BOSTON (CBS) --"An exercise in futility," "a witch hunt driven by nonsense from a hypocritical organization," "ridiculous," "a silly league rule," "petty," "out for blood," "people want to exact revenge on an organization that really seems to get under their skin."
All of these words and phrases might seem like the perfect descriptors for the laughable period in NFL history known as "DeflateGate," a stretch when the entire country tried to turn the air pressure of footballs into the most important matter in the United States.
But in this case, these words were used by New York Daily News columnist Manish Mehta in an effort to argue that nobody should care about the NFL's investigation into the Jets' tampering with Darrelle Revis.
Everybody does it, Mehta argues, so why should it be a big deal?
"Robert Kraft and Bill Belichick, who didn't have the cash to keep the cornerstone of the Super Bowl-winning defense, have accomplished too much to use a silly league rule to wage an even sillier war," Mehta wrote.
He later added: "No matter how worked up the Patriots and their fans get, this won't change: Revis is gone. Please stop whining."
Also, and this is important, so remember it: "The annual NFL Scouting Combine has become a haven for league-wide tampering in the run-up to free agency. The NFL has turned a blind eye, because it's impossible to prove without a paper/email trail that no team is dumb enough to leave."
Putting aside whether Mehta is right or wrong in his claims that over-the-top bellyaching over tampering is silly and embarrassing (he is right), we can all agree that we should be thankful for people like Mehta to step up and speak out when the league wastes time, money and resources for investigations into silly, unimportant issues.
Back in mid-January, and through the end of the month, and in the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, and even in the weeks following the Patriots' Super Bowl victory, surely Mehta spoke up about the ludicrous, meaningless investigation known as "DeflateGate," right?
Let's go to the tape.
For starters, Mehta works at the New York Daily News, a publication that
gets blocked by my Internet filter at work for being categorized under "games" played up "DeflateGate" for all it was worth and then some. Look at some of the back and front pages from the Daily News:
By now, we know that DeflateGate was really much ado about nothing, that it was the result of some shady conspiring done by Ryan Grigson and Mike Kensil, that innocent folks like Jim McNally were painted as criminals even though it was an NFL employee named Scott Miller who was stealing footballs and committing wrongdoing. But the Daily News didn't seem to care much about that at the time. Instead, the paper was quick to paint Bill Belichick and the Patriots as criminals -- legitimate criminals -- because of the air pressure in footballs.
I couldn't find any columns where Mehta asked New Yorkers to stop whining about the PSI in footballs. He did retweet a lot of his colleagues' stories though.
Mehta did tackle DeflateGate in the week leading up to the Super Bowl, getting unbiased observer Kurt Warner to weigh in on the "controversy."
The sub-hed to the story said, "the Patriots allegedly videotaped the Rams' walk-through practice the day before their 20-17 win in Super Bowl XXXVI." I thought maybe an editor added that in, so perhaps it was worth giving Mehta a break on misrepresenting that story. (You'll remember that the Boston Herald reported that the Patriots filmed the walkthrough but later retracted the story and apologized. Folks who still bang the Spygate drum conveniently forget the second part of that story.)
But no, there in the second sentence of his story, Mehta wrote (emphasis mine), "Although no hard evidence that the Patriots videotaped the Rams walk-through practice the day before Super Bowl XXXVI remains, Warner still has residual doubt about whether or not the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady dynasty was built on lies."
To paraphrase: No, there's no evidence of this thing happening 13 years ago, but I'm not going to let that stop me from writing it in my opening paragraph.
Warner's quotes in that story don't matter -- he's cuckoo -- but Mehta also included the suspicions cast by Marshall Faulk two years ago to Felger & Mazz, wherein Faulk saw no explanation for his Rams loss other than foul play by New England. Putting aside that Faulk got his facts mixed up amid those sour grapes, it's clear that Mehta did his best to give a fair and balanced account of the situation.
Mehta concluded that story with this line: "One of the best… with an asterisk."
Mehta also wrote a doozy on Sunday, Feb. 1, the day of the Super Bowl. Take it away, Manish.
Headline: Tom Brady, Bill Belichick legacies with Patriots tainted win or lose Super Bowl XLIX
Sub-hed: Their talents are unquestioned, but the desire to stretch the rules to the limits has been the elephant in the room for those who are quick to anoint them the greatest coach and quarterback of all-time.
Lede: "Bill Belichick and Tom Brady will leave behind complicated legacies stained by the uncertainty of two scandals that shouldn't be ignored.
"Blind loyalists have marginalized DeflateGate as nothing more than an inconsequential event that requires no explanation. Nobody really knows the tangible impact of playing with a football filled with two fewer pounds of air per square inch anyway. Let the raw data speak for itself: Belichick and Brady have a 180-55 record with six Super Bowl appearances and three Lombardi trophies together."
In the story, Mehta quoted ... rational, impartial Kurt Warner.
Mehta concluded, quite decisively, "The Patriots, frankly, don't deserve the benefit of the doubt given their past transgressions. ... The league's investigation into DeflateGate won't conclude for a couple weeks, but it likely won't matter."
Again, he's saying "it doesn't really matter what the facts are. Folks such as myself believe they have done wrong, and so that will be their legacy."
Putting aside the fact that anyone who believes SpyGate was a big deal either A) knows little about football, B) purposefully chose to actually learn what the Patriots' transgressions were in 2007 or C) deliberately ignored any and all details about "SpyGate" in order to paint a particular narrative that's been propagated for the better part of a decade now, and putting aside the fact that "everybody else is doing it, so it shouldn't be a big deal" is a fine excuse for Mehta with "TamperGate" but is just the rallying cry of blind loyalists with "SpyGate," that's not what this is about.
This is about a Jets writer who soaked up every last ounce of juice from "DeflateGate" just seven weeks ago who is now railing against an investigation that he deems to be needless and futile.
When the Patriots are under investigation, it doesn't matter if there is any evidence; it's front-page news.
When the Jets are under investigation and there actually is evidence on record, it's a waste of time and everybody needs to stop whining.
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