Still Some Air — And Questions — In 'Deflategate' Scandal The NFL's "deflategate" scandal raises a slew of questions: How much can you scuff a football? Where is the line between gamesmanship and cheating? Slate's Mike Pesca answers them all with NPR's Rachel Martin.

Still Some Air — And Questions — In 'Deflategate' Scandal

Still Some Air — And Questions — In 'Deflategate' Scandal

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

The NFL's "deflategate" scandal raises a slew of questions: How much can you scuff a football? Where is the line between gamesmanship and cheating? Slate's Mike Pesca answers them all with NPR's Rachel Martin.


Time for the latest in sports, which really means the latest in Deflategate. This is, of course, the accusation that the New England Patriots and, specifically, Tom Brady were involved in deliberately deflating footballs to gain an unfair advantage. The results of the NFL investigation came out this past week. It found that Patriots personnel likely did break the rules. With us to help assess the proverbial scales of justice is Mike Pesca. Good morning, sir.

MIKE PESCA: One of those scales is sagging - deflation.

MARTIN: (Laughter). All right, so...


MARTIN: Yeah, good one. Tom Brady - is he guilty? If he is guilty, how upset should a morally upstanding NFL fan be?

PESCA: If they're very moralistic, you should rattle your whatever - sabers or cutlery you have nearby. Look, what if this were Blake Bortles? What if this were Alex Smith, you know, some other quarterback who's OK, and we found out in week seven he had slightly deflated footballs?

MARTIN: Well, yeah, would we care?

PESCA: We'd maybe care a little. It would be quirky. Obviously, the world is so up in arms for a few reasons - that it was on the precipice of the Super Bowl. But because it is Brady, because they are the Patriots - doesn't mean that he didn't lie. As the report indicates - and it doesn't prove, but indicates - it's more likely than not that he was generally aware. Count the qualifiers, count the adverbs. Fine. And it - and of course, that is cheating.

So both of those things are true. But it depends just, you know, how black and white you want to be. And really, if you could separate yourself from the fact that this was the Patriots, then you get into the fact that people say, well, it's not the crime, it's cover-up. Look, I submit that if 32 teams were on the precipice of winning the Super Bowl, and they had this handed to them, 32 teams would say, yeah, just deny it, and we'll deal with it at the end of the season. Now, of course, all those teams wouldn't besmirch the glorious name of the NFL by having a ball that was slightly underinflated. But this is just human nature, and I think that we're seeing a lot of anti-Belichick-Patriots-Brady sentiment at play.

MARTIN: OK. So just for the record, though. It is - I mean, you can do things to the balls, right? Like, you can mess with them.

PESCA: Yeah. In 2006, in what is sometimes called the Peyton Manning-Tom Brady rule - because they were the ones who advocated it - they said, we don't like these balls right from the package. So you can rough them up. And The New York Times had a great article about the torture visited upon Eli Manning's footballs. But, and, in fact, before one Super Bowl, Brad Johnson, a quarterback of the Bucs, was said to have paid someone to doctor the balls. It's just the inflation. It's just - that is the pretty much one rule. And this is maybe what the Patriots - seems to have indicated that they flouted the rule.

MARTIN: All right, we haven't heard from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell yet on this. So what do you expect to hear? What kind of punishment could be handed down?

PESCA: You know, the reports are out, and these aren't named to anyone, but they're by very prominent NFL plugged-in reporters saying he - that Brady's going to get suspended, that Goodell is looking to suspend Brady. And the question is how many games? And I think it's kind of shocking. I mean, it's not shocking if you know Roger Goodell. He's a hanging judge. He likes to mete out justice. And this is the sort of case he could do it with that's not a wife-abuser or a child-abuser. And, you know, people will like the justice that he gives to Brady. But, my gosh, if anyone could do a scorched-earth anti-Roger Goodell campaign, it's Tom Brady. He could say the report didn't prove it. The report just has a lot of innuendo. And if anyone doesn't need his salary from football, it's Tom Brady. Not only does he make something like 20 million a year, his wife makes 40 million a year...

MARTIN: Oh, Giselle.

PESCA: They're the richest - she's the best - being the best-paid model in the world pays better than the best-paid quarterback.

MARTIN: Quick curve ball?

PESCA: Yeah. Let's go to the NCAA Division I and II combined men's volleyball championship. Two teams from Chicago were in the finals. It's almost always a California team. And it went all the way. And Loyola of Chicago beat Lewis University.

MARTIN: Breaking news.

PESCA: Ramblers repeat.

MARTIN: (Laughter) Mike Pesca - his podcast is called The Gist. Thanks so much, Mike.

Copyright © 2015 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.