By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — DeflateGate long ago secured the title as the most ridiculous, preposterous, overblown sports story of all time. It grew from an NFL matter to a topic on the national news to a case before the second-highest court in the United States of America. It never had to grow that large, and yet with the financial backing and determined motivation of the NFL, it did.

Now, DeflateGate has worked its way into another moment in U.S. history: The impeachment trial of President Donald J. Trump.

During Ken Starr’s closing argument in the Senate chamber on Monday, the attorney for the president made a point about following the rules. In the process, he invoked the story of DeflateGate.

“At the foundation of those authentic forms of justice is fundamental fairness,” Starr argued. “It’s playing by the rules. It’s why we don’t allow deflated footballs, or stealing signs from the field. Rules are rules. They are to be followed. And so I submit that a key question to be asked as you begin your deliberations: Were the rules here faithfully followed? If not, if that is your judgment, then with all due respect, the prosecutor should not be rewarded, just as federal prosecutors are not rewarded. You didn’t follow the rules. You should have.”

Surely, any football fans from New England must be feeling attacked.

With the sign-stealing comment, it’s unclear whether Starr was referencing the Patriots’ Spygate controversy or the current controversy in Major League Baseball involving the Astros and Red Sox (so far). But on the deflated footballs, the reference was quite clear.

Unfortunately, the allegedly deflated footballs saga never did make it to the Supreme Court, which at times felt like the only fitting end to a yearslong soap opera that had no business touching the two levels of appeals courts that it reached. Had the case gone to the highest court in the land, perhaps the NFL’s lack of actual evidence on football deflation would have taken precedence in the national discussion. Then again, considering NFL lawyers lied to the en banc panel in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals with no repercussions, probably not. The nation reached its conclusion long before then.

In any case, what started as a simple accusation of illegal football deflation has gone on to become a cultural landmark of sorts. An impeachment trial for the president of the United States can now be added to the long list of unlikely places it’s been explored.

  1. By concluding that facts don’t matter in the impeachment trial of President Trump, Republican Senators undermined the integral role facts play in the application of our laws.
    Our laws do not exist in a vacuum. They are applied to facts and are intertwined with facts. Thus when Justice Roberts did not intervene to bring in impeachment trial witnesses, he abdicated his office as the presiding judge in the Senate trial — as well as his office as the head jurist of the courts in our land.
    Moreover, when Justice Roberts allowed the Republican Senators to decide this impeachment trial without witnesses, he allowed them to undermined our courts that depend on facts from witnesses to carry out the administration of justice.

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