By LARRY WOODY
Let's be honest: the New England Patriots could have beaten the tar out of the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship game if quarterback Tom Brady had been slinging a dead cat instead of an under-inflated football.
But once allegations of cheating oozed out, the NFL felt compelled to protect the "integrity of the game" (insert punch line here).
The league launched an intensive investigation to get to the bottom of "Deflate-gate" as soon as possible. (But not soon enough to bum out today's Super Bowl party.)
The Patriots are upset, and understandably so. They got caught.
You'd think, given all their past cheating expertise, they would be better at it. But no, they blithely believed they could play with a flat football and nobody would notice.
Quarterback Tom Brady insisted he didn't detect anything wrong with the balls. He said he didn't know they were supposed to have air in them. He thought they were filled with green cheese, same as the moon.
What an air-head.
Coach Bill "Who Me?" Belichick held a science-project press conference to explain how footballs are born. He went into great detail about how barometric pressure can affect the PSI of a football, especially if the Tooth Fairy stored it overnight in Santa's workshop.
Bill sounded like a fourth grader trying to fake his way through a book report.
If the footballs had been as inflated as Belichick's ego, there wouldn't have been a problem.
Before the Seattle Seahawks start casting stones -- or deflated pigskins -- they should remember their own coach, Pete Carroll, has had his own integrity issues in the past. Google "Pete Carroll cheating" and you'll find a lengthy resume of no-nos. References to "Pete Carroll cheating" rank with "Miley Cyrus twerking."
Maybe they should call today's Super Bowl meeting of the Pats and Seahawks the Sneaky Bowl.
As I followed the controversy over the past couple of weeks, it reminded me of similar shenanigans involving NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson and his Hendrick Motorsports team.
In NASCAR they don't call cheating "cheating." They call it "fudging." Crew chief Chad Knaus, who prepares Johnson's cars, has repeatedly been caught fudging his brains out.
NASCAR has fined him, suspended him, put him on probation. It made him write on the blackboard, "I will never fudge again," 500 times.
Every time Chad got caught he said, "Aw fudge!" which was as close to an admission of guilt as he would come.
After his most recent bust, Chad claimed the dog ate his rule book He said he assumed it was OK to install an engine from an F1 fighter jet in Jimmie's Chevy.
Johnson claimed he had no idea he was driving a fudged-up race car, just as the Pats Brady insisted he had no idea he was throwing a flat football.
Team owner Rick Hendrick, like the Pats Belichick, parrots the same lame "I know nothing" refrain every time his team gets caught fudging. He enters a plea of serial ignorance.
I suppose given the grave issues that confront us -- pestilence, nuclear holocaust, Kim Kardashian's enhanced booty pix -- a cheated-up race car and an under-inflated football rate down on the list.
But there's a good lesson to be learned from all of this: always play fair. And if you don't, try not to get caught.