Why ‘DeflateGate’ is Dumb


Is this a face you can trust?

This week sports channels, social media, and even news sources like CNN, The Huffington Post, and TIME Magazine (!?!) are weighing in on what is being called “DeflateGate;” the latest term to be presumed a scandal because “gate” is used after the root word. For those unfamiliar, the premise is this: The NFL found that the New England Patriots used 11 footballs that were underinflated in their AFC championship game against the Indianapolis Colts.

A game that resulted in a 45-7 victory for the Patriots sending them to the Super Bowl and the Colts home to a state split into two different time zones. The brouhaha or hullabaloo producing the outlandish outrage is that the Patriots, who are no stranger to controversy (Google: Spygate), purposely cheated to gain an advantage. While the head coach may not have known, Tom Brady, the quarterback, probably, likely, should have known the balls were not up to game regulation.

Ladies and gentlemen, as I write this, there are 8,040,000 results that populated when Googling the term “DeflateGate.” There have been press conferences, current and former players weighing in, and endless chatter … all about the amount of air in a ball. First-world problems, much?

From a communications perspective, much is being made about Tom Brady’s press conference, where he stated:

  • “I didn’t alter the ball in any way … I have a process I go through before every game.”
  • “I would never do anything outside of the rules of play.”
  • “This is a serious thing.”

All while trying to keep a straight face while wearing in a stocking cap with a fuzzy ball on top, indoors.

Sometimes he couldn’t’ help himself such as when he was asked if he was a cheater. After finally cracking, he pauses, licks his lips, and then answers “I don’t think so.” Body language experts would tell you this reaction means two things: He’s lying! Or he’s just nervous. (Never mind the ironic “Flexball” sponsorship in the background during an issue in which the pressure of the football seems to be exactly that: flexible).

Maybe Brady was laughing not because he was lying (maybe he was) or nervous (despite his ability to calmly stare down 300-lb men trying to do him bodily harm every Sunday). Maybe he realized how ridiculous Deflategate had become and was laughing at the lunacy of the whole spectacle; the same way most of our six-year-old selves chuckle every time we hear something about “deflated balls” while this is being discussed.

But the bottom line is this: The Colts lost by a 35-point pounding. Not by a controversial “tuck rule” fumble (also involving the Patriots). Not by a narrowly missed field goal. Not by that one touchdown pass that could have only been thrown and caught because there was a smidge less air in the ball.

The Patriots blew the Colts right out of the barn. Even if you take the 18 points off the board from the touchdowns that Brady threw, the Patriots still had a commanding 17-point victory.

So from a communications standpoint, what can be learned from Deflategate? Simple: Any and everything can and will be used to fill up a 24-7 news cycle leading up to “the big game.” Just be smart enough to block some of it out and keep things in perspective.


How the Buckeyes Beat the Odds

Ohio State

On Monday night, Jan. 12, The Ohio State University won its eighth college football national championship with a resounding 22-point victory over the Oregon Ducks. But what makes the victory – and Ohio State’s season – even more impressive is how the team rebounded from obstacles stacked against them to go on one of the most impressive three-game stretches in college football history and beat the odds – literally.

In August, the team lost its starting quarterback to injury for the season. Their odds as one of the favorites to win the title dropped to 50-1.In September, the Buckeyes were bounced, at home, by a very mediocre Virginia Tech 35-21. Ohio State’s title hopes seemed to take a death blow after that loss and their title odds plummeted to 100-1. In late November they lost their backup quarterback to a leg injury. Then this happened:

  • Starting their third-string quarterback in the Big 10 championship game, they were 4-point underdogs to Wisconsin. They proceed to beat the Badgers 59-0. (Read that again.)
  • Going into the first College Football Playoff (which many said they should not have been selected), they were a 9-point underdog against Alabama. They beat the SEC Champions 42-35.
  • Making it into the national championship game, Ohio State was a 7-point underdog to Oregon. They beat the Pac-12 Champions by multiples of 11 (42-20). They now open the 2015 season as the favorite to repeat next year.

So what can the casual fan and the common company learn about what propelled the Buckeyes through this adversity? These 3 things:

  • Numbers Can Predict Outcomes; They Cannot Measure Pride: Given the betting odds against the team all season it would be easy to fold. However, the team believed in their individual abilities and the collective team. Thus, while the odds may not have been in their favor, their determination to persevere was immeasurable.
  • Focusing on the Past Blurs Your Vision of the Present: Two lost quarterbacks and a bad loss at home would be enough for most teams to not only dwell on, but to knock them completely off track. But the Buckeyes kept looking forward, kept their faith in the “next man up,” and accomplished each task at hand, which was simply winning the next game.
  • Internal Belief Supersedes External Opinions: Many questioned why the Buckeyes were even in the playoffs when other contenders had seemingly stronger arguments. (Read more on how the first selection could have gone smoother.) Despite the doubters, Ohio State did the only thing that could silence the critics: produce undisputable results in decisive fashion.