Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Situational ethics 101

It's just not America without a Gate swinging in the breeze somewhere, and so welcome, everyone, to the zippy new January 2015 model.  It's new, it's fun and it has people saying the most amazing things.

Say hello to Deflategate, folks!

Three days now since Bob Kravitz of WTHR in Indianapolis broke the story that the NFL was investigating the New England Patriots for monkeying with the footballs in the AFC championship game, and the pretzel logic continues unabated. We should be used to this sort of thing when it comes to the NFL and bad acts, but what some of the league's sycophants and apologists are saying this time around is even more twisted up than usual.

Which is: What the Patriots did isn't really cheating.

There's a lot of reasons they say that, but they seem to follow two standard refrains:

1. It's not cheating because the deflated footballs didn't have anything to do with the outcome of the game, and, anyway, what do you mean by "deflated"anyway? Isn't that just a miniscule difference in air pressure? And if it is, isn't this just the NFL being all OCD again?

2. It's not cheating, it's just the part of the NFL culture that dictates you try to gain a competitive advantage any way you can. Is there really that much difference, after all, between Deflategate and Bill Belichick going deep into the rulebook to trick the Baltimore Ravens with a tackle-eligible substitution?

No. 1, for those not genuflecting at the feet of The Coaching Genius That Is Bill Belichick, misses the point entirely. No. 2, for those not genuflecting at the feet of The Coaching Genius That Is Bill Belichick, misses the point entirely.

The point being, if the Patriots did this, it's cheating. Period. It doesn't matter if it had any impact on the game. It doesn't matter if it seems silly to quibble about a few pounds of air pressure. And it for sure isn't analogous to Belichick's now-famous tackle-eligible substitution.

That was a coach doing something .to win a football game that's within the rules. Deliberately deflating the footballs, if it happened, is not within the rules.

That should seem abundantly clear if you've got any moral center or grasp of ethics at all.  A kid playing second base for his Little League team in Barren Expanse Of Nothing, Idaho, would get this. Hell, a 6-year-old would.

Problem is, we're not dealing with 6-year-olds, who sometimes have a more finely developed sense of right and wrong than the adults around them. That's because they haven't discovered situational ethics yet. And it's because they haven't discovered sports-talk radio, those yapping poodles who -- especially on the national scale -- often seem like little more than carny shouters for the massive corporate enterprises they cover.

What's good for the NFL is good for America: Isn't that what they said about U.S. Steel, once upon a time?

Well, the Patriots and Bill Belichick are icons of the NFL. And so let the rationalizing begin:

Listen up, sonny. This is how it's done at the pro level. This is grownup, big-boy-pants football, so don't come in here with your child's conception of fair play. Look at the other Super Bowl coach, for heaven's sake. You think Pete Carroll hasn't done some underhanded stuff to get where he is? What about that mess at USC? What about the Adderall scandal in Seattle? But he's got a ring, too! He's an icon of the game, too!

So, sonny, don't tell us that these particular icons of the NFL have already been tried and convicted of cheating once, which affords them no benefit of the doubt in this instance. We don't care. We'll give them the benefit of the doubt, because, hey, Bill Belichick's going to be in Canton someday. He's a man. He's a Coaching Genius. And, besides, we're not gonna muck up the Super Bowl over a few deflated footballs. It didn't have any effect on the outcome, so what's the big deal?

That second baseman could tell them.


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