Just so you loyal readers can know, I do occasionally have thoughts other than politics. This time it is Tom Brady football, although I admit I would rather forget about the whole thing.
You know the story. Tom Brady, the number one quarterback for the number one New England Patriots, is now accused of having let the pressure out of the footballs he used in the AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts on January 18, 2015, making them easier to throw and catch. . . especially in cold weather. Brady denies everything, as well he should. He could have won the game using a nurfball! He is just that good -- and he knows it. Incidentally, the game was a blowout. The Patriots won 45-7, giving them the right to face the champion Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX.
Big money is involved in pro football. Very, big money. Very, big, shady money. Nobody trusts anybody, so every aspect of the game becomes suspect, even the footballs.
Now get this:
- Since 2006, each team brings its own selection of footballs to the game. New England brought theirs; Baltimore brought theirs. And when the offense changes, so does the ball. And vice-versa.
- They do not use "new" balls in the game. A supply of balls is sent by the manufacturer to each team the week prior to the game. The NFL competition committee says, "We're going to let the quarterbacks determine which footballs they want, practice with them all week, and do what they want with them, as long as the football is not overly scuffed up. They then submit those balls to the officials, and the officials determine if they want to use them in the game. If so, they measure the inflation pressure, 12.5 PSI, and check the weight. Once they do that, the officials put them in a bag, and keep them locked up where nobody else has access to them. There's usually a security guard, so the footballs sit in the officials' locker room until the ballboys pick them up and walk them out onto the field, with the officials, about 10 minutes before kickoff." The teams do not warm up with the game balls.
- Each game ball is pressure tested. Jim Daopoulos, a Marlborough native who was an on-field NFL official from 1989-2000 and the NFL's supervisor of officials from 2001-12 says, "A game official has a pressure gauge and has to check every football. It's usually given to the youngest or newest member of the crew — it's almost like a rite of passage into the NFL. But during the playoffs, it's a veteran official that does it. I would not even question whether they did or not. It's just something you do, like putting your pants on or getting ready for the game."
- How about the balls used for kicking punts, field goals, etc.? Oh, those are different. They are brand new, out of the box. A letter "K" is inscribed on the kicker balls, sealed in boxes (with anti-tampering tape), sent to the NFL hotel one week before the game and then delivered to the officials approximately 2.5 hours prior to kickoff. Those are then opened up in the locker room by the officials. They are scrubbed down and checked for pressure, then kept under the watchful eye of the kicking-ball coordinator, an individual hired by the league specifically to handle the kicking balls, and that's all he does. At one time, kickers did strange things to the kicking balls. So now, the players don't have any access to kicking balls, ever."
The American Gaming Association estimated $3.8 BILLION was illegally wagered on Super Bowl XLIX, plus a few hundred million more in legal bets. With that much money, the stakes are unbelievably high, and strange things do happen. This year, one Super Bowl official was caught and fired for keeping and selling the used game balls.
In the meantime, back at the ranch, billionaire Tom Benson, 87, owner of the New Orleans Saints, and the NBA's New Orleans Pelicans, announced that in the event of his death, team ownership would transfer to his relatively new wife Gayle, instead of his adopted daughter, Renee Benson, and his grandchildren, Rita Benson LeBlanc and Ryan LeBlanc. Of course, they are challenging the decision, claiming Benson has "fallen under the undue influence" of his new wife Gayle. You betcha'! Just look at that smile! Does the name, and image, of Anna Nicole Smith come to mind?
But in an effort to save face, and financial support, the NFL is threatening to suspend Quarterback Brady for an undetermined (for now) number of games for a rules infraction for which there is no evidence he committed.
This whole who-did-what-to-which-football controversy could be forever eliminated by having both teams use the same ball, regardless of which is on offense.
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