If Deflategate has taught us anything, it’s that the two weeks before the Super Bowl can seem like two months. I was in my car the other day at various times and heard several sports talk radio hosts dedicate entire segments to PSI. “How can Bill Belichick not know about the very instrument with which his team traverses the field?” one host asked, almost poetically.
Everyone is weighing in on this absurd controversy. The World Science Festival newsletter asked a physicist about the benefits of an under-inflated football. Bill Nye — the Science Guy — debunked the “theory” that the weather in New England might have deflated the footballs. Saturday Night Live mocked the Patriots’ press conference.
“Things are going to be fine — this isn’t ISIS,” Tom Brady said said last week. “No one’s dying.” You wouldn’t know it given the coverage. Media outlets reported yesterday that the NFL had interviewed a “person of interest” in the case. Patriots owner Bob Kraft opened a press conference with, “Given the events of the last week, I want to take the time to address the air pressure matter.”
A story like this just confirms what we already know: The NFL is too big for its own good. A Google search for “deflategate” returns 18.2 million results (a figure growing by the hour) and will be a major story until the Super Bowl kicks off. Compare that to last April, when the Yankees Michael Pineda was ejected from a game for having pine tar on his neck in an apparent attempt to doctor the baseball. A search for that yields 104,000 results. It was a story the next day, when Pineda was suspended, but it quickly died, even though I’d argue that a pitcher using a substance on a baseball affects the game more than what the Patriots did.
Only the NFL attracts such attention to keep a story like this going so strong for so long. I mean, a player who literally will not speak to reporters draws a crowd like this at Media Day:
— Justin Sablich (@JSablichNYT) January 27, 2015
Deflategate is the type of non-story story that keeps the NFL engine humming. For it to come in the dead period between the conference championships and the Super Bowl is no surprise, but it’s only made the two weeks without a game drag longer than usual. Of course by writing about it, I’m adding to the noise, so I suck, too.