By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — Here’s a story you definitely did not miss: The Patriots were accused of underinflating footballs in the AFC Championship Game.

Here’s a story you might have missed: It was all a bunch of hogwash.

Yeah, “DeflateGate,” you know the thing where the entire country lost its collective mind because Tom Brady and Bill Belichick supposedly cheated in the AFC Championship Game, a two-week period of absolute hysteria where people drew conclusions as soon as they heard the accusations?

All of it was nothing.

Two developments last week essentially put the kibosh on “DeflateGate,” as it stupidly came to be known. Well, technically, there were three developments. The first took place when Robert Kraft boldly stepped to the podium Monday evening in Chandler, Ariz., and firmly stated that he expects an apology from commissioner Roger Goodell to Belichick, to Brady and to the entire Patriots organization for all of the accusations that came without any proof or evidence of wrongdoing. Much like with Belichick’s press conference two days prior, a person of Kraft’s stature does not speak with such certainty unless he knows that the league has nothing. The stakes would be too high to make such statements if evidence found at a later date might prove them to be liars.

So there was that, but if you’re into more concrete evidence there was this.

First, at a press conference last Thursday in Phoenix, NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino spilled the beans that the PSI of the 12 Patriots footballs were never recorded by referee Walt Anderson. Blandino said that balls were measured, and if they were under the low threshold of 12.5, they were simply pumped up with some air. So instantly, the report by ESPN’s Chris Mortensen that said 11 of the 12 footballs were a full 2 PSI under the threshold was essentially debunked. How could Mortensen have that information if nobody could have that information? (The answer, of course, is that a source who desperately wanted such misinformation out there gave him the “scoop.”)

Secondly, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported the morning of the Super Bowl that just one of the 11 footballs was 2 PSI under the limit, while the other 10 were “just a tick” under the 12.5 threshold. Rapoport’s report was crucial for a number of reasons. For one, he is paid by the NFL, and so he can’t afford to be wrong. If his report, which makes Roger Goodell’s bloodthirsty office look like a bunch of clowns, turns out to be wrong, how much longer would the league keep him on the payroll? Second, the phrasing of the footballs of being “just a tick” under the limit is at once believable, because that’s how non-technical measurements would be recorded, and also because footballs which were originally inflated near the lower limit would likely lose some air pressure after two hours outside in January.

And then there’s this: The one football that was 2 PSI under the limit? That was the ball intercepted by D’Qwell Jackson, the pizza man puncher, according to ProFootballTalk. It was the football that was taken to the Colts sideline and then submitted to the NFL to launch an investigation. You’re going to tell me that the Colts didn’t manipulate that football before submitting it? The team that fired off the accusations of cheating didn’t take an extra step or two to make sure they were right by sticking a needle in that football and letting it drain for a few seconds before handing it over to the league and saying, “Hey, the Patriots are using underinflated footballs, so you need to investigate”?

Yeah, well, no. They did that. They did exactly that.

Look, if everyone in the national media can say “the Patriots are scummy cheaters” without having any evidence, then I think I have more than enough reason to say the Colts tampered with the football in question, thereby launching a two-week campaign that worked to soil the reputation of two future Hall of Famers in Brady and Belichick. All because … why exactly?

And if prominent voices in the Indianapolis media like Bob Kravitz and Gregg Doyel can outright call for the firing of Belichick, despite having no basis for such a ludicrous opinion, then I can say this: It’s time to kick Jim Irsay out of the league. Heck, ban Chuck Pagano for a year, too. It’s the only fair response to this situation, right?

Irsay is a guy who, frankly, is lucky to still be allowed to have anything to do with the NFL. In his DUI last year, he was caught not just with a ton of prescription drugs in his car, but also with $29,000 in cash. Tell me, reasonable human being, why anybody would ever have $29,000 cash sitting around if he weren’t up to some super shady business?

“I observed the vehicle come to a complete stop on W. Main Street for no apparent reason,” the arresting officer wrote in his police report. “As I was approaching the vehicle it began to slowly move eastbound and came to another complete stop in the lane of travel for no apparent reason. … I asked him if he knew why I had pulled him over. Irsay advised that he was trying to find his house and gets confused with what road it is located on.”

After this event, Bob Kravitz wrote a heartfelt column saying that Irsay “needs help.”

“That doesn’t make him a bad man, just a troubled one, one who has been in and out of rehab on multiple occasions, one who needs to get himself some help again if he wants to be alive for the Colts’ next Super Bowl,” Kravitz wrote, before adding: “This is not written in anger. It’s written with compassion.”

So to recap: Irsay took drugs and stepped behind the wheel. He could have killed someone. But Kravitz wasn’t angry. Then Bill Belichick was accused of playing football with footballs that had a little less air in them. Kravitz was irate.

Here’s what Kravitz wrote after a very compromised source with an ax to grind against Belichick told him that the Patriots used some underinflated footballs: “If Patriots owner Robert Kraft has an ounce of integrity, he will fire Bill Belichick immediately for toying with the integrity of the game for the second time in his otherwise magnificent career. … If Roger Goodell has an ounce of integrity, and he’s not spending all his time going to pre-game soirees at Kraft’s mansion, he will not only fine Belichick and take away draft choices, but suspend the head coach for the upcoming Super Bowl.”

So, driving under the influence of prescription drugs, an act which could result in the deaths of innocent people, is simply the act of a man who needs some help. Underinflate some footballs, and you deserve to lose your job. Solid reasoning there, especially now that we know the entire deflated football accusations were essentially made up out of thin air.

Aces.

Kravitz also fully believed Irsay when he said he had $29,000 in cash on him because he’s “extremely generous,” but he didn’t believe Belichick for not knowing how much air gets pumped into the footballs. His judgment is sound.

Oh, and Kravitz wrote this: “It is very hard for me to believe — no, it’s impossible for me to believe — that this was one large, cosmic accident. A deflated football, and we’re talking about two pounds worth of deflation, gives the team using it a distinct advantage when it comes to throwing and catching, especially during a rainstorm.”

Hey, Bobby K, Brady went 11-for-21 for 95 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT with the balls that you thought were underinflated and gave him a huge advantage. He went 12-for-14 for 131 yards, 2 TDs and 0 INTs in the second half, after the balls had been reinflated. And in the Super Bowl, with properly inflated footballs, he went 37-for-50 for 328 yards, 4 TDs and 2 INTs. It’s almost as if your theory about gaining an advantage in the passing game was based on nothing except the thoughts inside of your head. Crazy.

OK, I’m sorry, but one more quote from my man Bob Kravitz: “Still, it is utterly amazing (but not really) how far some media will go to defend their city’s team, especially when it wins Super Bowls.”

If Alanis Morissette ever writes a sequel to her hit song, I hope she’ll include this line from Kravitz, which comes while he’s doing his local team’s bidding.

Then you’ve got Gregg Doyel, who wrote this of Belichick after hearing the accusations: “Here’s what the NFL can do, and absolutely has to do: Remove Patriots coach Bill Belichick from the Super Bowl. Suspend him from football, and not next season – this season. Right now.”

Doyel also wrote these creative lines: “Cheater or not a cheater. Belichick’s a cheat. … Cheaters cheat. It’s what they do.”

Doyel also wanted history to change, all over a false charge: “I’ll tell you what should happen: The Patriots should be removed from the Super Bowl. Which means the Colts should be going to Glendale.”

Doyel also wanted to kick Bill Belichick out of the NFL forever: “Not a fine, not a docking of draft picks, not even a lifetime suspension of Belichick, though I would support all three, if the Patriots are found guilty of cheating. Sorry — left out a word. If the Patriots are found guilty of cheating … again.”

One more gem from Gregg: “Cheating can’t be tolerated. Simple as that.”

Calling for the firing of a man before any conclusive evidence comes out can’t be tolerated, if you want to get technical, but sure, your statement works, too.

All fascinating stuff, truly, from Mr. Doyel there.

Again, if you actually followed the story instead of just listening to the blowhards pontificate about cheating, and if you researched the process of game-ball preparation and handling instead of watching Mark Brunell cry and Jerome Bettis call Tom Brady a liar, then you’ve known for several days that “DeflateGate” was nothing more than a talking point for two weeks. There is no substance to the charges, and if any team is going to face consequences, it will be the Colts for providing a compromised football.

So, if I may borrow the style of Mr. Doyel and Mr. Kravitz, I’d like to give this whole “fire darts before gathering any evidence” thing a whirl.

*Ahem*

If Irsay has any integrity — though I doubt he does — he will fire head coach Chuck Pagano. Obviously, the head coach is the mastermind behind every evil plot. Even if it’s Ryan Grigson and Mike Kensil conspiring to bring down the Patriots, Pagano has to go. That’s the only logical place to begin the punishment of the Colts.

If Roger Goodell has an ounce of integrity, he will force Jim Irsay to sell the Indianapolis Colts. It is very hard for me to believe — no, it’s impossible for me to believe — that this was one large, cosmic accident. A deflated football, and we’re talking about two pounds worth of deflation, being handed over to the league by a team accusing the Patriots of using deflated footballs is just too fishy for me to think it’s a coincidence. Not to mention, using a deflated football does not give a team a distinct advantage when it comes to throwing and catching, especially during a rainstorm, so why would the Patriots even bother?

Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have been through a lot in the past two weeks. That doesn’t make them bad men, just ones with trouble, ones who have been in and out of the Super Bowl on multiple occasions, ones who need to exact some type of revenge on the rest of the league, beyond just beating everybody on a regular basis. This is not written in anger. It’s written with compassion for Brady, Belichick and Kraft, ironically the three most innocent people from this whole sordid ordeal.

But all is not lost.

Here’s what the NFL can do, and absolutely has to do: Remove the Colts from competing in the NFL next season. Suspend them from the league. Right now.

Liar or not a liar. Pagano, Grigson and Irsay are liars. Liars lie. It’s what they do.

Irsay’s family has been a problem for The Shield for 30 years. Robert Irsay lied to the good people of Baltimore when he shipped the team to Indy in the middle of the night in 1984, and his drunken press conferences were filled with lie after lie after lie. It would seem as though lying is in the Irsay genes, because Jim enjoyed a full week of it following the AFC Championship Game, when his team got embarrassed so he decided to flip the table on the Patriots.

Do you think it’s a coincidence that a full seven days after his Colts got smoked, he finally took to Twitter to offer the most insincere congratulations of all time? You don’t think he realized that after the league investigated for seven days, it had actually come to light that he and the Colts were the ones who were in trouble, and so he decided to try to save some face?

(And do you think Irsay might have been having some heart palpitations after catching wind that the Falcons were about to be investigated for pumping crowd noise into their stadium? No, there’s no hard evidence that the Colts pumped noise into the RCA Dome or even their new Lucas Oil Field, but remember, liars lie. That’s what liars do. They lie.)

I’ve read the comments from some Indianapolis media members, and not surprisingly, they don’t think these over-the-top, ridiculously heavy-handed punishments should be enforced. No shocker there. Still, it is utterly amazing (but not really) how far some media will go to pile on another city’s team, especially when it kicks the crap out of the team they cover.

Despite the blind Indianapolis media’s thoughts on the subject, we can all agree that we can reach this sweeping conclusion: The Colts are in the wrong. I know this because I know this, OK?

So hit the Colts where it hurts. Not a fine, not a docking of draft picks, not even a lifetime suspension of Pagano, though I would support all three, if the Colts are found guilty of lying. Sorry — left out a word. When the Colts are found guilty of lying.

This was, as is painfully obvious, a failed attempt by the Colts to cast a dark cloud over the Patriots. But they came at the king, and they missed. Now it’s time to pay the consequence.

(Special thanks to Gregg Doyel and Bob Kravitz for the boilerplate on this story. I could get used to firing wild accusations, calling for Hall of Famers to be fired and spouting off complete inaccuracies in order to appeal to my audience. What a thrill!)

Read more from Michael Hurley by clicking here. You can email him or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

Comments (26)

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s