by Clark Groome

Deflategate. What’s all the fuss about? So Tom Brady liked his footballs a tad softer than the rules allowed. So what? He’s a great quarterback for a tremendously successful New England Patriots team. Shouldn’t he be able to maximize his effectiveness even if it isn’t within the exact strictures of NFL rules?

In short: no.

Deflategate – I’d love to get away from having every infraction end with “gate,” but it is easy, memorable and catchy – is, flat out, cheating. Maybe that’s the “gate” alternative.

Cheating, from the 1919 Black Sox scandal to baseball’s spitballs to Lance Armstrong’s juicing and similar behavior by baseball players in the 1990s and early 2000s, is not new to sports. The use of under-inflated footballs in an AFC championship game isn’t the first time that it’s appeared in football.

It’s not surprising that these highly paid, highly competitive athletes look for every advantage. It’s also not surprising that Brady’s all-American reputation and image make him easy to like and his success makes him easy to admire.

We wanted to root for and believe cancer survivor Lance Armstrong as he set out to win all those Tours de France.

I don’t know of any baseball fan alive at the time, and many folk who were not fans, who wasn’t paying attention to the home-run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa in 1998 when McGwire reached 70 home runs, shattering Roger Maris’s 37-year old record of 61. Sosa wasn’t far behind with 66.

How many of us loved watching pitchers like Gaylord Perry and others known to doctor the baseball to get that extra advantage?

All of that stuff is cheating. Flat out, no questions asked, it’s cheating.

Just last week the United States 4×100 meter relay team was stripped of its 2012 Olympic silver medals because one of the four, Tyson Gay, was found guilty of having used a banned substance during the London Games. There is probably a ton more that has never been caught.

While cheating isn’t exactly news, in recent years it has gotten more attention, and action has been taken to make sure that athletes know that breaking the rules – or at least getting caught – will be subject to discipline.

While all of the infractions caught and uncaught are cheating if, in the grand scheme of things (Afghanistan, Amtrak, the California drought, for instance) minor events, what is so surprising and, frankly, disappointing is the reaction of the fans, other athletes and the media.

All of these groups have, by and large, said that the NFL’s punishment for Deflategate has been too severe. It is, after all, many say, just about inaccurately inflated footballs.

No. It’s about cheating. The rules are established (ironically by those who later break them) to create a competitive environment that is fair and equitable to both sides in a game or all participants in a race.

The reaction that cheating should be winked at or ignored and those caught should somehow be given a pass not only makes a travesty of the rules it also sets a bad example for kids who, whether rightly or wrongly, often view sports and athletes as role models.

I agree with Charles Barkley when he said, “I don’t believe professional athletes should be role models. I believe parents should be role models.” Unfortunately that’s not the reality.

Therefore, when the athletes who shouldn’t be but are role models for kids break the rules – cheat – then the powers that be have not only the right but the obligation to punish the offender.

Patriots’ fans and owners are really angry at the league and Commissioner Roger Goodell because their team and their beloved quarterback are being spanked. Tough. What’s more important is that young athletes all over the country are seeing that it is unacceptable to break the rules even if you’re a star player. When you do you will be held accountable.

That’s what this is really about and I’m mystified and disappointed that more folks don’t get that.