In the 1970s, the Miami Dolphins were practising at the Oakland Coliseum before a game against the home-town Raiders when they found a copy of the Raiders’ game plan. Monte Clark, the defensive-line coach, handed it to Don Shula, the head coach. “He threw it in the trash,” Clark later revealed. “He said, ‘We do not cheat’.”
Earlier this month, in an interview with the Florida Sun-Sentinel to mark Shula’s 85th birthday, the name of Bill Belichick, the head coach of the New England Patriots, came up. “Beli-cheat?” was Shula’s reported response. And that was weeks before the “DeflateGate” scandal that has dominated the week leading up to Super Bowl XLIX here today.
The Patriots are accused of breaking NFL rules by using balls that were deflated – by accident or design – in the victory over the Indianapolis Colts two weeks ago that took them through to today’s game against the Seattle Seahawks, the defending Super Bowl champions. They have denied the accusations. The League has commissioned an independent investigation.
Although no evidence has emerged of any wrongdoing, people have pointed the finger at Belichick and Tom Brady, the quarterback, who stood to gain most through having pressure in the balls reduced, improving his grip on the pig skin. Part of the reason for suspicion is the Patriots’ previous: in 2007, they were fined $750,000 for spying on a rival team.
It must have been particularly hurtful to Brady that Joe Montana, the legendary quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, whose record of four Super Bowl wins he can equal today, believes him responsible. “If I ever want a ball a certain way, I don’t do it myself,” Montana said.
“So, somebody did it for him. But I don’t know why everybody is making a big deal out of trying to figure out who did it. It’s pretty simple. If it was done, it was done for a reason. There is only one guy that does it. Nobody else cares what the ball feels like.”
Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote: “It’s not the deflation of footballs, it’s the pattern of behaviour by the Patriots. They wouldn’t alter those balls unless it was to their advantage. I think everyone assumes they have been playing with deflated balls for years. It wasn’t just a one-time thing.”
Robert Kraft, the Patriots’ owner, responded to the accusations with a strong defence of the two men who have brought his team three Super Bowl victories, and demanded an apology from the NFL if they are cleared. “After my family, my team is my passion,” he told The Independent on Sunday. “There isn’t one guy in our locker room I wouldn’t be pleased to have at our dinner table.” That, presumably, does not include Aaron Hernandez, the Patriots’ former tight end, whose trial for murder began last week.
However, experts are convinced that Brady must have known about the ball-tampering even if he did not let the air out himself – a leak to Fox Sports suggested that a Patriots locker-room assistant is under suspicion.
Brady has denied asking anyone to deflate the balls: “I haven’t, and I never will. There is a lot of trust between [Robert Kraft and me]... Whenever the investigation concludes, I certainly hope that he’s proud of me.”Reuse content