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Today we take a break from serious politics to talk about balls.
The top story this week, eclipsing President Barack Obama's State of the Union by a large margin, centered on allegations that the New England Patriots used slightly deflated footballs in the first half of their 45-7 drubbing of the Indianapolis Colts in last Sunday's AFC championship game. The horror of this allegation sent a number of politicians sprinting for the fainting couches.
Republican Sen. Dean Heller thundered that the National Football League needed to "restore the credibility of the game" by taking some unspecified "decisive action." (Take away Tom Brady's sweaters maybe?)
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid also got the vapors. "I can't believe the National Football League, with the billions of dollars it makes, couldn't at least determine how much air should be in a football," he said.
Interestingly, both senators hail from Nevada, which just happens to boast the sports betting capital of the free world. Las Vegas bookmakers really do not want their precious betting lines threatened by the possibility of cheating cheaters who cheat letting 1 pound per square inch out of a football.
After all, no one in Vegas ever cheated anyone out of anything.
As for Heller's "credibility of the game" comment, one might ask, what credibility? This is a league that had to get dragged into doing anything at all about a player caught on tape knocking out his wife with a vicious punch to the face.
But let's not dwell on the uglier aspects of the NFL, a league that owes its massive success to behemoths of men concussing each other for our collective national enjoyment.
Let's instead celebrate the Deflategate story for the incredible gift that it is.
This story, so filled with complete and utter silliness, is just the kind of distraction America needs in this woebegone new century filled with wars, recession, racial tension and terrorism.
Go ahead and say it with me: Balls.
It's OK to find that word and everything about this story funny. Because it is funny. Balls are funny. All the puns are funny. Tom Brady liking his balls a certain way is funny. Let no one scold you out of enjoying every bit of this.
But in reveling in this story, one must first deal with the HOW DARE THEY!?! purists who think New England coach Bill Belichick should be banned from the Super Bowl. Or from the earth. Or something.
This is beyond ridiculous. And I say that as someone with an unblemished record of despising Belichick and his agonizingly and persistently excellent Patriots. First of all, Belichick claims to know nothing about how 11 of the 12 Patriot footballs appear to have come in slightly below league guidelines for pressure in the first half. Until anyone can prove otherwise, let's withhold judgment on him.
Brady also denied any knowledge of what happened and issued perhaps the best comment of this whole hilarious fiasco saying: "We're going to be fine. ... This isn't ISIS. ... No one is dying."
He's right. Let's not pretend this is some national crisis. Because it isn't. Is it possible someone on the Patriots staff let some air out of the balls? Yes. But we are going to need some smoking gun footage of the equipment guy smuggling balls out of the locker room under his coat to prove it. If that happens, should the Patriots get some kind of fine or other discipline? Sure, I guess.
But the idea that this changed the outcome of the game is beyond laughable. The Patriots crushed the Colts with smothering defense, a dominant run game and short passes with plenty of yards after the catch. Soft footballs allegedly make it easier to throw deeps balls (though Aaron Rodgers of the Packers says he likes his balls hard—he he he). But the Pats did not win with the deep ball.
And after the referees intervened, the Patriots balls were all at standard inflation in the second half. And all New England did in that half was trounce the Colts 28-0. While some pundits hyperventilated about New England sullying the great game of football with their dastardly shenanigans, even Colts players called it nonsense. Colts tight end Dwayne Allen put it exactly right, "They could have played with soap for balls and beat us."
If the Patriots did deflate their balls in the first half then they followed in a proud American tradition of gamesmanship. Baseball pitchers still scuff up balls with pine tar and whatever else they can get their greasy fingers on. Occasionally they go ridiculously far and get caught ala' Michael Pineda.
In football, the Pittsburgh Steelers allegedly iced the field before their AFC title win in 1976 over Oakland. For two decades, visiting teams accused the New York Giants of strategically opening tunnel doors at the old Meadowlands to send crazy winds at opposing kickers and quarterbacks. Tales of stadium operators piping in fake noise to distract visiting teams crop up almost every year. And there are many more stories of alleged nefarious deeds in the NFL.
The Deflategate story is just the kind of titillating and nonserious distraction that makes the run-up to next Sunday's Super Bowl even more enjoyable. There is literally nothing at stake here, no matter what the Very Serious People say. So go ahead and wallow in it, America. And say it with me again: Balls!
Correction: This version corrected the name of Colts tight end Dwayne Allen.
—By Ben White. White is Politico's chief economic correspondent and a CNBC contributor. He also authors the daily tip sheet Politico Morning Money [politico.com/morningmoney]. Follow him on Twitter .