Judging from the overwrought—and borderline gleeful—reaction from TV pundits to sports radio fanatics, it seems pretty clear that something other than the sacred rules of sportsmanship is fueling the backlash over under-inflated footballs.

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Even if you don’t know the difference between a line of scrimmage and a line of credit, I’m guessing you’ve probably heard about the main talking point of this year’s Super Bowl: Deflategate. Super-quick recap for the oddly uninformed: How did the air get taken out of those 11 (of 12) footballs New England quarterback Tom Brady was lobbing during the first half of the AFC Championship Game—a game that he and his team ultimately (and handily) won?

Brady is adamant about his innocence, but if the polls (ah, the many polls!) are to be believed, a large majority of football fans—most of them men—aren’t buying it.

Fair enough. After all, this isn’t the first time the Patriots have been caught with their hands in the Gatorade jug (remember Spygate?). But judging from the overwrought—and borderline gleeful—reaction from TV pundits to sports radio fanatics, it seems pretty clear that something other than the sacred rules of sportsmanship is fueling a lot of the backlash over under-inflated balls. Can you say schadenfreude? OK, me neither—but you get my drift.

After all, Brady’s got three Super Bowl rings, looks like he stepped out of a J.Crew catalog, pockets a reported $31.3 million salary according to Forbes (tack on another $7 million in endorsements for fashionable merch like Ugg Boots), and is married to the world’s hottest supermodel, Gisele. So I’m guessing guys figure a little karmic payback is in order.

Finally, Tom Brady, the sport’s golden boy, is squirming; that pristine image of his getting more mussed up than his hair during Tuesday’s Media Day. Forget Katy Perry belting out Firework at the Super Bowl halftime show—this is high-testosterone entertainment of the highest order for guys, who are lapping up the fall-from-grace storyline like spilled Heineken on a glass tabletop.

The irony here? While nothing shady has been uncovered as far as Brady or the Patriots go (up till now, anyway), this whole episode has revealed something pretty interesting: Although women often get typecast as the "mean girls," men aren't exactly immune to cattiness and simple petty jealousy.

Exhibit A: A few days ago, when Brady admitted to a Boston writer that his "feelings got hurt” by the cheating accusations, the reaction was quick and fierce. The New York Daily News, who ran with the story, even included a GIF of Brady tearing up (more on that in a bit), along with reader responses of the “Aww…poor thing!” kind. Niiice.

This kind of mockery isn’t new. For years football fans (again, we’re talking about the bros here) have ridiculed Brady for everything from his questionable dance moves during Rio’s Carnival in 2011, to his ever-evolving hair (or possible lack thereof).

If Brady wasn’t so handsome—and flashing all that Super Bowl hardware—would this venom be coming the GQ cover boy’s way? Is Brady being punished for being, well, pretty?

We posed the question to Robert Klemko, an NFL writer for Sports Illustrated. His take: “I think there's something to that. People really enjoy seeing Brady struggle. One example: He was lambasted when he wept on camera in the 2011 NFL Films documentary The Brady 6. He was actually crying over the memory of his parents supporting him during a tough time, but people twisted it into him crying over not being taken until the sixth round of the NFL Draft. Is that because he's successful and handsome? Probably. But I think the driving force behind the Deflategate controversy is the fact that the Patriots have been caught cheating before.”

Point taken, though I have to say, most of the women I know are willing to cut Brady and Co. some slack. And, yes, perhaps it is, in part, because he’s so damned cute. Because even though we’re not as catty as our male counterparts, we will cop to being kind of shallow.

Deal with it, guys…and go Pats!