Deflating the game

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady faces questions from the media (Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty)

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady faces questions from the media (Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty)

Champions don’t cut corners. They don’t make excuses. Champions don’t sneak, spy, or steal. Champions push themselves, challenge each other, and elevate the game they love.

The New England Patriots were the better team in the AFC Championship game. It was apparent from the start. They dominated the Indianapolis Colts in every way. And they won by a large margin. 45-7 to be exact.

They didn’t need to give themselves an unfair advantage. But from all angles, it appears they did. Someone did. And now, with the Pro Bowl and Super Bowl upon us, football fans aren’t talking about the Patriots’ decisive win, the dramatic overtime victory of the Seattle Seahawks over the Green Bay Packers, or the biggest game of the year. They’re talking about deflated footballs. You can’t turn around without hearing a ball joke and “deflategate” has been the top news story all week.

The NFL kicked off the season embroiled in off-the-field issues surrounding Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson, the fallout from which called into question the integrity of the league and Commissioner Roger Goodell. Now, it closes the season with an on-the-field issue, which takes direct aim at the integrity of the game itself.

What did the Patriots know? When did they know it? And who was responsible? We may never know.

My brilliant and witty friend, Shandon, coined Patriots quarterback Tom Brady “The Blue Jasmine of football.” If you didn’t see the movie Blue Jasmine, the script was loosely written around disgraced financier Bernie Madoff’s (now estranged) wife, Ruth, an “innocent bystander” who benefited greatly from her husband’s greed. Bill Belichick in the role of Bernie Madoff doesn’t seem like a stretch. Except, of course, for his wardrobe.

The problem is, this Patriots plot has more holes than an adult film. Belichick, a notorious control freak, admits to scheming to make practice balls uncatchable, but wants us to believe he’s never thought about a football on game day. And Brady, who has a process for picking and preparing balls, has never actually squeezed one. For the record, my sister Jennifer (who is a Tom Brady fan) says even she can tell the difference in a fully inflated ball when she’s throwing it around the backyard with my nephews.

This franchise is no stranger to cheating scandals. In 2007, Belichick was imposed a $500,000 fine (the maximum allowable) for his role in taping the defensive play calls of the Patriots’ opponents, earning the nickname “Belicheat.” Now, with their team headed back to the Super Bowl, New England fans find themselves in the position of defending the Patriots and their accolades once again.

If the game isn’t fair, then the game means nothing. And this game means too much to too many people for that. The attention created by deflated footballs is not silly. As Tony Kornheiser said on ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption, “It shows you what the NFL means to this country.”

A strong stance is needed from the man in charge of defending the NFL shield. And with the game on the line, Roger Goodell can leave no doubt as to which team he’s on.

Time for a big play, Commissioner.

I hope you have it in you.


NFL Free Agency: Free for All. But Not Free — at All.


A new NFL season is upon us.

With NFL free agency signings slowing down a bit, I thought it would be a good time to step back and review what we’ve learned so far about the 2014 season.

John Elway and Bill Belichick are already engaged in a season-long chess match. So far, the Denver Broncos have claimed Aqib Talib, T.J. Ward, and DeMarcus Ware, leading us to believe that “offense wins games — defense wins championships,” may be their mantra this year.

Meanwhile, the Patriots gathered Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, and Brandon LaFell. And according to their former cornerback, Aqib Talib (who claims he does not have a hip problem), the Patriots report fake injuries. Which surprises no one.

Michael Vick will stay in green and white, but he won’t be wearing number 7. Vick may challenge Jets quarterback Geno Smith for the starting job — but says he won’t challenge him for his number. Also, the Jets aren’t happy unless they have a full-fledged quarterback controversy on their hands. And ESPN camped out at training camp.

Mark Sanchez will also stay in green and white, as he heads from the Jets to the Eagles, where he will compete  for the job of backup quarterback to Nick Foles with Matt Barkley. Apparently, the job requirements for backup quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles include good hands (for clipboard holding), playing for USC, and being really, really, ridiculously good looking.

Speaking of ridiculously good looking…in releasing wide receivers Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn, and Domenik Hixon, the Carolina Panthers must think quarterback Cam Newton really is Superman and that he can throw the ball and catch the ball — himself. No one will be more impressed than Gisele Bundchen if Newton is indeed able to pull this off.

The NFC North is playing musical chairs (or musical ends), with Julius Peppers going to the Packers, Jared Allen to the Bears, and the Vikings still deciding which Packer they will sign this season.

Denver running back Knowshon Moreno is taking his talents (and his tears) to Miami.

Former Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert is still in the NFL, now backing up Colin Kaepernick at the San Francisco 49ers. And making twice as much money — for now.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones signed former Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden to ride his bench. And his unicorn.

If you’re a veteran player, prepare to sign a short contract, with one year deals becoming incredibly popular this offseason. There’s a reason they call the NFL “Not For Long.”

And not for long just got, well — less long.

Stay tuned.


Mr. Putin…give back this ring

The Patriots' 2005 Super Bowl ring  (Photo: AP)

The Patriots’ 2005 Super Bowl ring
(Photo: AP)

It’s a new twist on an old tale. Athlete gives expensive ring to girlfriend. They break up. Athlete wants ring back. Girlfriend says it was a gift.

Now, try this on for size. Literally. Team owner gives Super Bowl ring to world leader. To try on. He pockets it. Owner wants ring back. Leader says it was a gift.

Sound far fetched? Well, that’s exactly what happened, says New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, during a trip to Russia in 2005. Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly told Kraft, “I can kill someone with this ring,” before walking off with it (while surrounded by KGB).

Kraft reportedly asked the White House to intervene, but they were reluctant to do so, citing US-Russian relations.

Stop. Is this real life? Because if it was a movie plot, we’d know what to do. We’d pull Arnold Schwarzenegger out of self-imposed retirement, cast him in the role of Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, and Tom Cruise as Tom Brady. And we’d send them on a secret mission to Russia to recover the ring.

The smart, cool, lady-killer and the strong, charming, dimwit. It would be James Bond meets Mission Impossible…meets Lethal Weapon.

And it all ends with Gronk saying, “I’ll be back.”

The sequel…a less covert operation to get Mario Williams’ engagement ring back from his ex-fiancée.

In real life…it’s not quite so easy. Putin’s spokesperson denies he stole the ring, says Kraft needs “psychoanalysts,” and has offered to replace the $25,000 ring with one of similar value. As a gift.

Kraft has seemingly reverted to the “gift” stance. Earlier this week his spokesperson said, “He loves that his ring is at the Kremlin, and, as he stated back in 2005, he continues to have great respect for Russia and the leadership of President Putin.”

Also, the KGB.

In this tale of he said, he said…I side with Team Kraft.

In fact, I find both Arnold Schwarzenegger and Rob Gronkowski more trustworthy than Vladimir Putin. And that says a lot.

But, I didn’t say that.

Because I also respect the KGB.


Belichick and Tebow…new NFL “Odd Couple”

Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Tim Tebow as Broncos QB (Photo:

Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Tim Tebow as Broncos QB

Mr. Sunshine…meet Mr. Curmudgeon. Yes, Tim Tebow and Bill Belichick are the NFL’s new odd “it” couple. And it’s official…Tim Tebow is a Patriot. It’s just so right…and so wrong. And it just might be crazy enough to work.

Let’s end the speculation on whether Belichick did this for fun. The only thing Bill Belichick does for fun is…kill fun. There will be no circus. There will be no Tebowmania. Unfortunately for us ladies, there will be no Tim Tebow running shirtless in the rain. Bill Belichick only wants one thing from the media…to be left alone. If you don’t believe me, google his press conference. It’s so uncomfortable, I’d rather have a root canal than even watch it on TV.

On a positive note…Belichick vs. Tebowmania just might make my 2013 NFL season.

But make no mistake, when Patriots training camp rolls around it will be all about one thing…business. The business of winning a Super Bowl. And clearly, Bill Belichick (or someone in the Patriots organization) thinks Tebow can help them accomplish that.

As head coach of the Denver Broncos, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels drafted Tim Tebow with a first round pick in the 2010 NFL draft. Belichick is tight with Tebow’s college coach, Urban Meyer. Tebow comes to New England with the playbook (if you can call it that) of the Patriots’ divisional rival, the New York Jets.

There is not a more competitive coach than Bill Belichick. Not in the NFL. Or anywhere. If he can take Tebow from the non-season he had with the Jets, and turn him into a playmaker of any kind, Belichick will further cement his legacy as one of the most creative, innovative, and overall best coaches in NFL history.

Signing Tebow as a Patriot…$1,360,000.*

Buffered fortress at training camp…$250,000.

Schooling your divisional rival…Priceless.

Tim Tebow is a Patriot.

Let the games begin.

Oh, and watch this.


*Two years, no guaranteed upfront money.