Talking about sports HERE?!
Well, yes. I do live in New England, after all; I am a football fan; and yes, I root for the Patriots (previous warts and all) so OF COURSE I have an opinion about this whole kerfuffle.
Here are the issues (as I see them):
1) Did the Patriots intentionally underinflate the footballs?
Yup. That's it. Now, that's not to say there aren't corollary issues.
a) Did they test the balls the Colts were using?
b) Did the refs notice any difference with the balls?
Look, there are two options. Either they intentionally did it, or they didn't. Whether they were underinflated is NOT IN DISPUTE - 11 of 12 balls were underinflated by two pounds EACH. If they did it intentionally, why? They pasted the Colts; they would have pasted them ANYWAYS. They didn't need to try for such a dramatic advantage.
If they did it intentionally - hammer 'em. Fire Belichik, fine the team, fine the owner, take away draft picks - this was totally unnecessary and should - MUST - be punished.
IF, however, it was unintentional - if they say 'We inflated them, the refs tested them, we don't know what happened' and turn it into a 'he said/he said' kind of thing - then other, more disturbing questions arise. Questions like -
Did they test the balls the Colts were using? (Probably not. There wasn't an issue with their footballs, as far as anyone reported. It's unlikely that they were tested.) What was the result? Were they underinflated as well? (If they were, then that points to a mechanical issue with the pressure gauge that the refs used to test the balls, and therefore NO unfair advantage was sought.)
Did the refs notice anything before it was pointed out to them? What did they testify?? (If they didn't see any difference, then the Colts were using the same pressure balls and again no issue.) If there WAS a difference there are two FURTHER questions, which begin to call the NFL into question: Are the refs INCOMPETENT or CORRUPT? Either they can't tell the difference between properly inflated balls and underinflated balls - two or three refs handling each ball on every play all game long - OR they were told NOT to notice the difference, either by bribe (Patriots) or by fiat (NFL).
THIS IS A HUGE ISSUE. The NFL has enough troubles on their plate; PROOF that their refs were incompetent would be devastating. What would be worse, of course, is if they were either paid off to ignore the deflation. That would show that yes, the refs CAN be bought - how many games have been decided this year by a poorly-timed flag? A penalty that swung the game one way or another? WHO PAID FOR THOSE FLAGS??
WORST, though, would be that the NFL Front Office - by which you can read Roger Goddell if you so choose - ORDERED them to ignore the deflation. Do I need to expound on the can of worms THAT would open if this was true? I didn't think so.
Look, I know that the Patriots aren't perfect. However, there are questions - HUGE questions - that still need to be answered before we say that the Patriots were on the wrong side of the rule book.
Just my two cents. Feel free to add yours.
ADDENDUM (in light of the two press conferences today by Belichik and Brady): The article at the following link is AMAZING - great questions! Tom E. Curran