Deflategate Recalls the Strawberry Incident Aboard USS Caine


“We ought to have some fun on the ship for a change, what with our little detective work to do,” said Captain Queeg to the officers assembled in the USS Caine wardroom. I doubt that Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are anticipating such pleasant bemusement as Jeff Pash, NFL executive vice-president, begins his investigation of Deflate Gate.. Nor can I imagine either man being paranoid about anything; let alone some frozen strawberries or loose football needle — besides such egos tend to know their real enemies. But someone on board the USS Patriot has got to be paranoid about now — perhaps someone at a lower level like a Navy mess cook. Queeg would have a theory to explain the lost air..

After some 40 interviews Pash is just about where Queeg was when he launched his great, ship search. The crew has been interrogated. Remember? Someone aboard the Caine must have made a duplicate key to the minesweeper’s reefer. All that was necessary was to find it. Somewhere in someone’s locker, pocket, even hidden in a helmet or jockstrap there’s a football needle. So, let’s get on with sleuthing Deflate Gate..

There are contrasts between the Strawberry Gate and Deflate Gate. The Caine was an old obsolete tub assigned to duller aspects of war like towing practice targets. The minesweeper is obsolete, its officers and crew, cynical, demoralized, bored and apathetic. Ethics and morality in the wardroom permitted little leeway for stone throwing. No one aboard was a hero, including Ensign Keith. From a distance they watched through binoculars a very real war with modern ships and modern battles, vital war and real death. The New England Patriots, the flagship of the NFL, plies the waters of football with red, white and blue unfurled to self-esteem and their glorious past on the gridiron. They have the best quarters and equipment money can buy. All the Caine had was a bridge displaying battle ribbons from her past and a shell-shocked skipper.

It did not occur to Queeg that if there was a duplicate key. It would have been deep sixed seconds after the missing strawberries had been noticed; and so would the missing football needle And so the farcical “investigation” will continue until there’s a scandal revealed or created. Perhaps a ball boy will be hanged from the yard arm or keel hauled.

Perhaps the NFL officials should just take over management of game balls. Or better yet, both teams could play with the same balls, benefiting from their mutual chicaneries. Hanky panky evens out. That’s often just good business. Unfortunately that would prove as promising as good sportsmanship in Congress. In all these tempestuous teapots and venal venues, can we not find bigger minds somewhere? Really important matters to resolve? The NFL could declare ball needling an honored part of the game like concussions. And the fans could be let alone to enjoy the play of consenting adults.

David Milliken

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