|Photo by Thomas S Mann|
by Peggy Robin
I should tell you upfront that I am not a football fan. Last year at this time in this space I wrote about my minority status as one of the 24.6 percent of Americans who do not watch the Super Bowl (see http://bit.ly/1Ex2T11). Despite an utter lack of interest in the game itself, though, I am avidly following the current football scandal, Deflate-gate. While I may not be a football fan, I am a diehard scandal fan. I follow scandals of all stripes: political, Hollywood, financial, sports; however, I don’t love all scandals equally. Too many scandals have a nasty or prurient tinge to them. Deflate-gate is different than most scandals -- it's better. I’ve been thinking about what makes this scandal different --so much more entertaining than your average scandal -- and have come up with these five reasons:
1. There’s a genuine mystery at the center. A scandal’s no fun when it’s an open-and-shut case, when there’s a “hand-in-the-cookie-jar” culprit. Deflate-gate provides reasonable people with good arguments for how the footballs could have lost air naturally…but then there’s an good case to be made that someone had to have tampered with them. And if so, whodunit?
2. It’s a scandal…but no children or animals were harmed in the making of it. The trouble with most scandals is that some real people get really hurt. Even in scandals that are just about money, innocent investors – pensioners, mainly – can lose their life savings. That's not funny. In city corruption scandals, the taxpayer gets fleeced. In many otherwise frivolous Hollywood sex scandals, the misbehaving stars will have children whose lives get turned upside-down. You can luxuriate in the silliness over Gyneth Paltrow’s “conscious uncoupling” all you like, but her divorce had to be painful for Apple (and that’s her child, not her dog). But with Deflate-gate, who’s the worse for it? Even if you’re convinced the Patriots did something illegal, surely you don’t imagine those slightly deflated balls changed the outcome of the blowout game with Indianapolis.
3. The main characters are extremely photogenic. I give you Tom Brady. If he ordered the deflation of the footballs, well, the order couldn’t have come from a cuter guy. And while it’s entirely irrelevant to the facts of the scandal, it adds a lot to the entertainment value. On top of that (though even more irrelevant), he’s married to the hottest supermodel on the planet, Gisele Bundchen.
4. It’s self-contained. In far-reaching scandals, there’s a worry about repercussions and ripple effects that may lead to souring of enthusiasm for the entire sport. The prime example: just look at the way the Lance Armstrong blood doping scandal has hurt the sport of cycling. When he finally admitted the truth, years of cycling records had to be combed over and medals re-awarded. And there’s no reason to think the scandal was limited to Lance. Deflate-gate, by contrast, has not dampened anyone’s enthusiasm for the game of football; on the contrary, it’s generated interest from a lot of people who might not otherwise be paying much attention – although, a bit of that attention may be coming from people like me, who are more interested in the game because of scandal factors such as number 3, above.
And now number 5 -- saving the best for last. This scandal has what every good scandal needs most: a catchy name. Deflate-gate. It’s both classic (the venerable gate-ending serves it well) and memorable (it rhymes!). Even if it all proves to be a bunch of, well, not-so-hot-air, the name still will live on in the history of the sport – and in the history of famous –“gates” too. Shouldn’t there be some sort of prize for that?
Still Life With Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.