Millions across the globe are still wondering what really happened to the Patriots’ deflated footballs. The question has been brought up in the media many times in the past week. Bill Belichik dismissed it. Tom Brady denied it. Robert Kraft defended his team.
But what really happened to the balls? The answer lies in a game of Chinese checkers.
Locker room attendant Dom Clady sat on a Sunday afternoon, preparing for one of the biggest evenings of his life. Not because the Patriots were about to play for a trip to the Super Bowl, but because he was finally going to become a grandmaster of Chinese checkers.
Clady was set for something called “mastery trial,” created by the Asian Chinese Checkers Federation as a test of skills for one to be eligible for grandmastership. The mastery trial consists of winning a Chinese checkers game in 45 seconds while simultaneously eating a box of ramen noodles and balancing a cup of green tea on one’s head. Clady was positively giddy.
Half an hour before the trial, and two-and-a-half hours before game time, Clady began his pre-match ritual. He had to blow snot into Tom Brady’s jersey in the exact middle of the “1” and “2” on the front, recite the Chinese checkers rulebook in reverse order, and sing Bill Belichik’s favorite clam chowder recipe in a Boston accent to the tune of “Ode to Joy.”
Finally, Clady opened his laptop and logged onto the website Cheaters Have Eclipsed All-Time Entertainment Record-Setters, or CHEATERS for short. The page shifted to a Skype video call with his grandmaster evaluator: Marshawn Lynch. Lynch, who had just finished defeating the Green Bay Packers, sat wearing the black grandmaster sash given to the most distinguished Chinese checkers players. When asked how the exam would go, Lynch responded. “I’m just here so I won’t get fined.”
As he neared the end of the exam, ramen noodle soup dripping from his chin, Clady heard the sound of footsteps, and Tom Brady’s hairspray whistling near the locker room door. In an effort to cover his laptop and exam materials, Clady did the only thing he know how to do: pump footballs. The attendant deflated as many footballs as he could to blanket over the scene of the crime.
Brady, engrossed in tidying up his luscious hair, glanced at Clady as he passed by, completely oblivious to the deflated footballs beneath him. Relieved that Brady hadn’t seen his setup, Clady scampered to refill the footballs with air before game time. But with the clock ticking toward kick-off, he refilled the balls slightly under the required pressure, in order to have them appear properly pumped.
This article also appeared on Philadelphia Sports Nation.