My disdain for the NFL rule book and its piled-high 200-plus page maze of text is well documented here on FBF. Nobody constructs a 200 page document for it to be memorized by a human. You create a 200 page document to either cover your ass, or unwittingly display ignorance of the problems that complex sets of rules have when applied to a complex game. There isn't a player, coach, or official who knows every inch of it, nor should you rationally expect there to be. Don't believe the unbelievable.
Rain Man isn't walking through that door.
Mo' Paper, Mo' Problems
For those who SO badly wished that the reality of what was going on with the Patriots deflated balls would match the conspiratorial, cheating fantasies that filled agenda-driven heads, this week in NFL infamy needs to be remembered for more than just a failed sting attempt aided by low-information, hackish media members. The takeaway here SHOULD be the thread that runs through every major issue that confronts the NFL these days: its rulebook is full of poorly conceived trash that's bound to become a huge public problem.
When the inevitable problems happen, the players are harmed, the coaches are harmed, and most importantly, the game itself takes a perception beating it never deserved. Remember, the NFL is not football. I'll repeat...the NFL is not football. Not anymore than Kleenex is your sock. Football is a game that people play and American fans from coast-to-coast adore. Football doesn't live on Park Avenue. That's just where it's bastardized.
Roger Goodell likes to beat his chest about his role in protecting the integrity of the game. But based on his overall performance in his tenure as commissioner, I'd sooner put my life savings in the glove box of an unlocked car. My first question to him would be how his rule book, that's the first point of contact for this game integrity stuff, would have a strictly written standard that makes it a virtual certainty that anyone who follows it will still break it.
*If you're not caught up on the science between what most likely happened with the Patriots slightly deflated footballs, the following is the best study I've seen. This from the Headsmart labs in Pittsburgh. Video can be found at the top, PDF text version below on their page: http://www.headsmartlabs.com/
How on earth can you have a rule about air in a football that makes 12.5 PSI inside the ball legal, but 12.4 PSI illegal, when your game is played outside?
The blinding foolishness of that should knock every rules official off their high-horse and into common sense training. 'Cheating' has absolutely nothing to do with any of this, but the NFL let that idea leak into fans' minds by creating a clueless rule, one that was entirely unavoidable. If everyone puts their rooting interests down for a second, it's obvious this entire situation was simply about rules stupidity.
The 8-lane interstate of logic leads to the reality that this rule has undoubtedly been broken frequently throughout the league by any quarterback who chooses anything near a 12.5 PSI ball to start a game. That simple truth should've smacked the NFL in the face whenever they wrote this thing in the first place. The idea that it clearly didn't tells you all you need to know about the folks that wrote this 200-plus page mess.
Another critical puzzling element to all this, based on the scientific studies we've now seen, it would seem damn hard for deflation like this not happen to your footballs. And that's not new science. Once again, nobody had to discover cold fusion to come to this conclusion. This is undergraduate, 101 gas law stuff. Not "Spies Like Us," as the empty-headed fools who jumped the gun had hoped. Based on the scientific studies we've now seen, in a cold and wet game, it appears it would be a real challenge to keep a ball within this 1 PSI range, unless of course you were manipulating the ball in-game by adding air.
Don't count me in the camp that would find that somehow conspiratorial or nefarious if an official, or the Colts, or any other team did have to stick a needle in the ball at some point to keep it within range. But why put yourself in that position as a league with a rules range that's clearly tighter than likely environmental effects? You'd only do so if you didn't know what you were doing in making the rule in the first place.
The perception of the game as some sort of seedy shadow operation is fueled by a league, writers, and "journalists" with axes to grind. And that's a shame for people who just love the game of football and not all the other crap. Hopefully this situation will be looked back on as a lesson in reckless journalism. On that point, I won't hold my breath...
Rule Book Reconstruction, Not Band-Aids
To the casual NFL observer, it's very unlikely you walk away from this week with any real perspective on the game we're all supposed to love, no matter what team we cheer, cover, work, or play for. The importance of the air in the ball - provided it's not overinflated to granite, or under-inflated to mush - is largely irrelevant in the game of football. Neither of these scenarios are anywhere near what's been discussed this week, but the public perception in a drive-by society is unlikely to have picked up on that simple truth.
Air pressure in footballs is a negligible issue, now built into an erroneous skyscraper. That's at the feet of the NFL and its proven incompetence at preventing simple problems.
The NFL is caught now trying to wage an integrity war on behalf of an owner fresh off a DUI conviction with nothing more than a swiss-cheese rule in their holster. Somehow, the outstanding "gotcha" point left for those still grasping at straws is for the Patriots to explain what happened to the Indianapolis balls they didn't handle or have in their custody. Try that logic hat on for a second.
Years from now, clear-minded people will look back on this week and chuckle, "Seriously. That happened."
When you make dumb rules, dumb controversy is inevitable. This should never have been about pitting fans and markets against one another. This is about the NFL once again failing the entirety of its fanbase like we've seen it do so many times before.
Please, Roger Goodell. For once in your history, be a leader and fix a real problem. Enlist smart, common sense football people to comb your rulebook for holes and eliminate all the nonsense so fans, players, and coaches can go back to enjoying the game. And by football people, yes, I mean neither your input or your attorneys will be needed.
Sometimes the best way to lead is to get out of the way...