The New England Patriots’ latest trip to the Super Bowl just wouldn’t be complete if it didn’t include a scandal of some kind. The latest such scandal has been dubbed “DeflateGate” and it involves the Patriots allegedly tampering with footballs during the game in a way that would have made it easier for quarterback Tom Brady to throw them in the rain.

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Here’s what you need to know:

  • Each team is allowed to bring their own footballs to use during games.
  • A little more than two hours before each game, referees inspect each team’s footballs to make sure they are properly inflated to league specifications.
  • After this, the balls are given to the teams’ respective attendants, who will hand them off to referees as needed during games.

Apparently, several “abnormal” footballs had to be removed from play during Sunday night’s game in Foxboro and the NFL is investigating whether or not these balls were intentionally deflated by the Patriots’ staff. In order for this to have happened, the Patriots’ staff would have had to deflate the balls during the game on the sidelines, which seems like it would have been an awfully big risk for the team to take given how many cameras are covering all aspects of the stadium.

On Boston sports radio station WEEI on Monday, Patriots coach Bill Belichick denied that he’d intentionally deflated any balls and said that he and the team would fully cooperate with the league’s investigation. If the Patriots are found guilty, they will likely be stripped of draft picks and fined for violating league rules.

Of course, given that the Patriots gave the Colts an absolute pasting on Sunday and won the game by a score of 45-7, there’s pretty much no way that these allegedly deflated balls had a significant outcome on the final result. All the same, ever since the Patriots got caught illegally videotaping their opponents’ defensive signals in 2007, the franchise has been under constant suspicion for cheating and is, along with the Dallas Cowboys, the most hated team in the NFL.

And if the Patriots really did intentionally deflate footballs as has been alleged, America will have yet another reason to root against them in two weeks at the Super Bowl.

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