January 23, 2015

If you’re looking for a nonpolitical manifestation of the pervasive malaise that shrouds the American soul, look no further than Deflategate.

Did New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick mastermind the removal of approximately 2 ounces of pressure from all but one of the dozen game balls used in the AFC Championship against the Indianapolis Colts?

Was quarterback Tom Brady the evil genius?

Or did some flunky freelance the horror so that years hence, on his deathbed, said flunky could claim to be the one who sent Brady to his historic sixth Super Bowl?

These and collateral questions — 12, according to the always excitable Boston Herald — grip the nation.

As usual, the nation (or most of it) is wrong.

Consider baseball: the spitball and its variants (Vaseline and resin, to name just two) is as American as, well, apple pie.

The situation in hockey is more esoteric. Until recently, when the rules were relaxed, players — especially forwards — would skate the first two periods or so with sticks that violated the rule forbidding blade curvature exceeding half an inch.

In terms of equipment, basketball is a minimalist game. But as the late Red Auerbach demonstrated throughout his 56 years with the Boston Celtics, the carefully orchestrated illegal on-court move could be a thing of beauty.

Golf and horse racing are different matters. The defining sensibility of these games is more upper-middle class. It’s getting caught that’s the real sin, not unlike insider trading.

Deflategate (or Ballghazi) is a sure indication of the rot that afflicts America. Obsessed with rules that are really footnotes trotted out when it’s convenient, it’s an indication not that America can’t play the game. Rather, it shows we’re a nation that has forgotten how to lose.

Example: During the 1960 Presidential election between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon, Kennedy’s plan was to steal the election via Texas while Nixon focused his efforts on Illinois. Kennedy, of course, won. Lyndon B. Johnson’s grip on Lone Star ballot boxes was formidable. Nixon was able vote the cows in the southern precincts of Illinois, but the graveyards of Chicago — organized by Mayor Richard Daley — cancelled out Nixon’s bovine advantage.

To ensure that both candidates acted like gentleman, former president Herbert Hoover convened a post-election meeting between JFK and RMN. Alas, no transcript of the summit exists. But neither was there any unseemly whining — or lawsuits.

Bottom line: It’s time for America to man up, or person up (to be gender inclusive). It’s clear to anyone who watched the Patriots-Colts game that the Pats would have won even if they played with a banana.

Of course, as Nixon (a most instructive president) made perfectly clear: It’s not the misdeed that gets you; it’s the cover up.

Go Pats.


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