Deflate-gate, Other Ethical Follies

Deflate-GateLet us talk a little bit under-inflated footballs. It’s a silly discussion, I know, but all of a sudden the Super Bowl could be tainted because of it. The other day I wrote a blog saying that the accusations that the Patriots had intentionally deflated footballs was pretty much a joke. Who would risk it? I mused.

It was obvious the Patriots were dominant from the beginning and that the Colts had no chance. I was sure that an under-inflation must have been a mistake; perhaps a faulty football or simple error.

I am publicly admitting I may have spoken too soon. I apologize for my conclusions.

Today (January 21, 2015) another story broke that the NFL investigation revealed that 11 of the 12 footballs the Patriots had in their possession were under-inflated. It is difficult to argue with such statistical data. I did not realize that the Colts also had 12 footballs in their possession. The Colts footballs were inflated to within the proper standard; each Patriots football was 2 psi (pounds per square inch) less than what they should been. There are also six footballs used solely for kicking (they are always in the possession of the officiating crew), but the 12 balls used by each team are in possession of ball boys on the sidelines hired by the home team. The (non-kicking) balls used on offense by each team are inspected by the officiating crew about two hours before the game and then that’s the last time the officials worry about them.

At some time in the process, 11 Patriots footballs became deflated. Who did it, who approved it, and more importantly why it was done are still mysteries.

No one seemed to have objected to the deflations during the game, but suspicions re-emerged especially after the Indianapolis equipment manager remembered in their game earlier in the season, that the footballs used by the Colts seemed “flat.”

That is probably as much about footballs as you would care to know except for one obvious fact: an under-inflated football is easier to throw, easier to catch and harder to fumble.

The Twitter-verse and Ethics

The arguments on the social media were expected when I read them and are characteristic of the times in which we live. As the deflation argument raged, one particularly characteristic “tweet” from a fan went something like this: “In the end, everyone does it and no one cares.”

I got to thinking about that comment and wanted to address it even though we don’t know who did the deflation or who approved it.

Well of course it matters. It is the classic argument we hear when a police officer pulls over driver who was going 20 mph over the speed limit through a school zone, and the driver protests that everyone else was driving 20 mph too. It’s a silly argument – and a dangerous one as well.

Here’s another argument. A final exam in cardiology is given to a class of 200 fourth year medical students in two classes of equal size. Somehow, and in some way, one of the medical students in one of the classes gets the answers in advance. She hands those answers out to 80 of her classmates. At the end of cardiology course, the medical students for the “cheating class” had an average grade of 97; the class that did not have the answers had an average grade of 85. The class that cheated was able to get into better internship programs than those who played it safe. They were never caught cheating and they never even thought they were cheating because “everyone was doing it.”

These are arguments borne out of a relativism that say, the laws and rules don’t apply in this case because everyone is doing it. Whether a football game or some idiot speeding through a school zone or a medical student cheating his way through medical school, rules have been established that everyone agrees to whether playing football or driving a car or becoming a physician.

As to the argument that no one cares, I would only say: “Really?”

If I am any player on the Indianapolis Colts, I would darn well care. The guys on the other team are catching footballs easier, throwing balls easier and are less likely to fumble in the pouring rain. If I am the parent of a 4 year old walking through a crossing and my child is hit by a lunatic who was speeding, you’re darn right I would be enraged. Call me old-school, but I would also want my cardiologist to have passed her final exam without cheating.

I categorically reject the “everyone does it, no one cares” theory. In life, everyone does not do it, and fortunately, in life most people do care.

When this situation is resolved – and it will. When punishments are handed out – and they will, we must never forget that every choice does lead to a consequence. I will feel sorry for no one.


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