Greetings my fellow Expresso’s!!! It is Super Bowl weekend and we are ready for another solid match-up between two dominate NFL Champions. On one side, we have the 3-time winners appearing in their sixth Super Bowl, the New England Patriots. On the other side, we have last year’s winner with the most respected defense in the league; let’s start with the defending champions.
Now the Legion of Boom is all of a sudden America’s go-to team in the NFL and they should be. In fact, they should have been for quite some time. For most of us that watched football for more than the last 20 years, we were well aware that this wasn’t the same team that had former QB Matt Hasselbeck at the helm. But more importantly this is a team that remained competitive for many seasons only to finally get over the hump after rebuilding their franchise by finally finding a solid quarterback in Russell Wilson, a superb athlete with the kind of heart you need to win games when the odds were against you. Now they had a combination from a scrambler and a solid pocket passer coupled with one of the fiercest, most explosive and most imposing running backs in a very long time with Marshawn Lynch, also famously known as “Beast Quake”. Even as the offensive weapons struggled to get going you knew that you had a chance with them because of the defense and every real football enthusiast and fan of the sport knows that “The Best Defense Wins The Games”. That being said Seattle’s defense have definitely won games and big games as a matter a fact. Their first Super Bowl victory came last year against future Hall of Famer, Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in a one sided smashing that shocked the world. The Seahawks beat the Broncos so bad, the organization pressed charges against the team under the RICO Act for beating the team up gangland style. The Broncos got beaten pretty bad, however, ratings for the network dropped by only 39% after the halftime show. This was mainly due to the ones that didn’t turn the channel after Bruno Mars performed because they fell asleep in the second quarter when the Broncos were still getting the shit kicked out of them. I mean sure we can laugh about it now and crack as many jokes as the next person but, it was nothing like that several weeks before the big game.
If you remember there was a time when they made the very relevant and funny quip that developed so many internet memes and engulfed so many T-shirts last year at the expense of the Patriots during the regular season. Also let’s not forget the border lined racial stereotypes that followed into the playoffs along with the backlash Richard Sherman faced after expressing his raw emotions and confidence in his talents on live TV following their win over their heavily favored rivals, the San Francisco 49ers, to win the 2014 NFC championship. Besides some circulation on every major news network, that same championship game also received some very ludicrous allegations that it was rigged by the NFL from the likes of conspiracy theorists and most notably, San Francisco fans. These sentiments were understandable for the fans of the sport. I mean how would you feel if the last thought that had to remain in your mind set until next season was of your rivals best player doing this as he leaped into your end zone… Heading into the Super Bowl, the nation became almost divided over the increase of disrespectful sentiments towards the Seahawks, the constant labeling of Richard Sherman and his teammates as thugs and delinquents that did not deserve to be in the championship game on the grandest stage of them all. The venomous chatter got even louder as Marshawn Lynch took the stage on Media Day and refused to answer any questions regarding the Sherman’s comments or anything else at all for that matter. It wasn’t until midway through the 1st half of the Super Bowl that their critics and biggest haters finally silenced their ignorance long enough to notice they were playing some seriously aggressive football. Though many of these critics stemmed from people who actually did not watch the game itself but happened to catch the replays and the post game rant by Sherman, they chose that was more than enough evidence for them to judge the character of athletes they have never followed before. Because if they had watched the game or followed this rivalry, they would have known that these two teams are constantly clashing for supremacy. It also didn’t help that we saw an increase in fans which led to some resentment from opposing fans and Seahawks loyalists that adopted the team only when they won big games but disappear when they struggled. Seriously, I mean we saw Macklemore in a Minnesota Vikings jersey with memorabilia from nearly a year before going to the bowl only to watch him warming up the rowdy crowd in his newly purchased Seahawks jersey. As if that wasn’t convincing enough, look at the biggest bandwagon fan of all, Drake. Only one bandwagon fan with his ass-kissing pedigree can go visit the Seahawks practice posing for pictures while they are in the midst of a productive season after being seen remotely everywhere hanging with one of his other favorite athletes Johnny Manziel and being given a Cleveland Browns jersey. Maybe it’s possible that people didn’t like the Seahawks until the 2012 – 2013 NFL Season. It could be argued that their rivalry with the 49ers made them better not only on the field but in the stands as well as in social media. By the time the second half began, more football fans were eager to admit there was a new sheriff in town and suddenly nobody cared anymore about the rants or the brash moments of confidence. In our eyes, the Seahawks talked the talk and they walked the walk all over the Broncos. Well… At least some did the talking while others did most of the walking. (I’m looking at you Beast Quake! Let me get some Skittles!)
Now let’s get into one of the most controversial dynasty’s in sports history since the New York Yankees and please bare with me because there is a lot of details to go over. The Patriots shocked the world when they knocked off the highly favored St. Louis Rams with their brand of hard-nosed defense and gutsy offensive play. Their first Super Bowl win in 2001 was no blowout like Seattle attained but it was an emphatic reiteration of the earlier statement “The Best Defense Wins The Games”. They also went on to win back to back championships in 2003 and 2004 becoming the last NFL team to do so since the Broncos, Cowboys & 49ers back during the 1990’s. Tom Brady has grown from that sophomore QB that replaced Drew Bledsoe two games into the 2001 season and led the Pats to the first of three Super Bowl victories. With Brady and Coach Bill Belichick at the helm, their resiliency and competitive nature has led them to 14 out of 15 successful post seasons in the playoffs, nine AFC Championship games and six Super Bowl appearances with three NFL championship victories. Tom Brady‘s credentials have grown as well with being a 2x Super Bowl MVP, a 2x NFL MVP, a 2x AP First Team All Pro, a 10x Pro Bowl candidate, a member of NFL 2000s All-Decade Team and outside the other awards and accolades, he’s been arguably considered as the greatest QB statistically in the league today to many sports pundits. Even Boston, MA citizens believe him to be a strong candidate as the original basis for which the comic book , cult classic movie action hero Flash Gordon was created. At some point you would think that an organization with a leader like this would have no problem being labeled as America’s team, but as I said before, if you have been a serious football fan for more than 20 years you’ll know life is good on top until it isn’t.
In the film “The Dark Knight”, the character of Gotham City’s great white knight, Harvey Dent said it best when he told his dinner guests “You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” This statement has not only haunted one of the caped crusader’s strongest allies turned villain but those that seen their star power burn bright before the eyes of the world only to burn out before they were ready to walk away from their craft. While Brady’s star power continued to burn bright it slowly began to lose its luster in the eyes of America as other teams began to produce star power of their own. The Patriots went from favored underdogs to being considered a dominate powerhouse among most of their biggest rivals… Then Spygate came. On Sept. 9th, during a Pats game at Meadowlands security confiscated a sideline camera and tape from the Pat’s own video assistant. Moving forward from that debacle, the Pats still manage to win 18 games in a row only to lose in the Super Bowl against the lucky but very physical, New York Giants. After sometime passed they went again to the Super Bowl to face the Giants in a rematch only to fall to them yet again. By the time the 2013-2014 season drew to a close with them losing in the AFC Championships to the Broncos, the chatter had passed on from Spygate to whether Tom Brady had anything left in the tank to make another Super Bowl run without the controversy. The retirement talk got even louder during the beginning of this current as Brady and the Pats found themselves starting at just 2-2 for the first month into their season, the same as the Seahawks. Both teams considered to be counted out managed not only to tough it out but turn it around to become number one in their conferences and win throughout the playoffs in highly dramatic fashions. Then something happened. After the AFC Championship game, officials made a statement that they noticed 11 out of 12 of the Pats footballs were under the regulated weight during the first half due to deflation. According to some ESPN analysts, normally something like this would be ruled out and ignored when a game has final score of 45-7, but on the winning side of this game was the Pats, a team now with a history of taking advantage of the rules and almost immediately, the cheating allegations began fly off the handle all over again. No one knew all of the facts, not even the NFL as to how the balls deflated under the regulation weight, but you would never know that by how fast the social media and critics began to run wild with the story. One could even say that attempting to cheat again after being caught years before would take a lot of balls. (Don’t you start, Tom.) The press conferences after the fact did more harm than good as Coach Bellichick was viewed as passing the blame for the controversy towards Brady after emphatically denying any knowledge or involvement in any of the controversy whatsoever. Brady had his moment to acknowledge the situation and do one of two things. Either admit to any wrong doings with the balls or stand his ground like his coach and proclaim his innocence. However, those that followed Brady throughout his career are aware that when he faces these kinds of accusations, he will naturally choose this time to be cocky and confuse it as charming the press. Even now as I write this the NFL is still investigating the matter and even though they have no evidence as of yet to implicate Brady, the coach or the organization, the popular belief without any burden of proof is that “Once a cheater always a cheater.”
Today the Nation is divided by a very wide margin in favor of believing the Pats cheated. It almost seems like an open and shut case compared to what you would see on social media. It reminded me of the mass hysteria that surrounded Spygate during the Pats run for the perfect season. At the time, it was former defensive coordinator turned head coach for the Jets that blew the whistle to NFL security of the sideline taping from his former organization and produced one of the biggest landslides in the sporting world since the investigation of performance enhancing drugs in baseball… Or at least that’s what we thought would happen. Legendary Pro Football Hall of Famer and mediocre NFL illustrator John Madden went on record to say “… Stealing signs is nothing new.” Even though the organization fined them penalized them with fines for violating the rule that stated: “Videotaping of any type, including but not limited to taping of an opponent’s offensive or defensive signals, is prohibited on the sidelines, in the coaches’ booth, in the locker room, or at any other locations accessible to club staff members during the game.” Video assistants for each organization are given field passes and allowed to tape from the sidelines as long as they are in a booth enclosed on three sides with a roof overhead and out of view of the coaches. The assistant that was busted was standing in plain view recording the staff. But even I, writing this as a Patriot fan myself, had wondered with all of the implications against them, why didn’t NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell penalize them more than the slap on the wrist he handed down to the organization. If what the Pats did was considered abusing the rules to the point they robbed teams of a chance at a championship by partaking in an unfair advantage that no one else was committing themselves. So I started to dig a little bit. Not to conceptualize what the Pats were caught doing but because unlike a lot of others that chose to ignore John Madden’s comments, I chose to follow my curiosity as to why he said it in the first place. Then I found something interesting.
The Pats caught the Jets filming in the end zone in Foxboro back in 2006 prior to the whistle blowing in the Meadowlands. The Jets claimed that the Pats had given them permission, which they clearly hadn’t because Pats asked the cameraman to leave. The league did nothing but to say it was okay and did not confiscate tapes or investigate. The Jets were allegedly filming “coaching video”. (http://m.espn.go.com/nfl/story?storyId=3151217&src=desktop ) Among that interesting motive for future conflict, I found an article where multiple Super Bowl winners, and even a Pro Football Hall of Famer in two former Dallas Cowboy coaches Barry Switzer and NFL analyst Jimmy Johnson both openly admitted to doing “similar stunts” (video taping) while they were coaching. Even another Pro Football Hall of Famer in former Raiders player turned NFL analyst and star of the action classics Firestorm & 3000 Miles to Graceland, Howie Long was quoted in USA Today stating, “… Anybody who thinks the Patriots are the only club spying on other teams is naive.” (http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/sports/columnist/mccarthy/2007-09-16-tv-nfl_N.htm) According to the NFL rules, teams are actually allowed to tape “coaching videos” from an upper level location or from the end zones with no restrictions so long as both teams have access to the location. This kind of taping does not require any league permission. Now nobody seems to know exactly what “coaching video” means, consists of or even is, or if that there is any review or monitoring of what gets taped, and the NFL doesn’t make their official rule book public so we can only go by what they tell us, which considering the circumstances should seems very odd on their part.
Now is this all considered cheating to me? Of course it is. Were the Pats the only ones to do it? Of course they weren’t and as much as it should matter, it really doesn’t. When you are a part of an organization that already achieved three NFL championships in six seasons and you are beginning to go on a run for an undefeated season, some eyebrows are going to raise and that target is going to look very nice painted on your back as everyone of your critics, detractors and rivals are looking to knock you off of that pedestal. But as interesting as the topic is we have to understand something. We are talking about balls. Seriously, for the last two weeks we have been talking about balls. We’re not talking about the game. We’re talking about balls. To make it even more uncommon and drive the ridiculousness to an all time high, we are talking about Brady’s balls. Not the upcoming Pro Football championship game but, we’ve argued about Brady‘s balls. (Grow up,Tom.)
To have this kind of constant controversy break while other National sports organizations like the MLB are stuck fighting for the authenticity of their sport after being ostracized with allegations of multiple ball clubs having undisclosed cases of athletes using performance enhancing drugs, some of which were champions. Compare that to the NFL that fights to stay out of the headlines with negative press by quickly dispersing drug allegations along with domestic abuse cases, players with strong ties to gang influenced affiliation, unnecessary hits that lead to career ending injuries, sports gambling and now, the mother of all things to ruin the sport itself, the thought that a team with the most money to burn for their organization can cheat their way into a championship banner for their club. But that could only be considered the case if you asked yourself why in world is it that if the Pats are habitually cheating and abusing the rules,
why they don’t receive much harsher punishments? The Pats don’t own the NFL and there are certainly more ball clubs with way more money than them to burn. When you look at the new cheating accusation, they are suspected of deflating their balls for an advantage over a team they’ve beaten without any infractions or speculations thus far. As a matter of fact, the Super Bowl is this Sunday, and all that seems to be on anyone’s mind as of late is what happened to Tom Brady’s balls. (It’s not funny, Tom…) When looking at the procedure of determining the game balls for each game, Green Bay Packers credited Denver Broncos quarterback and Oreo cookie enthusiast, Peyton Manning for lobbying the league to allow game balls to be handled by players before the game. Rodgers stated that he and the team’s equipment staff work together to pick balls they’ve either practiced with or used in previous games. This rule change made it standard for QBs like Tom Brady to pick the balls he was the most comfortable
playing with and then turned over to league officials and NFL hired ball boys prior to team meetings that take place just before entering the game field to warm up. As of right now, reports are claiming that the ball boy is now a person of interest in the investigation that still has not produced any solid evidence implicating Brady in any wrong doing. But this article much like the two week build up for this match-up is spent not focusing on the game but the scandals. Nobody is even trying to factor who they think will win, but who was the last to tamper with Brady’s balls (I swear to the almighty above, Tom. If you laugh…)
A lot of fans are going to stay mad during this and they will claim to be fans of team that didn’t make it there while claiming their team to be America’s Team. The cold hard truth is that, every year, America’s Team has always been whoever wins it all. It always has been this way and it always will be until the game is played no more. Which to me, is a shame when you think about it because both teams are so talented and that label is such a fair weather title that fans run into the ground for teams that media want’s to use as their favorites until it becomes evident that they won’t make it to the championship. In my opinion, these are two clubs are more than qualified to be considered as America’s Teams because they reflect and embody everything we are facing in this country today. Negative stereotypes and unfair practices from the over privileged. Both have had success and influence over the game and culture yet they have still not received the one thing they’ve fought for more in this league than championships, and that is respect. Fortunately for me and others, I actually like both of these teams and I think it is interesting to have these two teams match-up for the biggest championship all of their careers. I never began this article with any intentions of justifying or condoning cheating in any way, but merely to point the issue of how it there infractions have been handled by the league in contrast to the public, the media and social networks that spew half of what they hear and ignore the rest. But I wanted to see this match-up last year and now it’s finally coming true for these two titanic teams of the gridiron to clash. For one team, it is a return to glory, a chance to legitimize a very humble QB among the elite leaders in the NFL and a chance to repeat as the new formidable dynasty for the next 10 years. For the other team it is a return to glory with a chance to remain the last dynasty of this generation amidst the controversy and for an elite QB to solidify his legacy among the same threshold as the greatest quarterback of all time, Papa Johns freeloader, Joe Montana. Either way I’m happy with the turn out because I believe both teams deserve the victory, but I will not be wishy-washy and side with the Pats for one simple reason. If the results of the investigation turn up with no evidence of foul play on their behalf and they happen to win on Sunday, I would like for Brady to show up to the press conference with his championship hat, look his critics in the face on live TV and say “It’s over. We won. We’re innocent and I’m finally done with this game. Now you all can get off of my balls.”
Put the damn ball down, Tom!
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