It was a snowy January weekend here in Pittsburgh. I just got inside having a snowball fight with the kids in the backyard. I turn on the TV and the NFL playoffs were on. the Colts were playing the Broncos and in an unexpected surprise, the Colts wind up beating the Broncos in Denver and going on to the AFC championship game. Now my football playoff dreams of shooting were squashed once the Steelers lost. But as soon as the game was over, I message my old editor of the Evansville Courier press where I used to be a photographer where I shot the Colts over a decade, and most of their playoff games.
Tim Etheridge, who was the sports editor who I used to travel with was now the editor of the newspaper. I sent a simple text and said Hey do you want me to shoot should the AFC championship for you guys next week in New England because the Colts is now going on to New England to play the Patriots. He messages Pam, director of media relations for the Colts who I’ve known for many many years and this is the power of developing relationship. The next morning, I got confirmation that I was in at the AFC championship game in New England. It is not a common story, usually you need to shoot for a team for long period of time for the full year to get to the playoffs but sometimes things happen, and things worked out and you got to just ask.
Less than a week later, I am on my way to New England and I was on the field of Gillette Stadium as Tom Brady and the Patriots are gearing up to get to the Super Bowl and I’m hoping the call to win because the Colts will go to the Super Bowl and I get to shoot that too hopefully. We already put the credentials in for that. So, at the Gillette Stadium, the media workroom is right next to the Patriots locker room. So I walk out for pregame stuff and I go out and I go and it’s raining out and before I went out of the stadium for the game I went to the bathroom, which is right near the field, clean myself up and head out to the field to shoot. And I am really going somewhere with the story, I am not rambling I promise you.
So even though the Colts look out match their staying in the game and at the end the first quarter, Tom Brady threw a pass and it was incomplete. It was a few incomplete passing through the first half and rolled over towards me. I took the ball, threw it to the ref. It happens probably once every two or three games. The ball comes right to me. The game starts again. So, the Colts going to halftime, still in the game, but at the second half started and the Patriots blew them out of the water, just demolish them. It was 45 to 7 was the final score. I made this trip out to New England and in the rain with my gear getting soaked and me being soaked and not getting to the hotel till 3 o’clock in the morning, I said to myself nobody is ever going to remember that championship game. It was probably one of the worst championship games that you ever get to see, and I made this trip out here and it is a waste of time.
So, as I my car and started driving back to Pennsylvania. I am listening to Sports Talk the next day and they are talking about the situation with the Patriots and possibly deflating balls during a championship game and this is the first time, even though I can’t stand the Patriots as that game was ending and all the fans are chanting, they’re singing songs together and the Patriots players waving to the crowd. I finally gave in. I find said I give up. This is the best team I am going to appreciate what they’ve done here. I’m no longer to dislike them because they’re so good. So when I heard this announcement on the radio, this is just another situation of people not liking them because they’re so good and blah blah and I turned the radio off, put music on and then I spend one more night in the hotel and I drove back the next day. Before I got home, I heard the stories about these balls being deflated again and now there’s like proof that different balls of the deflated 11/12 balls tested were deflated to make it easier for Tom Brady to throw the ball with the reasoning behind it. And now this turned into a major controversy.
So, this scandal went on for over a year, which resulted in the Patriots being fined over a million dollars. Tom Brady being suspended for four games and a stain on their legacy. No, I think they have proved in the last couple years as much as I am still not totally rooting for them. I don’t think deflating balls has anything to do with their success. They’re still winning Super Bowl, but it hit me months later, when it happens. I didn’t even realize I am at this championship game and it seems like this inconsequential game. Again, it’s never going to be remembered and not only is it remembered, it is one of the rare football games that actually has a title to it called Deflate Gate. But when that ball rolled over, that was one of the controversial balls that was being talked about and my joke is that I am one of the few people in the world that actually got the touch one of Tom Brady’s deflated balls.
And a side note to that, apparently one of the balls from that game for the first half of that game was sold for $44,000 if you could believe that. So the moral of the story, besides all the silliness of that situation is that that job, that assignment that you go into that seems mundane and it seems like it doesn’t matter, that seems like it’s never going to be remembered, you never know if that’s gonna be one of the most important assignments you ever get to have so always treat it like it’s something special. So that is my Deflate Gate story and I will be back with you tomorrow.