Let me preface this post with two things: firstly, I am one of the most diehard Patriots fans you will ever meet. I have an absurd memory of almost every Patriots season since I was 5 (the year before the 1997 Boston Massacre at the hands of Brett Favre). Secondly, if the NFL comes out with an official statement labeling Brady and Belichik as cheaters, then they should be harshly punished. I may be a fervent supporter of what is becoming equated to the Galactic Empire, but cheaters are cheaters and deserve what comes to them. Now that that is out of the way, let’s talk about why this is the most ridiculous scandal in the history of the NFL. We’re going to start with the basics and go from there. Please note that this is not my attempt to exonerate the Patriots – it is merely an attempt to show that there is more than reasonable doubt here and lambasting a team without any actual proof is about as un-American as it gets.
- Let’s start here. We know one thing: that the NFL is investigating whether or not the Patriots purposely deflated footballs before the Indianapolis game in order to gain competitive advantage. They discovered that some balls may have been flat during the first half, and the NFL also confirmed that all balls used in the second half followed NFL specifications. That is all we know. Anything beyond that is speculation, no matter how many “anonymous sources close to the investigation” it is based on.
- The NFL hasn’t said anything publicly, other than “we are investigating.” [Note: the NFL released a statement around 2 PM today, 1/23/15, detailing who was investigating and confirming that the process was ongoing and that they would not comment until it was finished] This is significant because Chris Mortenson’s report on the 11 of 12 balls being deflated 2 psi currently has zero substantiation. There has been no comment from the league confirming or denying those numbers – just acknowledging that some deflation was present. Combine this with the million rumors running around about how long this has been going on, and you are diving into a hell hole of anonymous sources, “reports close to the league,” and hundreds of jealous athletes that were pounded by the Patriots during their careers.
- Take this into account with the fact that there is a well-documented history of Chris Mortenson reporting things incorrectly. If you don’t believe me, Google search “Chris Mortenson incorrect reports” and you will be presented with multiple lists of his failures as a “journalist.” I bring this up because 95% of the country (aka everyone outside of New England) is taking Mort’s word over Tom Brady and Bill Belichik’s. By my estimation, neither seems like a very valid place to be getting your information.
- If Brady and Bill are found to be cheaters, then their press conferences yesterday will go up there as one of the greatest sports farces of our time. Which makes the idea that they stood up there telling bald-faced lies completely asinine. Why would they lie about the league contacting them? If they knew they did it, why would they take the risk of jeopardizing everything they’ve accomplished over the last 15 seasons? TB12 and BB are very, very smart people. Even in the face of scrutiny it is hard to believe they would be that stupid. Why risk looking that bad? At this point, if they are found to be directly responsible, irreparable damage has been done to their legacies.
- ESPN has been crying loudly. In fact – all of sports media has been mobilized to near militant levels. And amidst all the volume, some very important facts are getting left out. For instance, Joe Theismann went out to the Redskins practice facility and tested balls at 11 PSI and 13 PSI – and found that he could not tell the difference. Dan Marino backed Tom Brady up in his claim that he wouldn’t even notice the different PSI during the game. Steve Young came out and said that throwing with an underinflated ball probably wouldn’t do much. So why do it?
- The other important bit that gets lost in the shuffle is that this is essentially the NFL Ref’s fault. The refs accompany the balls more or less all the way to the field – meaning any deflation post referee inspection would have to be on the sideline. That’s a real unlikely occurrence considering the record number of cameras present at the AFC Championship game. And, even if it did happen, the NFL will be able to find out. So why not just wait before crucifying someone?
- The science behind this is hotly contested, but there was a significant difference in air pressure from when the balls were filled to when they hit the field. A ball at minimum inflation – 12.5 pounds, would dip below the league mandated minimum if it was filled at 72 degrees and then taken outside at 40 degrees in the pouring rain (which further alters the air pressure). The main problem with this point is that it is virtually impossible that they would have deflated 2 psi. However we have no idea how much the balls were actually deflated. The 2 psi number is from the “Mort Report,” which as I stated earlier is questionable at best (and notice that Mortenson has not come out with any reports since this initial one, despite assumedly still having the same well-placed league source).
- The most absurd thing to me, in all of this, is that the Patriots would have essentially been risking cheating accusations for the sake of a single half of football. Footballs are checked at halftime of every NFL game (as they are taken to the Official’s locker room). The reason for this is that 300 lb bodies repeatedly falling onto a leather ball filled with air causes natural deflation – and it would be dumb if the NFL didn’t make sure the second half had the same clean start as the first. Additionally, temperatures in a late night game can swing wildly – which would greatly effect the air pressure of the footballs. If this was an ongoing procedure of the Patriots, they would have been caught before. Since that makes it pretty clear it’s not, one would wonder why Tom Brady would specifically ask these balls to be so deflated (insert standard Tom Brady gay joke here), even though he has played dozens of games in worse conditions.
- Looking at the actual game, there are three major plays that stand out to me in terms of the inflation of the footballs. Two completed throws, one to Vereen and one to Jules, both of whom were wide open for touchdowns, were so underthrown that they receivers had to make diving catches to get their hands on the ball. Tom misses throws both low and high – but generally when he is trying to fit it into a small window, not when he has a man wide freaking open. The Vereen catch was on a wheel route, and is a throw that Brady patently overthrows so that it doesn’t get picked. The Edelman catch was on a 15-yard slant route, which is pretty much the best and most consistent throw Brady makes. The third play was the Gronk interception – which was a forced throw, but it was also sorely underthrown. Tom Brady likes to miss these passes, in these situations, high to avoid the risk of turnovers. Always has. The ball was thrown perfectly to Da’Quell Jackson, who, it is worth noting, insists that he was not the start of this fiasco.
- Coming out for the third – in which the NFL has confirmed the balls had been reinflated back up to spec – Tom Brady opened 9-9 and led four straight touchdown drives, scoring twice as much as he did in the first half. So there goes the theory that it gave us a competitive advantage. Although that does not answer the question of whether we did it, it does answer the question that Tom Brady is just fine with a 12.5 psi football.
[UPDATES, 1/26/2015: The weekend has seen a slue of progress in the DeflateGate scamdal. Perhaps most notably, BB’s press conference Saturday was basically a giant middle finger to all the haters, in which he boldly proclaimed the Patriots’ innocence and shared the results of the Patriots testing on the matter. While much of the reaction to this has been scoffing, including by famous nerd and childhood hero Bill Nye the Science Guy, there has been equally as much confirmation. HeadSmart labs, of Pittsburgh, simulated the same conditions and discovered that a 1.95 PSI drop was more than possible from weather conditions alone. Folks at MIT agreed that this was more than possible [link coming, front page of Boston Globe this morning], although the Football manufacturer didn’t. ESPN additionally pulled a SportsScience video that more or less stated that deflating the footballs would be useless in a game situation. Unfortunately for them this is the Internet and you can’t hide anymore.
The lesson here? Don’t trust the media. This ridiculous scandal has become a microcosm of our society: a place where “science” no longer holds up but instead the “truth” is awarded to those shouting the loudest. Given that multiple studies from outside the Patriots’ organization have exonerated the science behind deflated footballs, it would seem that this issue should lose steam. I am increasingly convinced that this is a non-issue. However, most of the country will continue to cry about it without understanding it for at least the next year or so. Patriots fans are going to be OK with that if they win the Super Bowl.]
[UPDATE, 1/27/15: Fox Sports is reporting that the NFL’s investigation is now focusing on the Patriot’s locker room attendant, who allegedly can be seen on video taking the balls from the official’s locker room to a different room. Is this true? The NFL has no comment.
I initially thought this was seriously condemning piece of information. However, the full report released by Pro Football Talk has the attendant carry all 24 balls into the bathroom for approximately 90 seconds. Now this is seriously sketchy, no doubt, but the reality is that he’d have to deflate each ball in 8 seconds and have to do it in a way where there was consistency in the pressure and feel. It seems equally likely the dude took a piss and washed his hands (and didn’t want to risk leaving the balls unsupervised). The NFL also has still not released an official comment regarding the progress of the investigation, besides the one that said it was happening and who was leading it. For me, until that happens, this is very much an open issue.]
[Update, 1/29/15: A lot of crap continues to be thrown around, including Ex-QB Jeff Blake saying that he watched as footballs were routinely deflated on the sideline of games. My friend Dan Lifshatz also helped break a further story, here is his quote (sorry for any grammar/punctuation issues, it was on facebook):
So after working this Deflate Gate story for a few days now, trying to speak to everyone around the league I can (which is like 4 people), I was able to communicate with some other people who have very good info on what happened with the whole controversy (Vegas). Basically, here’s the story: Pats DID underinflate the footballs, but not in an illegal way. Pats handed balls over to refs at 11.5 PSI. Refs rarely use gauges, but despite what has been reported, Walt Anderson AND his crew did NOT use gauges as Toucher & Rich reported this morning, Because of this, they hand approved the balls at 11.5 PSI, which IS under the legal limit. Many QB’s and teams do this and expect refs to inflate to 12.5 PSI. Aaron Rodgers for instance, likes his around 14-14.5 PSI. Because of this, Pats played the half with 10 of the 12 balls at 11.5 PSI. One ball was at 12.1, and the other, 10.2, the only ball the Colts had access to. Because of this, the Colts reported it to the league office through their equipment manager to their general manager Ryan Grigson. The Ravens had tipped off the Colts regarding this issue (John Harbaugh and Pagano, the connection is easy) and the Colts, while I DO NOT KNOW, seem to have helped perpetuate the process to ensure the Patriots get in trouble, however no, I do not know this for certain. The balls were then measured CORRECTLY at halftime, and inflated back to 12.5 where the Pats ended up dominating the half 28-0 anyways with the legal balls. So, the NFL had ruined the so-called “evidence” anyways. After the game, the NFL came in for a investigation, an investigation headed by Mike Kensil, a current NFL employee, and former employee of the New York Jets with a reported disdain for the Pats. See here if you have any questions (http://www.si.com/nfl/2015/01/26/nfl-mike-kensil-deflategate)
Kensil, was also one of the MAIN decidees to rat out the Pats during Spygate, something the Steelers and then-coach Bill Cowher admitted to doing at that time. After looking into the investigation, the NFL realized that Anderson and his crew did NOT use the pressure gauges, and despite what was reported, no “sting” operation was in place except for a tip-off from the Ravens to the Colts. The NFL, realizing that questions were asked about the 3rd quarter switch of the footballs, had sources leaked that the Pats were using under-inflated footballs in the 1st half of the AFC Championship. Instead of having another MAJOR issue on their hands before the biggest game of the year, the league has quietly decided to blame the Pats for placing them in this position anyway by under-inflating balls to 11.5 PSI, which is kind of what Bill said in his presser the other day. Instead of the NFL taking scrutiny, they shifted the issue to the Pats, an easy target of accused cheating which had many (including myself) fully convinced that the team had done it. However, a NFL investigation headed by Ted Wells (not to investigate the team, but the process and refs including Walt Anderson) has proven to show that their was no time where the Pats could have deflated all 24 footballs (12 regular, 12 backup), except for the 93 seconds where a ball boy bringing the balls from the refs room to the field stopped in the bathroom. I DARE you to try to reduce 12-24 footballs of almost 1.0 PSI in 93 seconds. Please…try it, its beyond impossible.
At the end of the day, the NFL has YET to interview Tom Brady BECAUSE there is nothing to interview him about. There is no question Tom likes his footballs soft, however, there is no direct evidence whatsoever linking the Pats to the deflation of the balls AFTER the refs approved the footballs for gameplay. Bill Belichick stood firm on this ground, explaining every last detail the Pats did (most of it was BS in my mind but thats another story). Robert Kraft then fired a shot at Robert Goodell, reminding him who he worked for as well. In the end, the “case” will find no evidence of the Pats doing any-wrongdoing and will vindicate the Pats with no punishment. However, the stain from the NFL has already worn on the Pats and fans who hate the team. However, it appears this is an NFL issue, which explains the presence of Ted Wells, who is supposed to investigate the NFL ONLY. While many leaks from the NFL have come out, nothing concrete has been reported despite Jay Glazer and Chris Mortensen having part, but not the whole story. That is what I know and have now heard it from multiple I trust….believe it or not, I think it makes 100% sense…you cannot trust the NFL
Finding will be released within the week or 2 after the Superbowl”
Note that ESPN hasn’t said a single word about Mike Kensil… nice ESPN.]
Most of the country seems to have already made up their mind. But, if you are an intelligent sports fan that doesn’t trust FOX as your primary news source, and the above facts don’t make you question the situation as a whole, then you need to work on your investigative prowess. Either way, one thing is for sure: people need to calm down until we get actual answers. Justice will be served where justice is due.