Sports

Beating The System: Some Thoughts on Tom Brady and Deflategate

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Winning at all costs appears to be the mantra these days. Why is that? Everyone looks for an angle, getting the edge or an advantage. Whatever happened to integrity, good sportsmanship, or, simply, playing by the rules. Well, we have been inundated with examples of how the ends justify the means and somehow cheating is okay. Even if you get caught you either deny everything or have your spin doctors make light of it.

This blog is not solely about Tom Brady or “Deflategate”. I’m not really sure how serious deflated footballs become in a championship. It still seems a great deal depends on execution of plays necessary for the win. But the question will always remain: how much did the deflated balls influence the outcome of the game? Would the Patriots be the champions had none of this happened? Who knows? The incident the NFL was investigating happened before the Superbowl in the divisional Championships against the Colts. It seems a lot more would have had to happen for the Patriots to have lost the Superbowl. They nearly did that on their own and how it not been for the Seahawks blowing their chance…well, they would have had to run the ball on the final play of the Superbowl but lets not revisit that.

It’s somewhat fitting that every scandal since Watergate has borrowed the “gate” ending. Maybe that’s where all this rampant cheating to win started – though I doubt it. You see, cheating is as old as people. It’s just that in the annals of stupidity there is hardly anything that rises to the example of a President, almost assured of a victory in his reelection bid, trying to gain an unfair advantage over the opposition. Yes, that was all that Watergate was truly about. Afterwards the denials and coverup were the real reason a President had to resign.

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What should be the punishment for Tom Brady? A fine, suspension, a lost draft pick for the team? Ya, know, it probably depends on who you ask and what is their favorite team. Still, it puts into question the integrity of the sport of football an the NFL. It affects the image of the league. That’s kind of serious. I mean – how do we as fans know whether the fix is in on games? What sorts of things go on that have not been uncovered? That’s the true crime, here. The lost innocent belief that there was ever a level playing field. It calls to question whether it is a team using their raw talent and considerable practice at honing skills that wins games.

In America we have reared a generation or two of cheaters. That’s what it looks like. And this is the end result. Winning at all costs no matter how it is done is all that matters in the modern world. No one seems to mind the tarnish on the awards or the asterisk mark next to a entry in the record books. Everything is okay as long as you don’t get caught, right? Fortunes are made and game are won by outsmarting the competition, finding the advantage and seizing the opportunities. There is considerable grayness when it comes to whether something is really cheating.

I guess that in the end it comes down to how much one’s personal integrity matters. If your conscience is fine with the way you won something, then that makes it all right. As long as you can sleep at night. Maybe I’m the dinosaur here. I still believe that rules matter and playing fair is how we should conduct our business whether it is sports or business. It was how I was raised. Then again, I had a pretty sheltered childhood where what is right and what is wrong was pretty clearly defined. I can thank my parents for the lack of ambiguity in how I see things.

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By the time the Superbowl comes around next year, all of this will be forgotten unless, perhaps, Tom Brady has returned to the playoffs. Then I suppose the question about Tom’s balls maybe asked again. He has some to claim he is innocent of wrong doing, at least in my book. It taints everything else that he has done with his talent and through hard work.

#TomBrady #Deflategate #Football #NFL #Patriots #Seahawks #Colts #Cheating

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A Sport Becomes A Political Football

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You may have seen something about this in the news – political pundit calls soccer un-American – or something to that effect. Not wanting to get into the silly polarized political debate on just about everything that plays out daily on the 24/7 news channels (and spills over into broadcast and print media as well) I do have some observations that may help put a different spin on everything.

First of all, calling any sport un-American is patently absurd.

We are a nation that seems to love sports and competition. Some things we watch I might personally feel are quasi-sports. I may like some more than others. But it is a matter of personal preference not national interest or patriotic support. All you need to do to confirm Americans’ love affair with athletic endeavors is channel surf on any given weekend. It’s there, all there, and in a variety that will astonish you. For most Americans I think a favorite sport depends on the season we are in. I love baseball, for example. There’s nothing more American than that, unless it is the middle of football season. Then there is basketball.  I also like tennis. I’ve been known to watch bowling and golf but usually I end up taking a nap at the same time. But that’s just me. A lot of people watch racing events. Some people question whether that is a sport. Controlling a car that does;t have pose steering while it is doing a couple of hundred miles per hour takes some strength and skill, especially when it is in close proximity to other vehicles. So, I have never personally questioned where professional racing drivers are athletes.

Let’s conclude that Americans like to watch sports.

Some people participate in sports at some point in their lives. Whether it is in a youth league, during high school or college or in adult leagues, we have all dreamed of making the winning play or being the fastest or strongest  or most skilled at something on any given day. Those who don’t participate directly in a sport can always be a spectator.

You see, Americans like to watch competition. That’s what we do. We pick a side and support the team or individual. Maybe the competitive nature of sports spills over into our domestic politics at times as well. National championships teams and star world class athletes usually get invitations to the White House. But that’s all about photo ops and publicity, not really about politics per se. By the way, publicity is what all the comments about soccer being somehow un-American is all about, promoting some agenda and calling for support of some cause whether real or contrived.

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How can anyone think that soccer is un-American? Maybe it’s because the sport wasn’t invented here. That is the only somewhat valid reason I can think of for having that point of view. Its the old us against them, isolationist mentality. Americans enjoy being different and doing things our own way – even if at times it proves inconvenient or wrong over the course of time. We have our own set of weights and measures – even though those are borrowed from our English heritage. We have our own special variety of football, which is why we call a sport, which is known to the rest of the world as football, soccer. But I think millions of soccer moms across America are scratching their heads over the pundit’s comments, though. How is it that soccer is not American enough to meet anyone’s standards?

Politicians and political pundits seek publicity. They will leverage anything to advantage, even something that should be as politically neutral as a sport. While we should all be supporting an American team participating on the world stage and taking pride in the successes and advancement in a prestigious tournament, the politicization of the sport has for a moment drawn attention away from the real competition, which contains is national pride.  It is dangerous to associate politics with any sport and it needs to be avoided in the interest of maintaining the purity of of competition and the sense of fairness.

Sport should be about competition at the highest level possible, pitting sides against one another chosen on any basis other than something as crass as political agendas. Sport should be purely about athletic excellence and endurance, pushing the limits and showing heart and courage to put forth one’s best effort. It must never be about left verse right or being somewhere in between on the ideological scale.

Promoting one sport over another as a national pastime is advertising not reality. As Americans we can all get behind a national team and show enthusiastic support as one people divided on everything else but united in at least one thing, that we are all Americans. Suggesting that love of one sport in some way diminishes our love and support of other sports that are, for whatever reason, traditionally called American sports is wrong. Soccer is a sport, for God’s sake. A lot of patriotic people enjoy watching it. So, just let them enjoy watching what they choose to watch. As always, if you don’t like it you can change the channel. There is always some other sport you can watch. Just don’t tell any of the rest of us what we can or should be watching or attempt to limit our freedom to do so.

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#soccer #football #American #politics #sports

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No Superbowl L

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Wait! Before you have a panic attack, there will be a fiftieth playing of the world championship pitting the surviving and hopefully best teams of the two football conferences again one another. It’s just they won’t call it ‘Superbowl L’. After forty-four years of using Roman numerals for designating the particular edition of the annual Superbowl game in American football, the National Football League (NFL) has decided to break with the tradition established inn 1971 and not to use the the letter ‘L’ to designate the fiftieth one. Instead the game will be officially called Superbowl 50.

I suppose they could call it Superbowl 5-0 but that would be confused with the TV show Hawaii 5-0. Perhaps if they held the game in Hawaii that might have made sense in a cute sort of way. Also, there is the stoma associated with the letter ‘L’ standing for ‘loser’, something popularized int he 90’s by someone holding up the thumb and index finger of one hand to his or her forehead to indicate that someone else was a ‘Loser’. We can’t have something like that associated with the most watched sporting event in America, now can we?

Do they intend to to return to Roman numerals after this coming Superbowl, designing it LI? Well, I’m concerned that could be mistaken for a reference to Long Island. The game will not be played there. It was a gamble wight he weather and all playing it at the Meadowlands in NJ last year. I think most people in the league feel they dodged a bullet as a snow storm was bearing down on the east coast at the time and hit the event site the day after.

Maybe they should just scrap the Roman numerals altogether. After all, how many times have you had to explain to a kid what the letters meant. And then there is the whole matter of how Romans added subtracted multiplied and divided those crazy looking numbers and why western civilization adopted Hindu-Arabic numerals in lieu of the Roman ones. Who wants to go through that explanation? Eventually the roman numerals will be so long and complicated that it will be difficult to immediately decipher.  Superbowl MCDXCII is a few hundred years away, but every American football fan hopes there will still be games then so we can continue watching them from the grandstands in Football Heaven.

My suggestion is to just start calling the games by their serial number in standard, commonly used and understood numeral like 51, 52 and so on. It’s not like you see Roman numerals on that many things any more, some analog clock faces, volumes of books, the copyright script at the bottom of some movies. Yeah, I think we could officially just do away with them. Let them go the way of cursive writing, forever forgotten and no longer taught in school. We have more important things to teach. Who cares about tradition and cultural identity?

It’s all a little silly anyway, isn’t it? Although I love watching American Football it always struck me as being rather odd that they used roman numerals for the Superbowl anyway. It was only for appearances, so it seemed more official or important in some way. Appearances is the real reason Superbowl L will be designated Superbowl 50.