Have NFL football, its rabid fans, and too many round-the-clock media critics and commentators honestly gone that shallow?

Despite what so many on the sidelines maintain, a deflated football cannot possibly have a pronounced effect on the game’s outcome.

We’re talking about the New England Patriots defeating the Indianapolis Colts, 45-7, last weekend in the AFC championship. New England reportedly played the first half using footballs inflated to 11 pounds, rather than the NFL standard 13 pounds of pressure. Officials didn’t discover the “under-inflated” footballs until halftime, when the errant pigskins – a suspicious 11 out of 12 — were removed from the ball bags on the sidelines. Suddenly, every Tom, Dick and Harry started hollering that the Pats cheated their way to the title.

How can that be? As one observer noted: Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and his teammates had a better second half (28 points) than his first half (14 points). If anything or anyone was deflated, it was the Colts’ skill and will to win.

The word “cheat” has been flung around way too prematurely in this so-called “controversy.” Despite the barrage of slings and arrows, Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Brady are innocent of cheating until proven otherwise. So far, the two are Teflon. 

Moreover, this entire brouhaha thus far merits no more than a passing glance, certainly not the minutes and hours of accumulated air time it so far has enjoyed. Even if the footballs were under-inflated, the resulting dispute should amount to no more than a gnat at a company picnic.

This “controversy” with the New England Patriots is one more nail in the coffin of NFL football. These ridiculous “controversies” are what drive the thinking public’s migration away from supporting professional football. The waning public interest can be measured by looking at the growing number of empty seats in the background of today’s monolithic stadiums as TV cameras follow the action on the field at so many NFL games.

What’s wrong with the NFL picture? Let us count the ways:

Salaries are too high for “premium” players, coaches and administrators. Big money has corrupted football at the professional level beyond anything guys such as Johnny Unitas and Yelberton Abraham Tittle ever could have imagined. 

Too many rules of the game are so silly or overbearing. Do we really need a rule dictating a football’s exact inflation pressure? 

Ticket prices have gone off the charts. 

Skill has taken a back seat to celebrity. The end-zone dances and player victory “moves” are just juvenile. 

The controversial 2 pounds of air is a media-driven debate, a shallow “he said, she said” exchange designed to help fill 24/7 air time. If you like listening to that kind of noise, have at it. 

Meanwhile, “DeflatedGate” might just be the straw that broke the camel’s back. It would be a fitting albeit tragic end to an overly inflated sport we once respected.