Thursday, January 29, 2015

DEFLATE-GATE: WHY I LET AIR OUT OF THE BALLS


I did it. I deflated the Patriots' footballs.

It wasn't a ball boy, locker room attendant, Tom Brady, or even Bill Belichick.

It was me.

I wanted to identify myself before the NFL identified me to the world.

Why did I do it? Simply because I have a pigskin fetish. Rex Ryan has a feet fetish,
I have a pigskin one. And I wanted to help Brady win another Super Bowl.

My fetish with pigskin started back in the 8th grade when my father gave me an
NFL football signed by my favorite player at the time, Bert Jones. He was known
as "The Ruston Rifle" and  quarterbacked the Baltimore Colts, who ironically, had
a 22-year-old assistant coach on the staff named Belichick. Yep, that Belichick.

BERT JONES
The football my father gave me was a little deflated. Perhaps, my father knew that I
was still growing and my hands were just not that big to grip it. It felt comfortable
and I was zipping spirals as I played with it around the house and in the backyard.
But  for the most part the slightly deflated ball stayed on a shelf in my bedroom.

About three years ago, I was back in Boston on business and I heard Tom Brady
talking on the radio and he mentioned that he liked his balls a little deflated and it
brought back memories of the ball my father gave me that had a little air taken out
of it. I remembered how I threw tight spirals with ease and figured that's why Brady
like his balls a little deflated, too.

I had been around Brady a lot when I worked for NESN and was the beat reporter
for the Patriots. I covered every practice and every game for two years and was there
when they beat the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl in 2005. It was the last time
Brady hoisted the Lombardi Trophy.


Knowing how much Brady wanted another title and how much he liked his balls
deflated, I devised a plan to go to Foxboro for the AFC Championship to take care
of his balls.

I wasn't worried about getting past security and into Gillette Stadium. I still had
my old press pass from the Patriots, which I doctored up to make it current. I posed
as a reporter, but underneath my suit from TJ Maxx, I was dressed like a ball boy: shorts,
long-sleeved t-shirt, and a pinney, which I paid $50 to a public works guy in my
town to acquire.
MY GAMEDAY PASS
 
I was good to go.

After making the three-hour trek from my home in Connecticut to Foxboro, I
arrived at Gillette Stadium well before game time. I breezed passed security, blending
in with other members of the media, most of whom I knew from my days covering
the team.

I was quite familiar with the bowels of the stadium, the locker room, game day
offices, and equipment room were in the same location as I remembered. I snuck into a
bathroom to take off my suit, in so doing, I was now a full-fledged ball boy.


I walked causally through the infrastructure of the stadium, but my heart was racing
through the roof. I knew from covering the Patriots, that if I got caught doing something
I shouldn't be doing, I'd never be heard from again. They'd throw me off the Tobin
Bridge in cement shoes and make me swim with the fishes.

From the report I did on the ball boys several years ago, I knew their routine. They
dropped the balls off to the officials for approval about 3 hours before game time.
Pick up had to be done two hours and fifteen minutes prior to kick-off.

I showed up to the refs office a little early, hoping they'd be ready so I could beat
the real ball boy to pick-up. When I arrived to the office, I said to the official who
greeted me, "Are the balls ready?"

WALT ANDERSON
Walt Anderson, the referee, glared at me and asked, "Are you the same guy who
dropped them off? I responded, "No. The other ball boy got tied up. I think he was
running a  tape down to Belichick. Coach said for me to pick them up."

Anderson reluctlantly handed me the bag of balls marked, "New England Patriots
Game Balls."

Remember that report from Jay Glazer of Fox Sports and Mike Florio from Pro Football
Talk? Yeah, that was me who snuck in the bathroom. But I wasn't deflating the balls
in there. I had some mean chili from the night before and it was screaming to come out.
And yes, I released everything and I mean everything in 90 seconds.


I still had plenty of work to do in a short period of time. I found a room which was filled
with all the practice dummies. I laughed out loud when I saw one of them had a face
painted on it. It was the face of Eric Mangini, the former Belichick disciple and Jets coach
who turned his mentor in for taping signals, creating "Spygate". Belichick has never
forgotten that.

I carried a gauge in my waist band and deflated a little air out of 12 balls. I cradled the
balls in my hands and they felt just like that Bert Jones ball my father gave me as a
youngster. I remember how easy it was to throw perfect spirals with that ball. I knew
Brady would find them to his liking.


Now, I just had to drop them off inside the Patriots locker room and I would accomplish
the mission. From my days covering the team, I knew they'd be in meetings with their
respective position coach going over last minute strategy. This would be a breeze. I
just said hello to security outside the locker room with the bag of game balls. I just
opened the door and dropped them inside. I hit the imaginary Staples button and said to
myself, "That was easy."

I drove back home to Connecticut with a big smile on my face. I got back in time to
see Brady hoist the AFC Championship trophy. He was going to the Super Bowl again
with a chance to make history. Yes, Coach Belichick, I did my job.


Yes, I deflated the balls without Brady's knowledge. I'm sorry for the controversy I
caused. I didn't mean for it to get so out of control. By the way Troy Aikman and
Mark Brunell, get a clue. Brady is not a cheater. He didn't know.

But I certainly did. Enjoy the game everybody, it should be an epic one.

1 comment:

  1. You have inspired me to speak out Paul! I have secretly been filling the Seahawks footballs with helium for almost 3 years now. How else can you explain the way Wilson drops those rainbows on a dime? Thank you for your courage!

    ReplyDelete