BY Art Thiel 08:25PM 01/22/2015

Thiel: Deflation, and the inflation of motivation

Middle-school boys bathroom humor aside, the Patriots are getting smacked hard with criticism. It’s fair to presume they will use it as Seahawks use external criticism: For fuel.

The Seahawks defense, posing Sunday with the NFC Championship trophy in the Clink locker room. Do these guys look like underdogs to you? / Art Thiel, Sportspress Northwest

Rather than discussion of a dreadnought battle between the NFL’s best, the Super Bowl run-up, filled with talk of crotch grabs and soft balls, apparently is stuck in a middle-school boys bathroom.

Then again, the Patriots and Seahawks were already engaged in a how-low-can-you-go competition to see who can manufacture enough perceived disdain to cast themselves as the disrespected, denigrated and demeaned underdog.

According to the NFL calendar, 11 days out from the Feb. 1 game is within the mandatory silly period, so apparently we’re on schedule.

In New England, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, the best coach/quarterback tandem in NFL history, gave back-to-back press conferences Thursday in which each denied knowledge about deflating game balls in the Pats’ 45-7 win Sunday over Indy in the AFC Championship game.  Attempting to wash his hands of responsibility, Belichick went so far as to say, “ask Tom” about the doctored instruments.

I’m trying to imagine Pete Carroll doing the same thing to QB Russell Wilson in the same situation. In fact, I’m trying to imagine that with the other 20-something coaches known to be in charge of the rest of the NFL teams. Can’t do it.

Once again, Belichick stands alone.

For the take from Boston, here is the “Obnoxious Boston Fan” column from Globe columnist Bill Speros. For the take nationally, here is ESPN’s Keith Olbermann.

My preference is to let you choose your opinion from the insights of Speros and Olbermann, or anyone else, because I would dearly love to avoid the topic for the next fortnight. But, having covered a dozen or so Super Bowls, I know the event’s incredible vortex of insipidness is capable of sucking the majesty out of Mount Rushmore. Trembling, I will do my best, but make no promises.

Regarding consequences to the Seahawks, one possible outcome is that the Patriots might be even a tad more jacked to win, if that is possible. Because the Pats will take the outcome of this episode NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is in the process of inventing and twist it into motivational fury.

I know this because Seahawks DT Michael Bennett said so Thursday. At least indirectly, as you will read here.

It’s what the Pats do. It’s what the Seahawks do. In fact, it’s what many, if not most, athletes do to find and maintain an edge:

Make up crap.

I asked Bennett whether the intense effort the Seahawks put into maintaining the underdog posture, despite being defending Super Bowl champs, is really worth the effort it takes, or maybe it’s irrelevant. As Bennett is wont to do, he went long.

“It’s the truth,” he said. “You think about Russell Wilson, they said he was too short. You think about all the guys that were in front of him (in his 2012 draft class), but he’s the one that’s won the most games. You think about Doug Baldwin — he wasn’t drafted, but he’s made all the big catches. (Jermaine) Kearse wasn’t drafted, Earl (Thomas) is too short, (Richard) Sherman is a fifth-round cornerback.

“You think about all that stuff. Kam (Chancellor) is a fifth-round safety. You think about me — I’m undrafted. Cliff (Avril) was in the third round. The only (Seahawks defenders) that were in the first round was Earl and Kevin (Williams) (omitted was Bruce Irvin). Guys keep that on their mind all the time.

“It’s easy to get lazy and think we’re at the top. But you have to keep going and think of something that’s keeping you looking forward. I think that’s one of the things that kept us in our position.”

There you have it — Bennett speaks the truth when he says players have to “think of something.” So ingrained it is in the jock culture, these guys would no more think of going into a game without a manufactured mad-on than they they would go in without a helmet.

It explains Sunday’s post-game blast by Baldwin at a group of reporters in a Clink tunnel when, unasked, he unloaded three em-effs in a tirade about those who mocked the Seahawks’ Super Bowl chances at 3-3 — even though probably none of those assembled (including me), could be identified as perps in the heinous deed.

Baldwin backed off Wednesday, saying if he could do it over, he would phrase it differently. But he didn’t apologize. I don’t think he needed to, but he annoyed some in the group with his remarks.  He gave reason for the assembled, many of whom were unfamiliar with him, to think he’s quite an ass.

Trash-talk between reporters and players is hardly unknown, nor usually a big deal. It is, however, an illustration of how tightly many Seahawks have hung on to the self-image  that came with their draft status, even though all logic and reason say their talents have been more than validated in Seattle.

Truth is, the Seahawks needed the 3-3 start to get where they are now. That hole wasn’t made up; it was real. But the external criticism was needed fuel. As Bennett said, reaching the top can make guys lazy.

If the 14-4 Seahawks were ever lazy, they no longer are, particularly after being down 16-0 at home Sunday.

The 14-4 Patriots, after a 45-7 win, might somehow have become lazy too. But in view of criticism of the episode already coming from some current and retired players and coaches, as well as mockers who call them Deflatriots, the players will hear claims for the next 11 days that their two most iconic figures are cheaters, liars and legacy-destroyers. The wager here is that they will no longer be lazy.

Trash talk bazaar is open

Seahawks backup cornerback Jeremy Lane, not usually among the Seahawks’ incendiary talkers, launched the first salvo Thursday when he was asked about New England All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski.

“I actually don’t think he’s that good,” Lane told reporters at his lock before practice. “He’s OK. But he does have a big body, and from what I’ve seen on tape, he don’t like your hands being put on him. So if we put our hands on him and shake him up a little bit, he won’t catch that many balls as he should.

“That’s always our key every week — put our hands on the receivers. That’s definitely an issue with him from watching tape so far.”

Gronkowski is the Pats’ top receiver with 1,124 yards and 82 catches with 12 touchdowns. Limited by a groin injury, Lane played in seven games but is healthy and was the Seahawks’ primary nickel back Sunday.

What is it about Seahawks, Super Bowls and guys named Jeremy/Jerramy? Or have you forgotten this story linked here?




  • dinglenuts

    Hahahahahahaha. LMAO at the Belichick sound bites in the Olbermann piece. Quite possibly the most unintentionally funny presser I’ve seen in a while. Positively astounding how anything he said was completely free of content—not that that’s unusual for the Hoodie. But still, even for him, this was a virtuoso performance.

    I’m still laughing, and I don’t think it’s the Schlitz talking.

    • art thiel

      It truly is an absurd action, followed by an absurd reaction.

    • Diamond Mask

      Schlitz! :)

      • dinglenuts

        An American classic. Honest. Definitely not deflated.

  • In the Seahawks favor, they’re only answering up for two balls for the next 10 days. The Patriots have to explain eleven.

    • art thiel

      I’m guessing that the Packers will complain the ball Hauschka kicked was over-inflated and too hard to catch.

      • Schaefdawg


  • 1coolguy

    Mark Brunell was one of my favorite Huskies and he became quite emotional talking about this. His inference is a QB would know right away if a ball was underinflated. See clip below.
    When he was on First Take he said an under inflated football is easier to grip, both throwing and catching. I would tend to go with Brunell and his 19 years of experience.
    Video of Brunell throwing 3 different balls:

    I say the Pats lose a 1st round draft choice and are fined, same as their “videogate” episode.

    • art thiel

      Brunell’s testimony is strong, and a killer of the Pats’ coverup.

      • John M

        Yeah, think about a 40 year coach that declines any knowledge of the balls his team plays with, then one of the most articulate QB’s in the league who will give a killer look to a receiver if he’s 1 yard wrong in his cut and who’s shoelace bows have to be perfectly matched ovals, who never noticed the balls he throws with such practiced precision are nearly TWENTY PERCENT under-inflated, and you can see how that could be. It’s like AJ Foyt would be unlikely to notice if his tires were carrying a fifth less air. Give us a break . . .

    • Diamond Mask

      Yes I saw that too. Brunell was convincing although his defense of Belicheat was probably over generous. His perspective as a QB though is quite indicative.

  • Dave Mauro

    I liked the part where Tom Brady talked about handling his balls 5 hours before half-time, and not knowing who had touched them in the time since.

    • art thiel

      Yes, we’re all time-traveling back to junior high.

  • Guy K. Browne

    If the NFL gave the Pats organization 24 hours to cough up the truth, or Tom Brady is suspended for one game… say the Superbowl, don’t you think the truth would emerge pretty quickly? If this does as some say, reflect negatively on the institution of professional football, all while the league is trying to throw their largest party, you’d think they’d want to put this to bed quickly.

    • art thiel

      Good logic, Guy. I suspect some talks to that end are underway. Pats owner Robert Kraft is a BFF with Goodell, so this is magnum awkward, especially because Belichick was already nailed as a cheat before.

  • 3 Lions

    Can we just play this Sunday?

    • art thiel

      C’mon now. You’re having fun, right?

  • Mike Yanagita

    Here is an analysis of Tom Brady’s body language during his recent interview:

    Conclusion: “Tom Brady Lied.”

    • Diamond Mask

      He looked just a tad see through didn’t he?

    • eYeDEF

      The press conference wasn’t his finest moment and made him look guilty. But that website was still a fascinating read and very interesting resource. Thanks for sharing that.

  • notaboomer

    it’s probably all a marketing ploy to get sports fans to pay attention to the nfl during the off week so it can make another bazillion dollars. all of them are full of crap and themselves from belichick to lynch to brady. With the lights out, it’s less dangerous,
    Here we are now, entertain us.

    • Diamond Mask


  • Diamond Mask

    Lost ID
    Incredibly expensive taxi ride
    Back to Flight
    Art Thiel


    p.s. “manufactured mad-on” and “Deflatriots” :)

  • jafabian

    Between Spygate, the Headset Equity Rule (The Patriots would use their own frequency instead of the NFL one at their home games and the visiting team would have “problems” with their headsets) and now Deflategate you can be sure that come Super Bowl Sunday the Patriots fan base won’t be what it could be. Despite all their talent, experience and football savvy it seems the Patriots don’t have enough confidence in all that and want a guarantee of some sort that they control in their games.

    I can’t wait for SNL’s take on Brady’s press conference.

  • This game is all about balls.

  • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

    Well if NE had half the moxie that our Hawks have they would shrug and use this as a them against the world motivation…we refuse to let this distraction diffuse our chance to win thing. It will be interesting to see what the Patriots do.
    One thing for sure?If they get blown out like Denver did last year they will point to the controversy as a poison pill of sorts. As the Seattle players have said?Glad its not my headache. Go Hawks.

    • eYeDEF

      I’d still rather see their broken spirits in the final lurching throes of once great dynasty getting get steamrolled and extinguished once and for all while the reigning champs re-establish what is theirs by might. A deafening smack down that rivals last year’s supremely entertaining demolition should suffice.

  • Dan

    I’ve made a reasonable effort to ignore all of this, but one point I haven’t seen made anywhere is why exactly 11 out of 12 balls were deflated. My thinking of course goes to the point that one ball would have to left fully inflated for kicking field goals, punting etc. Has anyone brought this up? It certainly would lead some to believe that this plan was more widespread, as I’m not sure Brady alone would be able to manage who was handling that one properly inflated ball at any given moment.

    • jafabian

      He most likely requested someone to deflate the balls just like Brad Johnson did. What’s maddening to me is that none of the press asked him if he did that. They only asked if he himself had anything to do with the deflation of footballs and he can probably say no truthfully if that’s the case.

      • Topcatone

        I read the balls used for kicking, where over inflating definitely can add distance, are provided and controlled by the NFL separately.

  • dharmabruce

    I’m hoping Goodell takes back the right side of the football on the Lamar Hunt AFC Championship Trophy and leaves it at that.

  • I read somewhere that the ball deflation is a natural result of the cold weather and the balls being inflated indoors. This makes sense. The Colts balls were on the other side of the field where conditions were significantly different; that’s why their balls weren’t deflated.

    • eYeDEF

      Junk Science and speculating on a temperature difference 50 yards away that would result in a 15% difference in PSI can’t really explain much of anything when the field temperature was 50 degrees.

  • Scott Crosser

    Ill admit I love a good soap opera, if anyone doesn’t they are as honest as Tom and Bill