Finally, a reason to pay attention to the Super Bowl, America's most stultifying TV sporting event.
To this non-NFL fan, the uproar over the New England Patriots' underinflated footballs is reminiscent of long-ago pro-rasslin' broadcasts from Sunnyside Garden in Queens. I used to watch with my grandfather Connors, who'd get worked up and throw empty Pabst Blue Ribbon cans at his black-and-white TV.
A retired railroad worker and brawler, the Old Man nevertheless found it believable that Dr. Jerry Graham could whack somebody upside the head with a folding chair and that guy could jump up executing flying dropkicks.
So what's this NFL brouhaha all about? I was amused to read a political columnist's sneering reference to "evil genius Bill Belichick and pretty boy Tom Brady's New England Patriots" in my local newspaper -- a phrase revealing more about its author than his subjects.
An "evil" football coach?
People, it's a game played with an inflated leather ball, as the sporting world now knows in excruciating detail. And that's about all they really know.
Otherwise, it's the Good Guys vs. Bad Guys in the world's best-publicized morality play.
See, New England played the first half of the AFC Championship with footballs below the mandated 12.5 to 13.5 PSI range, supposedly making them easier to throw and catch. This gave them a tainted 17-7 lead. Forced by vigilant referees to use properly inflated balls, New England outscored the Indianapolis Colts 28-0 in the second half.
So you can see what a crucial difference "about two pounds" of pressure -- the most precise figure yet offered -- made to the outcome.
But that's not the point. "It's not the SEX, it's the LYING!" said everybody back in 1998 when Bill Clinton ... (insert juvenile word play here).
Anyway, that's what the sterner sports pundits are saying now. It's not the score; it's the sanctity of the game.
As a baseball fan, I'm flabbergasted by NFL regulations that clearly encourage "customizing" game balls. Under MLB rules, only
The Boston Globe has reported about a Pittsburgh research lab that tested 12 "authentic NFL footballs" under game conditions: on average, "footballs dropped 1.8 PSI when being exposed to dropping temperatures and wet conditions."
Anyway, what has the NFL really found, asks a little-noticed, scandal-deflating (pardon the expression) article on the ProFootballTalk site? According to an anonymous source, "the football intercepted by Colts linebacker D'Qwell Jackson was roughly 2 pounds under the 12.5 PSI minimum. The other 10 balls that reportedly were 2 pounds under may have been, as the source explained it, closer to 1 pound below 12.5 PSI."
In short, much ado about nothing.
But if you're wondering, yeah, it definitely worked. This year I'm watching the Super Bowl.
Arkansas Times columnist Gene Lyons can be reached at email@example.com.