As far as sports "scandals" goes, Deflate-gate seems like its one of the most ridiculous.
Nobody likes to see some good old Patriots schadenfreude like me, but this seems over the top. In an odd way, it reminds me of the Clinton Impeachment scandal (stay with me) - the alleged crime may rise to the level of impeachment/banishment, but what it represents, the bigger picture, is the real story. It's less the mechanics of deflating footballs that's a problem than the apparent institutionally sanctioned cheating by an organization that's been punished for cheating before.
The scope of this story, the over-the-top reaction it's garnered, is surprising. More than one person on social media has asked where this kind of anger and reaction from media and fans was over Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, the on-going concussion suit, etc. In other words, why do the real problems not bring about the kind of anger and calls-for-action as this stupid little fake scandal?
I think it comes down to the difference between "sports anger" and "real anger." This is an idea that came up in a Twitter exchange I had with Will Leitch.
Basically, sports anger is how we feel when something wrong happens in the field of play. Think of the collective reaction over Deflate-gate. There is real emotion behind these feelings, and some larger issues (sportsmanship, the integrity of our games, the winning-is-everything mentality in sports). But they're safely within the confines of the lines on the field. It's safe and understandable, because in the end, it really doesn't matter. It's just sports - important, but not at all important.
Real anger is different. Real anger involves real emotions and complicated, nuanced, real-life situations. Domestic abuse, race relations, child abuse, parenting, player safety - these are real issues with real consequences. This isn't some nonsense about a football's pressure or about whether Tom Brady had an unfair advantage. Those issues are real, often hard-to-discuss. They make us uncomfortable, because they're uncomfortable serious issues.
My sense is that a lot of people still come to sports for the escapism of it. To get away from the day-to-day problems of their lives and the world and just watch some ball. That's perfectly valid. But I think it's why, when real-world issues creep into the sports pages, the anger is muted, or there's more of a sense of "Yeah, that's terrible ... but let's watch some football." But when there's an on-field issue involved, it's a lot easier to get upset, take a side, have a hot take. Because the issue feels big but has no real significance, so there's no harm in expressing your view.
Because it's sports anger.