Never in the history of modern times have we been presented with such a golden opportunity to teach our children as with the sensational phenomenon known as 'Deflategate.' Its lessons can particularly resonate with adolescents, who know of Tom Brady and the Patriots, whether they are football fans or not. Young brains are so plastic, learning from incidents during this time will have has a long-term impact, making Deflategate even more important to talk about. In The Age of Opportunity, author Laurence Steinberg stresses how the adolescent brain is a sponge and that most memories are rooted during that period. He writes, "Nearly everyone recalls adolescence more powerfully than any other stage of life."
Another reason to discuss the controversy is because lying occurs, often frequently, among this age group. No longer under the constant supervision of schools, caregivers or parents, adolescents have more freedom to do things and go places that adults may not condone. So it's not unusual to stretch the truth, even among the most compliant, well-behaved kids. Child behavioral therapist and author James Lehman says that teenagers lie or tell half-truths for many reasons, from to avoiding things they don't want to do, to covering their tracks: "Remember telling your parents you were going to sleep at a friend's house when you had other plans? Any opportunity to teach them about the consequences of deception is a valuable one."
The other day, I was driving my daughter and her friends to the high school. =Usually, I just listen in to their conversations like a fly on the wall. =But when a voice from the back seat said that deflating the footballs was "no big deal," I had to interject. =Here's what I told them:
Any action that gives one team a competitive advantage over another is against the rules. Period. End of story. On top of that, the star player for the Patriots, Tom Brady, was not upfront during those press conferences last winter. Months later, this has come back to bite him. The Wells Report identifies damaging, incriminating evidence about who was involved in the pre-game shenanigans and why. The Patriots organization is kicking and screaming over this, undermining the integrity of the investigation and the highly qualified and respected Ted Wells. They've even gone so far as to set up a website with a 20,000 word rebuttal. Whether you are on the field, in the workplace or in a relationship, being on the defensive is not a good thing. Remember this for the rest of your lives.
As for letting some air out of some footballs, that act, in and of itself, may not seem like a big deal. Lying, evasiveness, stonewalling and covering it up is. In a big way. Now, all the scuttlebutt over Brady's outrage, legal appeal and now the ridiculous interpretations of the text messages is further tarnishing his 'golden boy' image and it will only get worse. And the duplicity of the Patriots organization will continue to get amplified with every outrageous statement they make. ("The deflator" was talking about his weight loss? The 'Tom' mentioned in the texts was not the football player? If these rebuttals weren't so comical, everyone would be mad about having their intelligence insulted.)
The good news is that Mr. Brady could put an end to his public relations problem right now. How? By coming clean, expressing contrition and taking it on that adorable, dimpled chin. Why, even Justin Bieber could teach Brady a lesson. In the current edition of Seventeen, the Biebs says, "You have to own up to your mistakes. You have to say, I'm sorry if I let you down." Tom could be accepting his punishment like a man and the MVP that he is, instead of fighting the allegations tooth and nail. His legions of fans will forget the incident long before the "balls" jokes have faded from Jimmy Fallon's monologue. Not only that, he'll gain favor among a whole new group of people for heroically admitting he's not perfect and that he's just like the rest of us. He'll be immortalized as a college case study for communications students. An upside has never looked so good.
On the other hand, Brady can continue to deny the allegations as his credibility sinks like the sun after a late afternoon game. Recovering one's positive image is difficult and can be a long time on the bench of life. Even for the most beautiful man on earth and the greatest NFL player that ever lived. We passed the football field and the girls seemed like they were listening. I wrapped up my rant with a simple message that applies no matter who you are or what you do: always tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Needless to say, the girls were a little late for school, but my message about honesty, maturity and accepting responsibility -- all sprinkled with a little PR 101 -- was right on time. For parents, educators and other influencers of young people, Deflategate is being served up on a silver platter right now as a life lesson. Don't fumble it.