Whatever it takes: A Look at Deflategate

It didn’t take long for accusations of foul play during the AFC Championship Game between the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts to take root in all corners of social media. If you haven’t heard about this story that everyone and their father has been talking about, here is a quick summary.

The National Football League has opened an investigation into why 11 out of 12 of the Patriots’ footballs seemed to be deflated to the point that they did not meet the set standards for air pressure. Due to heavy rain during the AFC Championship Game, many are saying that the deflated footballs were easier to grip, giving the Patriots an unfair advantage. Since each team plays with its own balls when its offense is on the field, the Colts would have no supposed benefits to playing with the deflated balls.

What’s interesting about this story is the superfluous amount of attention it is getting from the media. Deflategate has been a top news story since the news broke shortly after the game on January 18. Not only has this story been circulating around major news outlets, many have taken to the Internet to offer their own two-cents on this so called controversy. The commentary ranges from allegations that the Patriots are cheaters to detailed debunkings of any kind of evidence that would suggest there was foul play involved.

Just this morning, a story in the New York Times examined the work of researchers from MIT and Carnegie Mellon that seemingly support the notion that the balls may have deflated on their own.

Yet an ever-growing army of Patriot detractors continue to trumpet the notion that the team – and the legacies of its leaders, coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady – are forever tainted because of Deflategate and Spygate, a 2007 incident where the Patriots were outed for videotaping another team’s defensive signals, ignoring previous league memos to cease and desist in such practices. A petition to ban the Patriots from this weekend’s Super Bowl against the defending champion Seattle Seahawks, for instance, has garnered more than 65,000 signatures to date.

Then there are others who say that Deflategate isn’t even worth talking about. In fact, Forbes went so far as to say that “Deflategate is the dumbest sports controversy ever.”

News stations and social media aren’t the only mediums offering extensive coverage of Deflategate. Saturday Night Live aired a sketch that poked fun at Belichick and Brady’s press conference. Additionally, Jimmy Kimmel Live! featured a spoof that showed several actors coming forward as the “locker room guy” who may have been responsible for the deflated footballs. Several famous Massachusetts natives, including Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, and John Krasinski made appearances in the spoof that has now gotten more than 150,000 views in less than 24 hours on YouTube.

So why do so many of us care about something as prosaic as a few deflated footballs? Why is this story getting more media attention than the actual Super Bowl itself?

Deflategate shows us that everybody loves a scandal, and that the media is as intent as ever to indulge in one.

– Shivani Shendye, A17

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