Bill Belichick and Tom Brady likely cheated. Okay … and?

The National Football League’s latest scandal – “DeflateGate” – has simply served to further pump hot air into the nation’s most talked about sport.

Like any reality tv show – and that’s essentially what the NFL is – conflict drives ratings, and villains create conflict.

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Bill Belichick is the ultimate villain, a character so contemptible he comes complete with a bad guy nickname: “The Hoodie.”

But let’s take care and stop short of hanging the hero handle on Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. After all, it’s not as if the one-time Patriots leader (1997-99) didn’t leave a Trojan Horse full of allegations and sanctions in his wake when he bolted from USC.

A week and half out from the Super Bowl you’d expect pro pigskin to pace sports talk radio and dominate the ESPN airwaves. But without “DeflateGate,” the Patriots and the NFL likely wouldn’t lead CNN’s primetime program, as was the case Wednesday evening.

That’s what Belichick’s pumped up ego (and under-inflated footballs) does. This storyline widens the audience, and gives non-football viewers an additional reason to care about the NFL and it’s forthcoming signature event (other than the commercials and Katy Perry performance, of course.)

Despite claims that “I’ve told you everything I know,” and “I have nothing – I don’t have an explanation,” the suggestion that the CEO of the most successful team in the NFL – six Super Bowls in 15 seasons – is ignorant of any gameday detail is entirely absurd.

Belichick is a chronic control freak and uncompromising micro-manager. No one on that team, Tom Brady included, so much as takes a trip to “freakin’ Stop & Shop” without “The Hoodie” signing off on it.

He’s a known rule-breaker, with at least one concrete infraction on his head coaching record. And he’s always conducted himself, and his team, as though the league’s laws apply only to the other 31, non-New England clubs.

That said, what should commissioner Roger Goodell and the league do? Boot New England from the Super Bowl and send Indianapolis in their place? A team they white-washed by 38 points? I don’t think so. PSI aside, even the Colts know who the better squad was on Sunday:

The only thing that counts in pro football is winning; because winning leads to money. And money is the other only thing that counts. Coaches and players – from the special teams assistant, to the starting quarterback, to the practice squad kicker – will explore any avenue, illegal or otherwise, to gain even the slightest edge. If they get caught two out of every 10 times they cheat, that’s the risk they’ll take. Because the reward of winning, and further filling the coffers, is that great.

Subtly deflating footballs for a quarterback who admits preferring a softer pigskin is no different than growing out the infield grass for a groundball pitcher. Well, except for the fact that letting a little extra air out of the football is actually illegal.

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Should Brady, Belichick, and the Patriots have knowingly cheated? No. Did they? Probably. But now what? A few extra media conferences? Brady and his famed Pats beanie professing to honor the game in front of a crowded room of reporters, many of them non-sports journalists? Okay. And?

New England and its coach will likely be fined, and the team will probably forfeit some future draft picks. But in exchange for a shot to hoist that Lombardi Trophy a fourth time? That’s a trade the all-time winningest QB-coach combo. will take every day and twice on Super Sunday.

Between now and then it simply means more chatter, more media, and more eyeballs for a league already bursting at the seams with exposure and attention. Deflate the ball? Perhaps. Pump up the league? Absolutely.

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