The Patriots’ head coach, Bill Belichick, a detail-obsessed martinet of Prussian severity but without even a Junker’s flair for jollity, says he is stumped. Perhaps a rogue equipment manager decided on his own to put deflated balls into the famously and exquisitely sensitive hands of the Patriots’ $27 million quarterback, Tom Brady, who never noticed. There has not been such an unmysterious mystery since an 18-and-a-half-minute gap occurred in President Nixon’s White House tapes of a conversation between Nixon and his chief of staff in the Oval Office three days after the Watergate break-in.
Concerning cheating, let the sport that is without sin cast the first scuffed baseball. Baseball players have tampered with themselves (e.g., performance-enhancing drugs) and their equipment (e.g., corked bats). Teams with creative groundskeepers have given an outward tilt to infield foul lines when a team adept at bunting comes to town. And on at least one occasion a gifted base stealer has reached first base only to find himself standing in a muddy swamp on an otherwise dry infield.
But let us not allow fallen humanity’s sins to spoil today’s fun. On the second-highest calorie-consumption day of every year (second to Thanksgiving), we celebrate the end of Wretched Excess Season by gathering around our televisions, as around a continental campfire. In this communal experience we say: Take the day off, better angels of our nature, because nothing says America like football played indoors in air conditioning on grass in the desert.