After all the media coverage and the judicial back and forth, the New England Patriots returned to the field Thursday night and won a football game. Tom Brady, who had been banned for throwing softballs, then re-instated by a federal judge (we pay those guys for that?), threw four touchdowns. Final: Pats 28; Steelers 21. The season had officially begun and fans everywhere emerged like bears from hibernation, to watch and to bet on the games. Some $95 billion according to one estimate, all of it illegal.
Which points to a sort convergence. It is illegal to make bets on NFL football games. Also to deflate the footballs used in playing those games. But, there are rules and there are rules. And there are unwritten rules about which rules we take seriously … and not.
The Patriots are the new Oakland Raiders. The franchise that wins most of its games but that fans of all other teams accuse of not doing it in not quite the right way. Of cheating, even, when you get right down to it. The Patriots were busted several years ago for spying on other teams and punished by the NFL front office. That one stuck but a lot of fans thought the Pats got off with a slap on the wrist. On the softballs, the league (in the person of Commissioner Roger Goodell) came down like a ton of bricks and the Pats fought back and won. In the fourth quarter of last night’s game, Patriots fans chanted, “Where’s Roger?”
Working on his resume, most likely.
But if the Patriots won, it was not done without more controversy, more accusations that they do it crooked. This time, it was the headsets. The Steelers said that when coaches tried to communicate, what they heard though the earphones was a broadcast of the game. Electronic glitch, right? t was a rainy night and electronics don’t like moisture. And, anyway, said the Patriots, our coaches were having the same communications issues.
Those not inclined to buy this includes just about everyone who is not a Patriots fan. Just another example, they say, of the cheaters doing what they do … which is cheat.
So if the games are not enough, then there is the additional emotional satisfaction of indignation.
Meanwhile, as regards that $95 billion, the line was Pats by 7 (the one I bet, anyway) so the game was a push. Vindication, maybe, for the Patriots and Brady. And for the gamblers … nothing.