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'Just When You Think Deflategate Couldn't Get More Absurd...'

Rick Scuteri
AP Photo
Patriots fans hold up a sign in the first inning during a baseball game between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Washington Nationals, Wednesday, May 13, 2015, in Phoenix.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady confirmed that he will appeal his punishment by the NFL in the so called “deflategate” controversy regarding the team’s doctored footballs in the AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts in January.

KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel explains how the Patriots have written a bizarre new chapter in the saga and how it could affect how the Seahawks are viewed.

"Just when think this story can't get more absurd, it takes a fresh turn," Thiel said.

He's referring to the Patriots' creation of a website to post a lengthy rebuttal to the allegations of cheating leveled by an independent investigator hired by the NFL.

Thiel had a particular problem with the Patriots' reasoning for why the two staffers implicated in the scandal were using the word "deflator."

"They claimed these guys were talking about weight loss, not deflating footballs," Thiel said.

"Deflating the football gives a quarterback some advantage gripping the ball and also running backs gripping the ball. And that was the subject of this investigation - that the Patriots cheated by under-inflating the footballs in the AFC Championship game.

"Not the Super Bowl. So, Seahawk fans don't get excited about the Super Bowl outcome being reversed! That's not in play here," Thiel joked.

'Acme Of Absurdity'

What is in play is what Thiel called an "absurd quote" from the report, saying that one of the staffers would "sometimes workout and bulk up. He's a slender guy and his goal was to get to 200 lbs."

The report goes on to describe the other staffer in question by saying: "He's a big fellow and had the opposite goal to lose weight. Deflator was a term they use to refer to losing weight. There is nothing complicated or sinister about it."

"That is the acme of absurdity," Thiel said.

You can read the entire Patriots' response to the NFL investigator's report here.

Goal: Reduce Punishment

Thiel said the goal of the Patriots creating this website is to try to reduce the punishment handed down this week by the NFL, approved by Commissioner Roger Goodell.

The punishment included a four-game suspension for quarterback Tom Brady, who the investigator said was "generally aware of what was happening." The team lost first- fourth-round draft picks and was fined $1 million.

Patriots' Cheating History: Spygate To Deflategate

"This is the latest in a series of punishments from Goodell's office that have caused his judgment to not only be questioned but to be mocked," Thiel said.

"Starting, really, with the Patriots in 2007, in a case known as 'Spygate,' in which the Patriots head coach Bill Belichick admitted that they were filming the defensive signals of coaches on the opponent's sidelines.

"Since then there have been a number of disciplinary issues, including the 'Bountygate' scandal in which New Orleans Saints players were accused of head hunting their opponents, intending to injure them.

Goodell's punishments were so draconian that his predecessor, retired commissioner Paul Tagliabue, was called back to roll back the severity of the punishments.

"There are a lot of people who speculate that Roger Goodell is so intent on being the 'punisher' that he overreacts to everything knowing that he's going to get appealed back.

"Whether it's very serious stuff like domestic violence or something as absurd as under-inflating footballs, the NFL is the subject of mockery," Thiel said.

What If?...

Thiel acknowledged that the conclusion of the NFL investigation may have some Seahawks fans wondering "What if?"

They may be asking "What if the balls weren't deflated and the Colts won the game? What would the outcome of the Super Bowl have been?"

"There's some talk about the Patriots' habitual use of this technique," Thiel said. "But the thing that strikes me that's rather fun here is that it's taking a little bit of the attention away from everyone scrutinizing the Seahawks and their offensive play calls (a pass play at the one-yard line that resulted in an interception to end the game).

"I'm thinking that, maybe, the Seahawks don't look so dumb after all," Thiel said.

But he added "It's better to be labeled dumb than a cheater."


You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwestand

Kirsten Kendrick hosts Morning Edition on KNKX and the sports interview series "Going Deep," talking with folks tied to sports in our region about what drives them — as professionals and people.
Art Thiel is a co-founder and writer for the rising sports website Sportspress Northwest. In 2003 Thiel wrote the definitive book about the Seattle Mariners, “Out of Left Field,” which became a regional bestseller. In 2009, along with Steve Rudman and KJR 950 afternoon host Mike Gastineau, Thiel authored “The Great Book of Seattle Sports Lists,” a cross between and Mad Magazine that has become mandatory reading for any sports fan who has an indoor bathroom.