America's Two Camps

Unless you live at a curling rink, and without cell phone, radio, or TV, you’ve by now heard about the latest incident in the New England Patriots football organization of ethics-gone-awry — this involving someone (or more than one) who allegedly released just enough air from footballs in the hope that this loony schoolyard ploy would give the team an advantage against its rivals, the Indianapolis Colts, in the AFC championship game (played January 18, 2015). To wit: It is claimed (by those who apparently know such things) that lower-than-standard air pressure — between 12.5 psi and 13.5 psi — makes a football easier to throw, and catch, in cold weather. In Boston, where the now infamous game was played, it was cold, very cold.

Should anyone be surprised by the allegation that the Patriots cheated? Sadly, no. First, because (assuming “Deflationgate” is true) the Patriots’ obsession with pigskin parameters will not have been the first incident in which they ignored good sportsmanship; in 2007 (in a dubious affair since dubbed “Spygate”), the team violated NFL rules by videotaping New York Jets coaches across the field as they flashed strategic signals to their players.

Media investigations increasingly suggest that cheating may be “business as usual” in many professional sports. Alas, this is no more surprising than the Patriots’ singular faux pas on the 18th; nor is a glaring consequence of that toe-stub, which is that yet again a misstep in principles has turned up the volume in two distinct camps: the one in which principles matter, the other in which they don't so much.

To those of us who will forever refuse to submit to anti-norms that are spreading like an aggressive cancer in persons who pooh-pooh ethics in favor of hubris (and looking the other way), we say: There is just one way (and it's inarguable) to describe the Patriots' latest alleged infraction: It was wrong. To those ethically challenged persons who have forgiven the Patriots based on an argument that the deflated balls couldn’t have significantly affected the game's outcome, we add: The final score is “clearly not the point.” We who are ethically mindful know this, because we correctly understand — and live by — sound principles.

To those in that other camp — the camp of Excuses and Easy Forgiveness and Looking the Other Way — we of principles wish to inform you that it is your Apathy, your Denial, your Outright Compromise of Good Values that is turning a once upright nation into a fallen child.