- John Berman: Until there is proof they cheated, the Patriots deserve fans' support
- The deflated balls don't prove wrongdoing without more evidence, he says
(CNN)I am all in.
Win. By a lot.
Some of you who follow this space will know I have had a somewhat tortured two weeks reconciling my genetic predisposition to be a Patriots fan, with my disdain for breaking the rules. (Some of you probably don't give a crap what I think, and if that is the case, then I am happy to be wasting your time.)
I still believe that if the Patriots had air taken out of the footballs intentionally, then it is cheating. Repeat: if they did it, they cheated. And that is bad. Very bad. And cheering for them would fill me with guilt and remorse. (See here.)
However, I also believe, that if there is no proof that they did it, then there is simply no justification to penalize them, sanction them, or even criticize them. There really needs to be proof that someone took some sort of affirmative action deflate those footballs. The existence of an underinflated football is not a violation. It is the act of deflating it, or causing it to be deflated that is the infraction (yes, I once applied to law school).
We don't have proof. Not yet. Accordingly, until there is proof, I believe every Patriots fan should root like hell for them. Lose your voice, burst your spleen, strain a hamstring; do whatever you can to get them into the end zone Sunday night. I will wear my Tom Brady jersey with honor and pride.
And none of these actions or beliefs is inconsistent. In fact, I think this is the most reasonable, rational, objective position to take. If they cheated, it's bad. Right now, there is no proof they cheated.
I know that there are members of Patriots Nation who refuse to even acknowledge the possibility that they cheated. There are also members of the "snark lobby," who think too much is being made of all this. On the flip side there are Patriots-haters who think that Bill Belichick only lies when he speaks or breathes. And that Tom Brady only achieved anything through subterfuge and favoritism. In my opinion, all of these views are wrong. And I am only glad you have each other to collectively fester in your pool of myopic loathing (hyperbole added in the spirit of competition!).
If they cheated, it's bad. Right now, while the NFL continues its investigation, there is no proof they cheated.
So go Patriots. Crush the Seahawks with firm balls all above 12.5 PSI. Win big. I am cheering for you 112.5% percent.
But after the fact, if it turns out you did cheat in the AFC Championship game? Well, I will feel angry and guilty and you should be punished. That makes sense. And I do too. Probably.