The Symbiosis Of Deflategate And The Sports World

Last Tuesday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell confirmed Tom Brady's four-game suspension, citing the fact that the New England Patriots superstar destroyed his cell phone as one of the main reasons the punishment was upheld.  

Here is a simple recap of all the events that led to this most recent segment of the Deflategate saga:  

  • On Jan. 18, weeks before the Pats prepared to play the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX, it is revealed that the team is under investigation for playing with balls that violate the league's weight limit.   

  • Two days later, officials reveal that 11 out of the 12 footballs New England used were underinflated.  

  • Bill Belichick is as Bill Belichick as ever, robotically denying any wrongdoing.    

  • After a shocking interception in the final moments of SB XLIX, the Pats return to Foxboro as the newly crowned NFL champions. Three months later, the Ted Wells Report is released, infamously stating in a line that would make the spinning top at the end of Inception proud: "It is more probable than not that Tom Brady was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities...involving the release of air from Patriots game balls."  

  • Brady is promptly suspended for four games, and the team is fined $1 million and forced to forfeit a 2016 first-round pick as well as a 2017 fourth-rounder.  

  • Brady and the NFL Player's Union appeal his suspension, which ultimately is denied.  

From someone on the outside looking in, Deflategate resembles a very bad soap opera rather than a full-blown "scandal." But for those entrenched in the football world, when a new report concerning anything with "Deflategate" in the title is released, it might elicit an exasperated sigh or furtive eye roll...but we still end up reading it. 

We scoff at the fact that Tom Brady's destroyed cell phone is being used as proof of non-adulterous cheating, but then eagerly devour the details and even do the math: 10,000 text messages over four months translates to a pretty reasonable 83 texts a day. 

At the end, the fact that throughout Deflategate, everyone, their moms, and their extended family have formed opinions on this "issue," actual science has been called upon to explain the implications of a football that has one less pound of air than a regular one, and Patriots haters have pounced on this latest misstep of the sixth-most valuable sports team in the world, only adds to America's NFL craze.

When commentators, panelists and writers eloquently express why they think the Patriots have either forever tarnished their reputation or that the team's record overshadows this controversy, the opinions that are presented may be authentic, but the underlying theme is an obsession with keeping controversy news-worthy. 

Deflategate is as important and news-worthy as we (and the league) want it to be. In an alternate universe, the Patriots would have gotten a slap on the wrist and Brady would be free to enjoy his offseason with Gisele and his favorite pair of Uggs. But then, what would there be to talk about until the preseason starts?

Considering that the majority of football spectators probably consume sports media on their tablets and smartphones, they expect brief, split-second alerts, easily digestible stats and continued updates on the latest controversies. In other words, if flagship programming were to dial back Deflategate coverage an focus just on technical, on-the-field news, viewers would either tune out or switch to another medium. 

Thus, the fans' appetites are what media outlets base their content on, and this content is what perpetuates fans' appetites. The TMZ aspect of sports journalism is infiltrating mainstream sports journalism, and the daily sports circuit has already progressed to a point that we cannot turn back from. That said, there is no "problem" with the incessant coverage of what are ultimately non-sports related topics. It is just a phenomenon that highlights a shift in the current generation's attention span.  

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