On Friday, we showed you video, courtesy of ESPN, of Jerry Rice admitting that he used stickum on his gloves to help him catch footballs. "I know this might be a little illegal, guys, I just put a little spray, a little stickum on them, to make sure that texture is a little sticky," Rice said.
Saturday, Rice took to Twitter, using the ol' "everybody's doing it!" line to defend himself.
I apologize ppl after doing my research about stickum! The NFL banned this in 1981. All players did it! #equalplayingfield— Jerry Rice (@JerryRice) February 7, 2015
I'd love to channel my mother and say, "Well, Jerry, if all players were jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge, would you do that, too?" but I just can't bring myself to get too worked up about the actual use of stickum. (And please note that my mother would have said Brooklyn Bridge, but Jerry played for the 49ers so we want to stay local.)
What bothers is the attempt to differentiate his version of "cheating," if we can even call it that, from the Deflategate controversy surrounding the New England Patriots. Rice is clearly trying to make it seem as though what he did was commonplace and what the Patriots did was a special kind of "cheating."
"I'm going to be point blank, I feel like it's cheating, because you have an edge up on your opponent and its unfortunate that it happened," Rice said of Deflategate at the time. "I think you have to really put an asterisk on it, because this is going to follow them, you know, for the rest of their lives, because when you look at it, when people go back and they think about the New England Patriots, they're going to think about these controversies."
With these comments and his Twitter post, Rice is taking the position that using stickum wasn't cheating because it's something everyone did, so there was no advantage gained, while doctoring footballs is cheating because not everyone does it and it creates an advantage. It's just fairly unlikely this is actually true -- at least the part about no team other than the Patriots ever doctoring footballs, if the Patriots even did so. Various football people have claimed a deflated football is easier to throw and catch, but I've never tried to do it so I can't personally say whether it's true or not.
However, the NFL has existed in some form or another for over 90 years. Multiple quarterbacks -- including MVP Aaron Rodgers -- have outright stated that they prefer footballs to be either over- or under-inflated, and Brad Johnson even came out and said he paid people to doctor footballs in the Super Bowl (before later backtracking). If Rice thinks he can use the "everyone was doing it" excuse for his stickum-usage, then why shouldn't the same apply to the Patriots? There's no proof that other teams doctored footballs (nor is there yet proof the Patriots did so, only that the balls were under-inflated), but there's no proof all players used stickum when Rice was playing, either.
Let's just make sure we use the same standard for everyone, whether they're well-liked like Rice or mostly hated (whether due to rivalry, jealousy or "morality") by everyone outside Boston like the Patriots.