They made a mockery of you. They dangled the bait in front of you and you snapped it up so quickly and with so much vigor that they haven’t even had to come out and speak to you and answer your questions; because you haven’t even asked them to.
And they knew that you wouldn’t.
They dared you to inundate an entire team of athletes and personnel with accusations based on your lingering distrust of Bill Belichick post-SpyGate; distrust that constantly leaves you calling for his resignation and/or the confiscation of his Super Bowl rings despite the fact that you have failed to exhibit the same vitriol for the also-highly-decorated Jimmy Johnson who admitted to doing the same exact thing.
You went on the radio and the internet and TV and indicted the Patriots based on nothing other than a couple of flimsy reports and an announcement of an investigation. You did that knowing that despite it being enough of a story that Belichick and Brady were at the podium talking to you about it, the NFL had inexplicably failed to even have a conversation with Brady yet. You did that knowing that this is the same exact league and Commissioner whose credibility you’d spent most of the season dismantling.
You wanted and needed so badly to believe that the Patriots couldn’t possibly be the dynasty that has reigned supreme over the last fourteen years that you gave the NFL the benefit of the doubt.
The league that tried to cover up their knowledge of a video of Ray Rice knocking his fiancé unconscious with a punch to the face, then had their Commissioner stand up in front of you and dare you to try to make him pay any consequences for it.
The league that, in the interest of financial gain, ignored and covered up the brutal health implications of playing for them until a beloved Hall of Fame linebacker killed himself and donated his brain to science in the hopes that it may save the lives of other players.
Why has it not also been shoved down your throats that they’re investigating the Browns for illegal use of electronic devices for sideline communication, or that the Chargers were fined in 2012 for cheating through illegal use of towels with a hidden substance? Where was the viral outrage when the Cowboys and Redskins were fined millions in cap dollars after being found guilty of purposely dumping salaries into the uncapped year in 2010?
Wait, you will love this one. Why didn’t the NFL deem it necessary to make quarterbacks and coaches speak to their accountability and respect for the integrity of the game when just TWO MONTHS AGO they caught the Vikings heating game balls on the sideline in a 12-degree game against the Panthers after they supposedly reminded both teams that it was illegal to do so? (Full credit and big thanks to Pats Krieg for compiling these.)
The NFL’s brilliant leaking of a “possible” Patriots scandal was enough to incite such a frenzy that you immediately repudiated the trustworthiness of Brady; one of the NFL’s pillars of sportsmanship and someone who has never previously been accused of being a cheater (or drug-user or rapist or animal endangerer or criminal of any kind). Not only did you question him but you attacked him. With nearly no provocation and armed with only a vague statement from an NFL spokesperson and unofficial reports from other sources, you labeled Brady a liar and a cheater.
After he told you that he didn’t do anything wrong and stood and answered your questions for 35 minutes, you came on television and arrogantly rattled on about “disappointment” in him; disappointment based on the inflation level of game balls that almost every single current and former player agrees is a non-issue. That consensus is further backed up by the lack of outrage when the aforementioned ball-tampering in Minnesota popped up in November of 2014.
Aaron Rodgers admitted that he hopes his purposely over-inflated balls sneak by the referees’ inspection, and you dismissed that as not cheating. Because you know that the pressure of the balls does not win you NFL games. You aren’t mad about deflation or inflation; you just want to hate the Patriots.
The problem is that if you do think that the Patriots benefit from ball pressure, then Rodgers just told you that he does too. You’re not going to start a war against Rodgers, so you make it about principle. It’s “the principle” of the matter.
Okay. That’s what they were figuring you would do.
So now we are nine days into this thing while fast approaching the Super Bowl, and the NFL has not even had to come out and actually call the Patriots cheaters. Nor have they addressed the issue directly to the media or the public. A spokesperson confirmed that there was an investigation. Then five days ago the NFL released a statement that took three paragraphs to say exactly what the spokesperson had confirmed: that they are investigating. The only notable addition was to note that the Patriots are cooperating fully with said investigation as well as a particularly preposterous paragraph in which they explain the reconnaissance mission in terms more suited for the script of an episode of CSI.
The fact that you so willingly fell into this trap is a testament to just how much power the NFL has over you. They handed you the narrative that they knew you wanted. They figured they could solve the “indignity” that the league had suffered at the hands of the mighty cheating Patriots by throwing the book at the "bad guys”. They’d even do it to Bob Kraft to show you how they don’t play favorites.
What better way to help solve an image issue than align yourself with the masses against a common enemy? Bravo to Goodell. He "cracked down" on cheating without further angering any of the NFL owners that already don't like him.
You bought it hook, line and sinker because you're under the delusion that your team is all clear eyes-full hearts and has somehow been victimized by this. It is one thing to buy into a perfectly timed PR stunt. It’s another thing entirely to fall into the ignorant space between conspiracy and reality that enables you to continuously denounce the NFL and its most successful franchise as cheaters and liars, yet still voraciously consume their product that they've pitted you against.
The only way that this league will change for the better is if you stop letting the NFL take you for such fools.