Has Tom Brady been playing "fast and loose" with us?
Oh, Tom Brady. We’ve spent years admiring your mad football skills. Now it seems you’ve been playing fast and loose with us the entire time.
To “play fast and loose” means to act deceitfully, recklessly, or irresponsibly.
For example, a politician who steals money is playing fast and loose with public funds. A job candidate who pads his resume is playing fast and loose with the truth.
And according to investigators, that’s what the New England Patriots have done. The Patriots had been accused of deliberately deflating footballs before an AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts in January 2015. They supposedly did this because Patriots quarterback Tom Brady likes to use balls that that are slightly softer than usual.
Allegedly, the balls Brady used in the game were deflated below the air pressure allowed by the NFL. An independent investigator found it “more probable than not” that members of the Patriots organization did this on purpose, sneaking into a bathroom before the game to let air out of the balls. The investigator also found it “more probable than not” that Brady was generally aware of these efforts.
Afterward, the Patriots staffers and Tom Brady denied it, but you have to wonder whether they are playing fast and loose with the truth. NFL executives seemed to think so since they suspended Tom Brady for four games and levied a million-dollar fine against the Patriots.
In fact, the term fast and loose itself comes from cheating gamesters. In the 16th century, tricksters at county fairs used to fool passersby into playing a game they had no chance of winning. The unlucky players would try to catch a looped belt with a stick—that is, make it fast, as in hold fast meaning “tight”—but the trickster held the belt in such a way that it was impossible for the player to win. The trickster kept the belt loose, cheating the players out of their money.
Ever since then, people have using the term fast and loose to describe any behavior that’s shifty or deceptive.
To play fast and loose means to be deceptive or irresponsible.
If you want to see the “fast and loose” game in action, check out this Scam School video.
Ammer, Christine. Play Fast and Loose. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, 2nd ed. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.
Gay, Jason. Deflategate: The Short Report. The Wall Street Journal, May 6, 2015 (accessed May 10, 2015).
Clark, Kevin. New England Patriots Likely Deflated Footballs, Investigator Finds. The Wall Street Journal, May 7, 2015 (accessed May 10, 2015).
Oxford English Dictionary, online edition. Oxford University Press. http://bit.ly/1ys1qb5 (subscription required, accessed May 10, 2015).