SCI TV Analyzes the NFL's “Deflategate” Controversy

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On a recent episode of SCI TV, Dr. Ken Pendleton and Joshua Gordon discuss the underpinnings of the NFL’s “Deflategate” controversy and why it’s the perfect metaphor for modern football.

Sports Conflict Institute (SCI)

Instead of focusing on the Super Bowl, you have a public relations nightmare.

With Super Bowl XLIX less than a week away, the biggest story is not about the matchup, the million dollar ads, or how to throw the best party, but whether the New England Patriots reached the big game legitimately. The Patriots’ victory over the Indianapolis Colts for the AFC Championship and Super Bowl berth is still swirling in debate with allegations that the Patriot’s deflated their footballs to gain an advantage.Dr. Ken Pendleton and Joshua Gordon sit down on SCI TV to discuss “Deflate-gate” and how it fits in the context of an evolving game.

In an era of both parody and hyper competitiveness, to stay on top in the NFL is quite a feat. Talking about Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s long success and sometimes subtle tactics, Pendleton sees a fundamental shift in the game’s strategy.

“What you really see is that sportsmanship gave way to gamesmanship,” Pendleton says. “You see a game that is characterized by gamesmanship such as “spygate,” which involved spying on the New York Jets, was a logical step to take if you think you can get a little advantage.”

In many ways this transition has encouraged coaches and quarterbacks, the decision makers, to ever more micro manage and seek advantages, even if it means flirting with the the rules.

“Let’s say a cornerback gets beat by a receiver,” Pendleton said. “Does the coach say, ‘hey don’t grab that guy because he beat you fair and square?’ No, he says ‘grab the guy, take the penalty, a hold preferably but pass interference if need be, to prevent the big play.’ We no longer think of sportsmanship as the primary part of football, we think of gamesmanship. No one has embodied that, even before this incident, better than Bill Belichick.”

Beyond the historical and philosophical implications of “deflate-gate,” there is the immediate need for the NFL to remedy the ball situation.

“This is preventing problems 101,” Pendleton said. “The NFL has generally been good about being proactive. In this instance they were behind the curve.”

“For any of us who have played sandlot sports, we always would argue over which ball to use,” Gordon said. “But this is a professional organization, and you’d imagine standardization would be the practice from the get go, to not even put teams in a position where they’re tempted.”

Pendleton thinks that issues like “Deflate-gate” are symptoms of modern football’s embrace of a managerial model where coaches carefully weigh costs and benefits. “Bill Belichick is not in the character transformation business like Vince Lombardi, he’s in the risk management business.”

Gordon adds, “One of my hopes for the NFL is that whatever investigation they do, they expand it wide enough to see what systemically is going on and make changes to reflect the needs for a fair and balanced playing field.”

Watch the full episode at:

About SCI
SCI supports competitive goals in athletics through understanding, preventing, and resolving destructive conflict both inside and outside the lines. SCI serves as a knowledge center and provides a range of services to help ensure student-athlete experience is part of a healthy university culture while optimizing performance on and off the field of play. Conflict is inevitable, but how we respond determines whether success follows or costs mount. SCI Founder Joshua Gordon has over 20 years of conflict management experience.

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