased perspective.  I think when it's all said and done we're going to find out pretty clearly that the Patriots definitely broke the rules.  But what is "cheating" anyway?

What is the actual severity of this infraction?  As I heard from Neil Everett on SportsCenter, is it like having a bit too much pine tar on a baseball bat, or a hockey stick bent ever so slightly more than the legal amount?  A more accurate analogy might be a pitcher doctoring a baseball.  The Yankees' Micheal Pineda was suspended 10 games last April for having pine tar on his neck during a game against the Red Sox.  The equivalent of that for an NFL season would be one game.

But what we don't really know is whether or not messing with ball pressure is uncommon in the NFL.  Just because it's a big story regarding the Patriots today doesn't mean it's not something lots of teams do all the time.  Which brings me back to the question, what is "cheating"?

If during a game a player commits a blatant holding penalty that the refs miss, is that "cheating"?  Probably not, because it happens regularly.  And when it is caught, a flag is thrown and a penalty is enforced.  Similarly, in this case there is a fine that is supposed to be imposed.

The news story here is obviously way out in front of anyone's knowledge of the situation.  Until we have a more solid idea of exactly how rare and significant this ball deflation thing is, "cheating" might not be the best term to use.

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