If you’ve had enough of 2020 controversies, let’s go back to a time when the commentariat blew up over things like the color of a dress or whether a taco is or is not a sandwich.

Or Deflate-Gate.

Deflate-Gate was the mother of all Gates. Even more Gate than the original Gate (whatever that was). Deflate-Gate is the kind of controversy that’s the sine qua non of sports radio. No beer or male enhancement products would ever get sold if it weren’t for scandals such as Deflate-Gate.

Deflate-Gate concerned an incident involving the New England Patriots, who played the Indianapolis Colts in the National Football League’s conference championship on January 18, 2015. The Patriots trounced the Colts 45-7, advancing to the Superbowl where they beat the Seattle Seahawks. However, after the confetti settled, whispers began about a cheating scandal that involved the Patriots star quarterback Tom Brady and the pressure of footballs used in the game against the Colts.

It was claimed Brady hatched (or at least knew about) a scheme to deflate the pressure in footballs below approved levels to give him an unfair advantage. The lower the air pressure in a football, especially in cold weather, the easier it is to grasp. If one quarterback has even a slight edge such as this, it can make all the difference in the world.

After a thorough investigation by the NFL and numerous court cases, Tom Brady was held responsible for the deflation of the footballs by League commissioner Roger Goodell and suspended four games at the beginning of the next season.

Four Games in Fall, a documentary, is a direct repudiation of Brady’s suspension and a take down of everything the NFL did during the investigation and hearings.

As a lifelong New Englander and Patriots fan, I agree with every word of it, but I’m biased. And bias might also be the only criticism I can offer about Four Games in Fall. 

However, just because bias exists does not mean it’s inaccurate. A wise person I know once told me (and I paraphrase), “Biased arguments are often the most pure distillations of an event or issue because the parties have something at stake and will do better than anyone else to plead the case.” Unless an essay or a documentary is outright propaganda then its biased perspective might be compelling.

I don’t believe Four Games in Fall is propaganda or intentionally dishonest, but it’s so one-sided it makes me wonder who funded it–even if I agree with it.

And that’s because it’s a brilliantly laid out and argued case for Brady’s innocence. It’s Henry Drummond, in Inherit the Wind, reducing Matthew Brady to a quivering lump of incoherence. Scientists, lawyers, and experts all show, conclusively, that Tom Brady (and no one else) conspired to release air pressure from the footballs. Moreover, the documentary details the forces and structures around the game of football that made Brady’s railroading possible…and risible.

It’s music to a hometown fan’s ear, and that is also its flaw: there’s no opposing argument. In 2020, we are all stuck in our corners, singing to our own choirs, trapped in our own bubbles. If Four Games in Fall harkens back to a time of quaint controversies it would have done well to have the other side give its evidence.

Even with this deficiency, the subject matter of Four Games in Fall is something I’d far rather debate than the other controversies embroiling our nation at the moment.

BLAST RATING: 2.5 OUT OF 4 STARS

About The Author

Randy Steinberg is a Blast Film Critic. He has a Master's Degree in Film/Screenwriting from Boston University. He taught screenwriting at BU from 1999-2010 and continues to write screenplays and other fiction. In 2020, he joined the Boston Online Critics Film Association (BOFCA). Randy can be contacted at [email protected]

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