The Inflated Media Coverage Of The New England Patriots' Deflated Footballs

As the appointed media guy of TSFJ, times like these are supposed to be a smorgasbord of ideas. The break between Conference Championship Sunday (the spiritual end of the NFL until August) and Super Sunday is supposed to be a desert, at least until both teams arrive in Glendale, Arizona to prepare for the Super Bowl.

Thank you, New England Patriots, for feeding the media cycle.

Last night on Jimmy Kimmel Live, the venerated broadcaster Al Michaels came on the late night show to promote his memoir, You Can’t Make This Up. The entire segment — actually, the entire episode because it features Edward Norton — is worth a watch, but considering how obnoxious the chatter around “Deflategate” has become, Kimmel was obligated to ask Michaels about the controversy.

His assessment may be the most painfully true thing said about the coverage, which you know is ridiculous when MSNBC stops berating Republicans and FOX News doesn’t blame President Obama for anything for a full five minutes.

“The government of Yemen has collapsed, you have terror cells in France, and all three network news broadcasts were led with Deflategate," Michaels said. "… In Vegas now, they already have all the proposition bets for the Super Bowl ... There's a proposition that says how many times will Michaels and [Cris] Collinsworth say 'deflated balls.'"

Good Lord.

This controversy is maddening on its own merits: the arrogance of the Patriots to believe they wouldn’t get caught, the sheer idiocy that they did, the specter of further postseason incompetence from the referees, and the accidental whistleblower position of D’Qwell Jackson.

Yet, this is the NFL, and there’s probably not much of a need to rehash its last year in this space. It’s safe to say that heading into the Super Bowl, the most appropriate way for the 2014 campaign to truly end was with another moment of “you can’t be serious.”

Yahoo Brady Slideshow - really

There are major parts of this story that feel less like football matters and more of a government corruption scandal. Actually, come to think of it, here in New York, it’s more discussed than an actual government corruption scandal.

Even in his monologue, Kimmel joked about how many networks had shown the Tom Brady press conference live: the appropriate sports networks, the major cable news networks (except Al Jazeera America, bless them for being sane), ABC and local channels.

Because of this, I noted quite a bit of commentary that ranged from the reasoned to the absurd to the “you need to be drug tested.” Fans who want more significant punishments that make Bountygate tame by comparison. Former players shouting from the mountaintops about integrity, some maybe doing so hypocritically.

But, the most maddening commentary of all has been in the vein of “bad press is still press.”

Yes, of all the things in this world that need more media attention, the Super Bowl is somewhere at the top of the list.

There’s probably someone who keeps parroting the “you’re still gonna watch” mantra that was repeated often during the regular season as Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, Greg Hardy and others were suspended after their transgressions. It’s said in a way that assumes you, football fan, actually said you plan to boycott the biggest sporting event of the year.

It’s said in a way that feels like the more batshit dumb, incredibly tragic and absolutely infuriating issues come up, the better the game itself will be.

“You’re still gonna watch” and similar refrains are said in ways that treats sports like scripted dramas and that somehow Bill Belichick, Tom Brady or even commissioner Roger Goodell made some last-minute revisions during production.

Well, if controversy sells, who exactly is this selling THE SUPER BOWL to?

Thanks to the media coverage, Deflategate has become the NFL’s version of The Interview. It’s something that has no damn business getting the attention it’s received, yet is on code with the most ridiculous obsessions of American life: big names we love to hate, morality play, armchair public relations and legal analysis, morning talk shows, pop culture snark, and THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE.

Geez, it’s not even Media Day yet.

(Sports gods, have you forsaken us?)

At this point, the sophomoric and bland ball jokes almost make me wish people went back to their incessant and obligatory bad jokes about the New York Knicks.

Almost. It’s been a long season.

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