BY Art Thiel 06:54PM 01/25/2015

Thiel: Seahawks and the outlaw balls of XLIX

The Seahawks arrived Sunday in Phoenix after a memorable sendoff, and Richard Sherman further inflamed Deflate-gate by questioning the commissioner’s objectivity.

12s braved the sunshine of Phoenix Sunday to welcome the Seahawks to their hotel. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

PHOENIX — The theme of this year’s Super Bowl, now including the Seahawks’ uproarious departure as well as their blunt-spoken arrival, is plain: Outlaw balls. And that isn’t just the Patriots’ equipment malfunction.

As thousands of 12s swarmed the route of the Seahawks buses through the city of SeaTac on the way to the airport Sunday morning — “Instead of having the game in the stadium, it was in the street today,” said DT Michael Bennett — one curbside family stood out: Mom, Dad and two little ones holding their crotches.

“The more they fine him, the bigger he gets,” said one who was aboard the three Seahawks buses, referring to RB Marshawn Lynch and his his now-famous gesture, certain to sweep America from playgrounds to boardrooms now that the NFL threatens to eradicate it by game penalties as well as fines.



Lynch’s celebration of defiance is a balls-out challenge to the NFL’s sense of propriety and decorum, particularly with the global TV audience tuning in Sunday, many of whom are — gasp! — children. Let us all protect them, otherwise they might grow up to be — ahem — adults.

After the Seahawks’ arrival at their sumptuous resort hotel, challenges to the NFL’s version of decency continued. At a tent-covered press conference in a parking lot, CB Richard Sherman deflected questions about the consequences of Deflate-gate on the Seahawks with world-weary boredom until he was asked about whether a just outcome of the brouhaha was possible with commissioner Roger Goodell and Pats owner Robert Kraft such good personal friends.

“You ask about getting close to the line; I don’t have a comment about that,” he said. “The past is what the past is, the present is what the present is. The perception is the reality.

“Will (the Pats) be punished? Probably not, not as long as Robert Kraft and Roger Goodell are still taking pictures at their respective homes. He was just at Kraft’s home before the AFC championship.  You talk about conflict of interest.

“It won’t affect them at all. Nothing will stop them.”


As is often the case, Sherman cuts to the heart of the matter. The issue is less about the trifle of a slightly deflated football that would favor Pats QB Tom Brady, and more about what the NFL will to do to a repeat violator of sports ethics.

Now that NFL has confirmed 11 of the 12 football assigned the Pats were deflated, and Brady and coach Bill Belichick were steadfast in denying knowledge and involvement, the NFL has a mess — and a massively easy subject of mockery — on the threshold of its showcase.

As with the Ray Rice episode that ignited a national discussion of domestic violence, the sports world looks now to see how the most corporate of empires handles an episode of potential cheating by its most successful franchise, one owned by perhaps Goodell’s staunchest ally among the owners.

As to whether the episode will impact the game, only a highly unlikely game suspension would do that. Although Belichick admitted Saturday he was “embarrassed” by the hours he has had to spend on Deflate-gate, meaning he’s behind his Seattle counterpart and Patriots coaching predecessor, Pete Carroll. That could prove a distinct, but unprovable, advantage.

Nor did Belichick do himself any favors with his clumsy attempt at explaining the “science” of ball deflation. None other than Seattle’s own comic scientist Bill Nye, “The Science Guy,” called him out during a segment of ABC’s Good Morning America.

There are, however, those who are having none of this discussion, chief among them Bennett, the ever-witty D-lineman.

“I think it’s all propaganda, just to get a chance to build the game up,” he said Sunday afternoon. “It’s all inflating the game right now . . . (trying) to make it even more worth it than what it’s really about.

“It’s really just about us, two great teams, playing. I think a lot of people are shying away from that aspect of it. The Patriots are arguably one of the best teams of this decade, and we’re starting to try to catch up to where they’re at, and what they’ve done in the last 10 years. Belichick is one of the best coaches of all time. I think people are forgetting that — the coaches coaching and the players playing. It’s too much about the balls.”

All quite true, but nothing in American culture, even in world culture, is like the Super Bowl. When kidlets are curbside on a Sunday morning clutching their nethers in public celebration, with parental support, there is a phenomenon afoot that is harder to explain than Packers coach Mike McCarthy’s game plans.

After arriving in Phoenix Sunday, Richard Sherman took a shot at commissioner Roger Goodell’s ability to be be objective about Deflate-Gate. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest


  • Raymond Meyers

    This whole conversation takes balls.

    I’m reminded of a Scotsman at a baseball game who was angry when the batter put his bat down and started walking to first base. His American friend explained the reason, “He’s got four balls on him.” The Scot’s demeanor changed with the new understanding. He shouted at the field, “Walk proud, man. Walk proud.”

    • art thiel

      Along those lines, there’s another joke about lassies discovering a sleeping Scotsman. Feel free to giggle, er, google.

      • Raymond Meyers

        I think I know the one. Something about a blue ribbon. A lovely tale.

  • Cameric

    I suspect Goodell is neither a paragon of virtue nor of fairness. He likely has a preferred winner in all this, and that winner is not likely to the be the Seahawks. Economist Adam Smith described an “Invisible Hand” that was hidden from view, but had measurable effects on an economy. I wonder if Goodell has an invisible hand that can influence games. This whole thing might become a crisis of trust for the NFL. Or I might just be cynical and paranoid….

    • art thiel

      I’ll go with cynical. But you’re entitled. I don’t see Goodell acting on his rooting interest, but it does play to the fans’ suspicions.

  • Guest

    Belichick talking about how they rub balls causing the deflation is just too funny.

    • art thiel

      Yes, we all went to middle school.

    • Bayview Herb

      I wish I’d known about that trick when I was

      kid. If my bike (coaster)tire was low. Coasters, for you too young to know, is a rear wheel brake and no gears. I won a Raleigh bike or selling the most subscriptions to the Renton News Record. Rubbing balls is a longer tradition.

  • notaboomer

    i agree with bennett. propaganda. not to build up the game so much as to distract the media from the more obvious story that football is a sick and violent sport resulting in massive head trauma and brain injury to those who play it from nfl freaks to little kids. junior seau. dave duerson. league of denial.

    • art thiel

      Kinda like trying to warning people about cigarettes. Some quit, many don’t.

      • notaboomer

        yes but a lot more people quit (or didn’t start) and bars and restaurants prohibit smoking, etc. as a result of accurate scientific information getting through the tobacco industry propaganda machine so why not do the same with the football industry?

        • eYeDEF

          Because the fact that it’s a “sick and violent sport” as you describe it is part of what makes it so appealing. These are our gladiators playing a dangerous sport. The athletes understand the risks yet embrace it regardless for the chance at fame, glory, and riches beyond what can be hoped to achieved by most. Unlike the gladiators of ancient Rome though, the athletes are choosing their fates. The reality is that the public is aware that it is a violent support that risks head trauma and brain injury, all that info has been out there for years. The bottom line is that the public cares more about football.

      • dinglenuts

        True. I don’t know that more information and evidence about the effects of head trauma will reduce viewership or popularity, at least not any time soon.

        It could affect the talent pool, however. I imagine there are a few more parents now who won’t let their boys play football, and that number might increase in the future. (Significantly, to the point of eventually affecting the popularity of the sport? I don’t know.)

  • jafabian

    I love that Bill Nye weighed in on Deflategate and slapped down Belichick’s explanation the way Marvin Webster would a David Thompson layup. Just another opinion in the sea of controversy that this has created but anything that takes away from Belichick’s credibility gets my support. He’s becoming the ARod of NFL coaches with Deflategate and other transgressions that have happened during his tenure.

    I wish Sherman would have taken his comments a bit further, that ALL sport commissioners in professional sport leagues aren’t objective. Not when they’re selected by the owners. Fay Vincent wasn’t and looked what happened to him.

  • djDave

    They continue to fine
    Marshawn Lynch all the time
    For not talking and grabbing his unit.

    To answer in style,
    He should look up and smile

    At the NFL shield and just moon it.

    • art thiel

      Wow. Lynch inspiring doggerel. Impressive, Dave.

      • Dave Johnson

        Well Art, The Seahawks are an inspiring bunch. Here’s another:

        Now Sherman and Brady will meet;
        In the Super Bowl they will compete.

        Then, after the game,
        The greeting’s the same:

        “You mad Bro?” again – ain’t that sweet?

  • HW3

    Bill Nye tells a good story but he’s a theoretician, here is some actual experimentation

    • art thiel

      Thanks HW3. Good pull.

      • tor5

        Nice how he dons a white lab coat to pump up a football. I don’t think you can get any more authoritative!

    • Raymond Meyers

      Interesting. What about the Colt’s balls? Were the weather conditions different on that side of the field? I like the “rubbing them flat” theory better. More accessible with adolescent humor.