How You Feel About Deflategate Depends on How Much You Hate the Patriots

This scandal behaves a lot like a political scandal.

Via @RobGronkowski on Twitter

Via @RobGronkowski on Twitter

It’s more than cliché at this point, but applying an ending of “-gate” to a the New England Patriots’ ball-deflation accusations feels appropriate. For one, “Deflategate” rhymes. Two, like the Watergate scandal that started a meme (and unlike successors like “Nipplegate”), this one behaves a lot like a political scandal: How big of a deal it appears to be seems to depend on which team you root for (or against).

Officials have remained tight-lipped about details of the allegation. But officials told media they would investigate whether a ball was deflated during the AFC Championship game on Sunday, at which the Patriots trounced the Indianapolis Colts 45-7. According to NFL rules, both teams supply refs with 12 balls before a game. The balls are then inspected to make sure they fit standards. Different quarterbacks prefer their balls inflated to different pressures within an allowable range. A ball deflated past the approved pounds per square inch (some have suggested the scandal be named PSI-gate) would give the team using it a better grip, especially key during poor weather. A ball was taken out of circulation during the game, and if officials find that the Patriots played deliberately deflated it, the team could face fines and the loss of draft picks.

The scandal seems political, too, because like a map of red states and blue states, opinions on the Patriots can be mapped. A popular image made by a Reddit user last year showed the most hated NFL teams by region. Unsurprisingly, with our six Super Bowl appearances in 14 years, the Patriots take up a huge portion of the country. For many, explaining the Patriots’ dominance with cheating would be a real comeuppance.

Here in Patriots land, though, the scandal is being treated as an amusing annoyance. Tom Brady laughed about it on WEEI, saying, “It’s ridiculous. I don’t even respond to stuff like this.” Rob Gronkowski tweeted a pretty flippant (and funny) joke.

The Patriots and their fans are talking about this whole thing as if it’s a totally different story. To find out which one will probably end up being the dominant narrative, though, will require waiting at least as long as the official investigation takes.