I’ll give you two situations. Tell me which one is more believable.
Quarterback A is involved in a pregame scheme to deflate footballs in order to get a better grip. He sends a locker room attendant into a stadium bathroom to take the air out of 12 footballs in 90 seconds.
Quarterback B takes human-growth-hormone in his mid-30’s in order to recover from neck surgery. He attends an anti-aging clinic during a time in which the NFL does not test for HGH.
The answer is easy. Quarterback B is taking part in the more realistic scenario. And to be honest, it’s not even close.
Pull away the curtain. You’ll see that Quarterback A is Tom Brady, and Quarterback B is Peyton Manning. Brady has been accused of deflating footballs. Manning has been accused of having HGH sent to his home, under his wife’s name.
There is little to no evidence that either is true. Yet, the reactions to each situation couldn’t be more different.
If you’ve turned to the national sports media over the last two weeks, you wouldn’t even know about Al Jazeera’s undercover investigation that has video of pharmacist Charlie Sly discussing how he supplied pro athletes with PEDs.
Sly was secretly recorded by Liam Collins, a British hurdler who went undercover, telling medical professionals who were tied to PED’s that he is preparing for the 2016 Olympics. Sly went into detail about supplying pro athletes with a hormone supplement called Delta-2.
Sly also worked at an Indiana-based anti-aging clinic — the Guyer Institution — in 2011. He said Manning attended the clinic and that they would send growth hormone to Manning’s home “all the time” under his wife’s name, while he was trying to recover from neck surgery in 2011.
Since the report came out nearly two weeks ago, Al Jazeera has already defended itself multiple times. The news outlet has since released a second video, which shows the Guyer clinic confirming that Sly did in fact work there in 2011.
On Tuesday, the New York Times released a report that revealed Sly as a co-founder of “Elementz Nutrition,” along with Florida-based trainer Jason Riley. Riley’s clients? Most of the athletes that Sly said he provided PED’s with in the Al Jazeera report: Green Bay Packers linebacker Mike Neal, former NFL tight end Dustin Keller, Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard, and Washington Nationals infielder Ryan Zimmerman. And according to that New York Times report, last week, Elementz Nutrition “voluntarily dissolved and closed its doors.”
Again you wouldn’t know any of that if you turn to the national sports media. The Al Jazeera report has been mentioned, but mostly laughed at. Take “ESPN Sunday NFL Countdown,” for example. A two-hour production that asks to be your go-to pregame show. They followed Peyton Manning’s denial interview by saying, “We believe him. Let’s put it to rest.”
Not exactly the same reaction they had when Brady was accused of deflating footballs last January. In fact, Deflategate still lives on today, a year later, even with the NFL admitting — in a court of law — it has no direct evidence of Brady being involved in any deflation scheme. The national-media reactions are so drastically different, it almost makes no sense whatsoever.
Look, I’m not asking to put an asterisk next to Manning’s name if it turns out he used HGH. I don’t even care if he did use it. I’ve come to accept the professional sports world that we live in, and that performance-enhancing drugs are part of it.
But the precedent has been set. Deflategate became a story because the national sports media and the NFL wanted it to be a story. Even when there was no evidence.
The “Sunday NFL Countdown” crew doesn’t have to read the Al Jazeera report and call Manning a guilty PED user. I’m not saying they have to look the audience in the eye and condemn the guy.
I just want them to acknowledge that, whether they like it or not, it certainly is newsworthy. And whether they believe the evidence or not, there’s enough there that should make them believe this is,in fact, a story.
And to be honest, it’s a much more believable one than Deflategate.