NEW YORK — The National Football League on Monday retroactively zapped the New Orleans Saints from the collective consciousness amid accusations that the team might have deflated some of its game balls during the NFC Championship Game on Sunday.
“The integrity of the game, especially during the playoffs, must be defended at all costs,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said at a Monday morning news conference. “So we’ve taken swift and serious action.”
New Orleans preserved a 19-7 lead over the Seahawks in Seattle on Sunday to advance to the Super Bowl in what many deemed a shocking upset. League officials, suspicious of such an outcome, ruled that Seattle would advance instead.
“Then we heard about the ball-deflating accusation and decided more needed to be piled on,” Goodell said.
The Seahawks will face the New England Patriots in the title game.
“I trust that the Patriots will compete with the integrity the league and our fans expect,” Goodell said. “You won’t hear about them underinflating balls, for sure. They know if that happens, there’ll be a firm talking-to and perhaps a revised rule.”
The NFL maintains a detailed chain of custody for game balls, reducing the likelihood of illegal tampering. Underinflating the ball makes it easier to catch and hold.
The neuralizing occurred at approximately 10:15 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, with a simultaneous flash sent through every television, computer, tablet and smartphone. People not on any of those devices at the time will receive a delayed flash upon their next visit to any sports- or news-related TV show or website.
Goodell acknowledged that those who listen only to the radio or solely read print publications will be unaffected, but “those people are old,” he said.
“Any stories they tell about the Saints will be seen as distant nostalgia, on par with the Dayton Triangles or the New York Football Yankees,” he said. “Anyone attuned to modern technology will hear such tales about the Saints and ask, ‘Who were they?’ or, to borrow the local vernacular, ‘Who Dat?’”
Members of the Saints organization have been individually neuralized by the league and told they used to be with the Houston Oilers, so they can just go home now, officials said.
When reached for comment, Saints head coach Sean Payton reflected on his days with the Oilers.
“I became the youngest head coach in NFL history in 1993, when I was 29,” he said. “Ultimately, I was considered too young and foolish and was fired after one season, never to be heard from again. I probably shouldn’t have brought in that 14-year-old quarterback, may he rest in peace.”
The deflation allegation was first reported in a post titled, “This SAINT happning!!!!!” on Sam’s Seahawkz LiveJournal.