As the Super Bowl approaches and #DeflateGate continues to provide a dark cloud over what otherwise would have been an exciting prelude to an unpredictable encounter between two evenly-matched juggernauts, some league insiders wonder whether the entire mess could have been avoided.
Regardless of anyone’s personal feelings about the Patriots and their reputation for pushing the limits of the rule book, those who love football and care about the NFL can’t help but wonder whether the NFL should have handled the current situation differently. Based on published reports, the league knew that teams suspected the Patriots of using deflated footballs. Instead of privately telling the Patriots to knock it off, the NFL set up, essentially, a sting operation aimed at catching the Patriots in the act.
There’s a sense that former Commissioners like Paul Tagliabue wouldn’t have tried to lay a trap for the Patriots. As one league source explained it to PFT on Friday, Tagliabue would have tried to avoid creating a controversy that mars the Super Bowl by calling the Patriots, telling them that concerns have been raised about the inflation of the footballs, and that the balls will be tested during the game so they’d better knock it off. For Roger Goodell, dubbed “The Enforcer” in a Time cover story from 2012, nabbing those who break the rules becomes a key strategy to deter rule breaking.
The source suggested that the commissioner of any sport should be less like an enforcer and more like a wedding planner, looking for ways to solve problems before they become problems instead of solving problems by making examples out of the problem children. While some would say the rules are the rules and it’s important to catch those who fail to respect them, a more discreet approach would have kept this from ever becoming an issue by telling the Patriots to stop doing whatever they may be doing before it becomes a major to-do.
Instead, the ultimate reality show has been dealing with a new reality that may cause some fans to question the legitimacy of the competitions that they see in person or on TV.