Jason Wright: Use NFL ‘deflategate’ to teach your kids

Jason Wright

It’s the biggest controversy since Taco Bell yanked its rolled chicken tacos from the menu. (Seriously, did you try those? They changed me.)

If sports scandals are more your thing, the NFL’s new headache ranks high in history. You’ve got big stars, big money and super stakes.

Still, isn’t it refreshing to have an NFL controversy that’s not rated-R by the Family Dinner Table Ratings Association?

We may never know whether anyone in the New England Patriots organization intentionally deflated 11 of 12 game balls used in their AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts. Plus, as has been widely discussed already, the Colts were not going to win that game with two more pounds of air pressure.

Let’s face it: the Colts weren’t beating the Pats that day if they’d used a Nerf ball and played flag football with their dad’s long white tube socks.

New England was simply better, and everyone knows it, including my two neophyte NFL sons.

My oldest boy was close by the other day during my phone call with a sports-crazed pal. Kason is a curious 11-year-old who’s eavesdropped on more phone conversations than the CIA.

When I ended the call, the questions came faster than a media day press conference.

“Did they cheat, Dad? Why? Should they have lost? Seems like a weird rule, right? But they won anyway, right?”

Right, I said, and then I sensed an opportunity to play a little parenting offense.

First, I made it clear there is no evidence implicating the Patriots. The NFL knows the “what,” but it doesn’t know the “why” or “how.” Just like in criminal cases and gummy bears stolen from my secret stash, the accused are innocent until proven guilty.

If a professional golfer was dominating the Masters tournament by 15 strokes and was found to have cheated by a single stroke and signed an incorrect scorecard, he’d be disqualified. (In golf, most would report themselves long before anyone else did).

If the NBA’s best team beat my local high schoolers by 300, but was discovered to have cheated, the Central High Falcons would celebrate with pizza — and a win.

If a prosecutor in a slam dunk case was found to have broken the law, or violated even simple ethics rules, the judge could toss the case, levy fines and revoke a law license. Attorneys are required to play by the rules, no matter the likely outcome.

In school, work, even on the playground, the integrity score is more integral than the outcome. And if our children leave home knowing nothing but that, they’re bound to find success.

Perhaps one day the NFL will learn the truth. After all the noise and after all the ink, after the accusations and talking-head spin slows, maybe it really was Mother Nature or innocent human error. If so, I’ll be the first to have that follow-up conversation with my son.

But that outcome doesn’t diminish the opportunity to teach our children correct principles. We should use this storm and other current event clouds to teach our children right from wrong and to help them draw clear boundaries.

It won’t be long before they are drawing those lines for themselves.

Jason F. Wright is a New York Times best-selling author of 10 books, including “Christmas Jars,” “The Wednesday Letters” and “The 13th Day of Christmas.” He can be reached at feedback@jasonfwright.com or www.jasonfwright.com.