January 21, 2015

11 of 12 Patriots' Balls Deflated, ESPN Reports: The NFL inspected the balls used by the New England Patriots during the AFC Championship Game and found that 11 out of 12 were inflated 2 pounds per square inch below NFL rules, NFL sources told ESPN. The balls had been inspected under three hours prior to game time by the referees and were properly inflated, the sources said. No word yet on any potential punishment. One source described the league as "disappointed ... angry ... distraught." Jackie McMullen of ESPN writes that if Belichick was involved, he should be suspended for the Super Bowl.

posted by rcade to football at 04:14 PM - 134 comments

11 of 12 balls under-inflated and not meeting NFL standards ...

the Patriots must have been using a gauge that was incorrectly calibrated.

Yeah, that's what it was!

Some things never change.

posted by cixelsyd at 11:56 PM on January 20

Well, that story warrants being a FPP.

There is a lot of inconsistency with how it's being reported. Either each team brings 12 primary balls of its own to the game and then they use their balls when they're on offense, or the officials just use the 12 balls that the home team provides (plus the K balls provided for the kicking game).

It is not entirely clear from what I've read which scenario is accurate.

Even if this thing is quickly found to be of no consequence with no dirty tricks on the part of the Pats, it's never going away. Brady could throw a pick next October and the defender might decide to make a celebratory show of squeezing the football to check the psi. It's a perfect set up for that kind of stuff.

The scientists among us may wish to confirm that the volume of air inside a ball can be decreased without removing any air from the ball. Simply by inflating the balls correctly in a very warm environment for inspection, then bringing them out into cold weather conditions in a night game. The volume of air is going to contract as it cools.

But I don't want to hide behind that explanation if there were shenanigans going on. If so, find them out and do what needs to be done.

This story makes me want to see condensed whole field film of how the balls are managed and handled throughout the game. Where a K ball comes from and goes to after a FG or PAT, which sideline each team's game balls come from, how a game ball that gets thrown out of bounds on the sideline opposite from the sideline it came from gets shuttled back to the original sideline, etc.

posted by beaverboard at 08:01 AM on January 21

Yes - cold air does reduce the pressure, but not enough to drop it 2 PSI below the minimum if it was properly inflated before the game if that is indeed a fact. Thanks, physics classes.

Truth be told, I remain skeptical until a non-anonymous report comes out that contains a variety of facts - right now, there are former referees out there saying even if they were under-inflated, they would've been re-inflated at half-time (i.e., the blowout happened regardless), there are reports that the Colts complained about this in NE in November (i.e, a potential pattern of behaviour on either side), and there are reports the balls were noticeably deflated enough for Colts players to notice them straight away, but not for referees to notice them at all, which to me is a bit of an incongruity as it's the refs who theoretically look at balls for deformities, punctures, or other abnormalities.

Then there's the chain of command and sequence of events, and the need to actually prove someone did something on purpose. The absence of an answer to what happened is not guilt, and there are huge absences in information right now that swing heavily one way or another.

But - I will say this - as someone who's been a Pats fan his whole life, if the conclusion is a credible set of evidence that proved the Pats were attempting (whether or not it actually impacts the results or not) to gain an edge and got caught, I am fucking done with this team. Fool me twice, and all that. But the knowledge base is nowhere near that yet, which isn't really the requirement for axes to be ground in the interim.

posted by dfleming at 12:45 PM on January 21

He who sees all and hears all. He who wears his headset OVER his hood and can hear the voices of his minions right through a solid 3/16 in. of tightly woven cotton/polyester blend.

Ever notice how Belichick always yanks his mike way to the side and covers it when he speaks to the refs? He doesn't want his coordinators to hear the conversation. If they do, they'll realize how complete his mental and cognitive control over the officiating crew is. He speaks to the refs in code that contains cues which trigger them to do his bidding without resistance or remorse.

posted by beaverboard at 04:11 PM on January 21

What a time for Goodell to be faced with another disciplinary opportunity. He can't possibly do anything that would hurt the Patriots' chances in the Super Bowl, can he? If he were to suspend Belichick it would ruin the game.

But if he does nothing or gives only a wrist slap, it risks dominating the headlines for Super Bowl week. This is a marquee game between two great teams and has the potential to be one of the greatest matches of the century.

Assuming he finds evidence of cheating, I think Goodell should take a draft pick from the Patriots and hit them with a big fine as soon as possible. The idea this needs to be investigated for days or weeks is a bit absurd. If 11 of 12 balls were underinflated after passing inspection, that's enough evidence to levy a punishment and move on.

The NFL and Patriots are lucky the game wasn't close.

posted by rcade at 04:24 PM on January 21

If he were to suspend Belichick it would ruin the game.

Anyone with a pitchfork in their hand would probably disagree with that statement - whether or not it impacted the end result, I think there's a non-zero number of fans who think an attempt to cheat on the way to the Superbowl should affect your chance of winning the Superbowl. Lots of writers are already talking about this being an *asterick game.

posted by dfleming at 04:27 PM on January 21

Don't you think suspending Belichick would have a much greater impact on the Super Bowl than 11 underinflated balls had on the AFC Championship Game?

posted by rcade at 04:44 PM on January 21

The NFL and Patriots are lucky the game wasn't close

Maybe .. but the issue is bigger than that.

It would appear to be another instance of organized cheating by the Patriots to impact the outcome of a game. A division championship game no less. If proven this completely undermines the integrity of the sport.

posted by cixelsyd at 04:51 PM on January 21

My understanding is that this sort of thing is like a spitball in baseball. Illegal if you get caught, but done often enough that it's not the sort of shocking scandal some seem to want to make it out to be. Aaron Rodgers said in an interview this week that he routinely asks his crew to overinflate the balls, for example.

posted by Rock Steady at 05:01 PM on January 21

Maybe .. but the issue is bigger than that.

It's big enough in the long term that I could see the Patriots losing a high-round draft pick, which would be costly and deter future attempts to break the rules.

But suggesting it should justify a punishment that significantly affects this Super Bowl is too much. It also would punish Seattle, which would see a victory tarnished by the perception that New England lost because of what the league did to them.

posted by rcade at 05:06 PM on January 21

Until we get more sourced facts, like dfleming notes, we're going on hearsay from unnamed people/reports, and I still don't know what the "truth" is even as to how footballs are normally repped, stored, and delivered.

I also saw the same story Rock Steady mentioned, where Aaron Rodgers prefers an over inflated ball. So this suggests this tampering is somewhat common, and doesn't even go consistently from team to team. Which does remind me of Spygate.

I also assumed the balls were shared- they don't swap football when possession changes, do they? I figured the balls were shared from a common pool supplied by each team then mixed together, so advantage/disadvantage is non-existent or at least not controllable. If they don't do that- they should.

I didn't even realize they had separate kicking balls, until the broadcast when one of the announcers mentioned during a weird delay that the ball was the wrong type and not suitable for passing (apparently they are rubbed up differently for varying slickness?).

The Pats have owned the Colts for three years, and won 45-7 in basically three+ quarters. Intentional cheating seems absurd for them to risk on a game they appeared completely and totally prepared for. Not that people don't sometimes cheat even when they don't have to, but until I hear more, an innocent mistake or at worst overzealous equipment manager is far more likely. Any draconian punishments would be wildly unfair at this point.

posted by hincandenza at 05:11 PM on January 21

This entire situation is deflating depressing.

posted by tommytrump at 05:13 PM on January 21

Each team uses their own balls when they're on offense. Which they each supply to the refs for approval. Which is why the Colts first noticed an anomaly after Jackson's interception of Brady.

NYT reports that the only way to deflate a ball after the refs have approved it is to use a needle.

However, if the footballs were kept very warm before inflation (above 85 F, say), were inflated to 12.6 psi with very warm air in a very warm environment, then were presented to officials for inspection shortly thereafter in a 70 degree room, when those balls were taken out into 30 or 40 degree weather, they'd go below 12.5 psi without the Pats ever having tampered with them. The weather would do the dirty work.

However, dfleming rightly says not as much as 2 psi below 12.5. But maybe how low they drop below 12.5 outdoors is a function of how they were handled before the refs examined them.

I don't own a football, but I have a bag of soccer balls. Maybe I'll run a little test.

If the Pats overwarmed the balls prior to ref inspection, they met specs at inspection, and they fell below 12.5 psi outdoors without a team employee tampering with them in any way, the Pats technically did not break the rules. They creatively interpreted the rules. As was the case with the ineligible player reporting. To haters, that would constitute major fuel to the fire.

The ballboys kept the game balls in a big bag during the game due to the horrific weather. No one has spoken about what might have been in those bags besides footballs. If there were any cold packs in there, for example, they are long gone. If you're breaking down game film primarily looking for footage of team employees poking needles into footballs (and not finding any), other details may pass unnoticed.

As to why the Pats would even think they needed to gain a small edge here or there by any means necessary, it's worth remembering that Belichick once coached his teams to play just well enough to win - to command that small winning margin in a league of relative competitive equals. His idea of a resounding victory in Cleveland and early on with the Pats was a score like...20-17 for instance. (BB was on Parcells' staff for the Giants' 1990 season, which is a great testament to this approach, whether in terms of wins or losses.) He may still have that mindset ingrained in his coaching MO despite having had players like Moss and Welker on his rosters.

posted by beaverboard at 05:16 PM on January 21

Bill is furious to hear 11 of the 12 balls were underinflated.

He wants to know who didn't do their job with the 12th ball. That guy is fired.

posted by Mr Bismarck at 05:22 PM on January 21

What is going on? Somebody is going to have to explain to me why this is a big deal. The officials handled the balls between every play and if they couldn't tell something was wrong I'm not going to worry about it too much. Suspending the coach or taking draft picks sounds absolutely ludicrous to me.

edit: You don't have to, I'm just really confused.

posted by tron7 at 05:24 PM on January 21

Somebody is going to have to explain to me why this is a big deal.

If someone on the Patriots intentionally deflated footballs after they were inspected, in an attempt to give the team a competitive advantage, how can you not see that violation of the rules as a big deal? Clearly the league thinks the inflation of the balls is important, because there's a rule and pre-game inspections.

posted by rcade at 05:35 PM on January 21

Somebody is going to have to explain to me why this is a big deal

Evidence is the balls being properly inspected by the officials prior to game time and meeting league specifications. After inspection they were returned to the Patriots at which time air was removed from 11 of 12 balls suggesting there was a plan in place to break league rules.

Kind of a big deal. By a repeat offender.

posted by cixelsyd at 05:35 PM on January 21

I do think there's one potential mitigating circumstance: If there's evidence lots of teams do it, the Patriots should get a much lighter punishment.

posted by rcade at 05:39 PM on January 21

If there's evidence lots of teams do it, the Patriots should get a much lighter punishment

That logic proved unsuccessful for the New Orleans Saints.

posted by cixelsyd at 05:49 PM on January 21

So the league lets teams inflate balls to their liking but not too much to their liking. I don't think the league thinks it's that important or they would impose a system like hincandenza suggested where everyone uses the same balls. So they broke the rules. Seems more like a 15 yard penalty than a suspension.

posted by tron7 at 05:54 PM on January 21

So the league lets teams inflate balls to their liking but not too much to their liking.

No, it doesn't. After the ref inspects the balls teams are not allowed to alter them.

posted by rcade at 06:11 PM on January 21

How does the ref inspect the ball pre-game? Is there a pressure gauge handy, or does he just give them a once over and say "Good enough", and there was no malice? 11 of 12 suggests a systemic mistake to me, else why not 12 of 12 if a human were doing it on purpose?

I also lack a direct knowledge of how much different 2 psi feels. They say the allowed range is 12.5-13.5 ps which is already a 1psi range... so "2 psi less" just a fancy way of padding the outrage, by saying 11.5 is "2 less" than the high end of 13.5? If so, is it obvious by touch, or the kind of nuance only an elite few would detect casually? If we are talking about 11.5 psi instead of 12.5, then that's 1 psi off 12.5, and presumably the Pats would inflate to 12.5 as the minimum... would this be both not particularly large and also an amount that could occur from wide temperature changes?

I ask, because the refs are touching the ball constantly, placing it at the line of scrimmage after almost every down. They didnt notice either, for an entire half? That to me furthers the idea that they were "technically underinflated"... but not so much many people even on the field noticed, the issue was brought up, and the refs made sure they were properly reinflated before the second half.

Which the Colts shouldn't have requested: they were still in the game after a half played with these allegedly underinflated balls. If anything, the 1st/2nd half difference might suggest Brady et al were benefitting more from a properly inflated ball!

This doesn't change rcade's point, that even if you cheat without good reason or benefit, the intent matters. If there is compelling evidence any Pats staff did this on purpose, there should be punishments suitable to the offense. But other than media toolbags who thrive off fake controversy like Wilbon, the players are pretty copacetic about it, and seem to consider it a non-issue. That to me suggests it's not likely to be some grand conspiracy.

posted by hincandenza at 07:07 PM on January 21

I have little to offer here and this story has depressed the crap out of me all day because if it's true, it takes a decade and a half of enjoyment and throws it out of whack like if Pedro turned out to have been on some East German swimmer regimen. Even if everyone else does it (AND THEY DO-- sorry, Pats fan) that's not the point, the point is why the hell are you doing it*, doubly so against a team you are murdering. The refs replaced the balls at halftime and the Pats beat them worse after the half, so it was pointless. All that said . . .

I also lack a direct knowledge of how much different 2 psi feels.

This. Are D'Qwell Jackson's hands marked "VALID FOR TRADE"? How is he noticing this right after making a huge play when he's probably shaking with adrenaline and the refs didn't notice for 30+ offensive plays before that? And why are teams still bringing their own balls to the yard? Do they have orange slices too?

* Unless it's just that the league/ refs only care when it's the Patriots because of previous transgressions

posted by yerfatma at 07:13 PM on January 21

How does the ref inspect the ball pre-game? Is there a pressure gauge handy, or does he just give them a once over and say "Good enough", and there was no malice?

I have read too much on this and can't find the story, but they're measured to make sure they're from 12.5 PSI to 13.5 PSI. Unless there's a ball whisperer working for the zebras, that suggests a gauge is involved.

As for how obvious the underinflation would be, I saw Mark Brunell on ESPN holding balls two PSI apart and he said there's a "remarkable difference". And he's the greatest quarterback Jacksonville has ever known, so that counts for something in my book.

I don't think a ref is as likely to notice suspicious balls as a quarterback. The ref's not going to be OCD about how a football feels in his hand.

posted by rcade at 07:14 PM on January 21

I saw Mark Brunell on ESPN holding balls two PSI apart

The one athlete on Twitter who seemed very insistent on what a Big Deal this is was Danny Kannel and all I could think was, "The fuck do you know about throwing an NFL football?" He probably thinks he could have been an MVP with a ball deflated to college size.

posted by yerfatma at 07:15 PM on January 21

Regarding how this scandal is being received, are there really a lot of NFL fans who hate the Patriots without a clear reason to do so, such as them beating your team in the AFC East for seemingly ever?

I don't have strong feelings about the Patriots, with the exception that I am interested in seeing Brady and Belichick try for one more ring while they are on this great run of theirs. But that's a minor motivation at best. They are just a team that provides a casual fan with a little more reason to care when your own team is on the golf course.

I think I'd like to see them punished if they were intentionally cheating, but I'm more invested in seeing this resolved quickly so Super Bowl week is about other things.

posted by rcade at 07:31 PM on January 21

Bill Polian's suggestion: Just keep the balls in the refs' custody until right before the game, then have a neutral party handle them on the sidelines.

Apparently that's what happened when the league got sick of kickers messing with the balls all the time to give them accuracy juju.

posted by rcade at 07:36 PM on January 21

At least one story I read said that the balls do remain under the refs' control until the ballboys bring them out onto the field before the game.

FWIW, 12.5 psi as a minimum is a significant amount of internal pressure on an object like a football. I haven't checked everywhere for data, but as a comparative measure, high quality soccer balls that are used in elite competitive matches have air pressure specs that are as low as 8.5 psi. And they watch that spec carefully, because people are heading the darn things. The upper end of the psi range for soccer balls exceeds that of footballs, but that's another matter.

So yes, IMO, a variance from spec of 2 psi is a big deal.

If Goodell wants to exhibit some proper leadership on this, he has a week and a half to lay down the law and mandate that from now on, starting with the Super Bowl, Wilson will convey all game balls and K balls directly to the refs and end the existing system of each team bringing their own balls to the stadium. That just seems so antiquated and inefficient to begin with. The refs go to two different parts of the stadium to check two sets of team game balls while the K balls go directly to them? Make everyone play with the same deck of cards.

Since this is the Super Bowl, the balls should go to the Referee Director's office and be handled from there. If you have 36 game balls and 12 K balls for each game under the direct, continuous control of the officials, this story is over for good.

Then it's just up to each offense to game the system however they seem fit. Warren Sapp was in studio today talking about the dab of pine tar that Brad Johnson kept under his QB loin cloth/hand towel. He wanted a bit of extra grip on the ball. He also had the game balls roughed up a bit apparently.

This whole thing may not even be all about what works best for Brady. Look at the Pats fumble rate compared to other teams. If I'm toting the pigskin, hell yeah, I want the Spongebob Squarepants Edition, not the Fred Flintstone Edition.

"You know, Blount just doesn't put the wineskin on the ground all that often..."

posted by beaverboard at 08:11 PM on January 21

starting with the Super Bowl, Wilson will convey all game balls and K balls directly to the refs

Kid has enough responsibility with trying to QB one of the teams, I don't see how this evens things up.

That said, is this 19th century cricket and we're assuming something like "sportsmanship"? Why are teams allowed to handle the object? Gaylord Perry would plotz.

are there really a lot of NFL fans who hate the Patriots without a clear reason to do so

As a Pats fan I can no longer tell. I spent too much time at deadspin where any Boston-related thread is filled with comments like they're from descendants of people who got bussed into the city back in the '70s and didn't totally enjoy the situation.

posted by yerfatma at 08:40 PM on January 21

Nick Lowery once slapped a ballboy after they cursed each other out in a disagreement over warm balls.

Read the link all the way to the end for a fantastic Bill Parcells quote.

posted by rcade at 09:06 PM on January 21

Don't you think suspending Belichick would have a much greater impact on the Super Bowl than 11 underinflated balls had on the AFC Championship Game?
...
Assuming he finds evidence of cheating, I think Goodell should take a draft pick from the Patriots and hit them with a big fine as soon as possible.

Isn't the point of the punishment that it is supposed to deter anyone from doing it again?

When the Patriots were caught during Spygate the punishment was:

$500,000 fine to Belichick (the maximum allowed)
$250,000 fine to the Patriots and the loss of a 1st round draft pick

Just repeating that would imply that the Patriots didn't learn any lessons from Spygate.

I think suspending Belichick for the Super Bowl would be a pretty strong statement.
If you just want to punish the team and not the coach, take away ALL of the Patriots draft picks for the upcoming draft (unless the pick has already been traded away), and make them draft dead last in every round for the next three drafts after that.

posted by grum@work at 09:47 PM on January 21

If another Malaysian jetliner disappeared right now with Eliot Spitzer and three Kardashians on board, the story would have zero chance of making either the front or the back page of the NY Daily News. The staff is just having way too much fun giddyupping the Deflatriots stampede at the moment.

The Jets have brilliantly chosen to fly under the radar by announcing Chan Gailey as their new OC during this turbulent moment in AFC East history. Ordinarily, one would expect a public uprising of some sort with such an announcement.

posted by beaverboard at 10:08 PM on January 21

Jesus, grum, why not just kill them by firing squad and be done with it?

I'm not caught up on the very latest gossip, but last I saw on SoSH was that with a sufficient drop in temperature of 35 degrees between measure and field could acount for almost 1 psi right there. So before we start de-franchising the New England Patriots, let's be sure there is an actual malfeasance to punish, and not just the laws of physics or a mistake somewhere along the line.

posted by hincandenza at 10:24 PM on January 21

There is a handy calculator for doing Gay-Lussac's Law temperature vs pressure problems on line. I ran the numbers assuming a beginning temperature of 30C (303.15 Kelvin) and an ending temperature of 10C (283.15 Kelvin), and a beginning pressure of 12.5 psi. The temperature on the field at game time was about 50F, which translates to 10C. The pressure after cold soak on the field would fall to 11.675 psi. To get to a difference of 2 psi would require the temperature on the field to fall to below zero (F) numbers. It did get colder as the game went on, but not that cold.

A physics teacher on another site (reddit, which I do not follow -- heard it second hand) pointed out that water vapor in the air inside the ball could also contribute to the pressure fall. This would require very humid air at a high temperature (let's use the 30C number here). Since water vapor has a greater vapor pressure than air, a decrease in temperature will cause a correspondingly greater decrease in pressure of the water vapor. What would happen then is that there would be a contribution to the overall pressure in the ball from the air and another contribution from the water vapor. The proportion of air vs water vapor would determine the additional pressure drop due to the water vapor. The physics teacher suggested that the additional pressure drop could have been as much as .25 psi. This still does not get us near the 2 psi difference claimed.

What I wind up with is the simple question of whether each and every ball of the 11 found under-inflated measured exactly 2 psi below specification. I tend to doubt this is true. What I suspect is that one or more balls measured more than 1 psi low, and for the interests of simplicity (or sensationalism) the writer of the story rounded off to 2. The 2 psi report did not come directly from the NFL, rather from some "source". I accept it at face value as something that may or may not be entirely true, but has some basis in fact. What I would like to see in the NFL's report, but I will wager is not there, is a full scientific report documenting the measurements of each ball tested, the time when each was tested, the environmental conditions (temperature, etc.) at the time of test, how long the balls had been in that environment, and a comparison of the balls used by New England with those used by Indianapolis. This last is only to establish some sort of standard, not to determine if Indy used under-inflated footballs. Anything less than a full report done by someone experienced in running and documenting scientific tests will leave me wondering if the findings have been skewed in one way or another.

I can't help it, guys, it's 40+ years as an engineer, much of it running system tests in a field environment. If you miss anything in the documentation, the customer will get very angry.

posted by Howard_T at 11:09 PM on January 21

Jesus, grum, why not just kill them by firing squad and be done with it?

Well, the first punishment for cheating doesn't seem to have made a difference, the only option is to provide a strong deterrent. It also sends a message to the rest of the league that they better toe the line with regards to the rules in play.

As for losing all their draft picks in a draft, it's happened before in other sports and hasn't killed a franchise.

posted by grum@work at 11:24 PM on January 21

Howard_T does the math (new SpoFi column?) and asks the real questions:
- What was the exact psi to an accuracy of .1, when initially okayed and again when they were measured at halftime?
- What was the temperature in the rooms both times, and the other values that would affect pressure differentials?
- To what accuracy is the pressure gauge; are we talking a simple handheld pump with a dial, where "12.5 to 13.5" is an eyeball guesstimate between the 10 and 15 ticks?
- Importantly, what did Indy's balls do over the same period? Did their psi fall proportionately the same?

I expect we'll find the sign off by the refs is and always has been a casual affair where they glance at the consumer grade gauge and call it good. Maybe the balls were at 12, not 12.5, measured at the half as around 11, and called a "2 psi drop"... when really, the ball was inflated normally (maybe a touch shy, but hardly intentionally under) on a hand pump where we can only eyeball the pressure like the hour hand on a clock. But I bet that data never gets released, because it doesn't exist; no one cared before to be super accurate.

Until and unless the NFL releases all the above to prove some kind of tampering, I consider this a non-story and slur against NE.

posted by hincandenza at 11:58 PM on January 21

Good work, Howard. We're getting closer.

Just found this while poking around to see how the hometown reportage was trending.

posted by beaverboard at 01:17 AM on January 22

Ok, I get that New England would have won, regardless of how much air was in the footballs, but that misses the point. If you were speeding down a street and then you got stopped at a red light, you couldn't tell the police officer that it didn't matter that you were speeding since you would arrive at your destination at the same time because of the red light. (the speeding had no effect on the eventual outcome). You were still speeding. In this case, the Patriots, if it is proven to be so, were still cheating, even if it didn't determine the final outcome.

posted by jagsnumberone at 02:50 AM on January 22

Goodell: Look Bill, I need to talk to you about this unfortunate situation.

Belichick: What's the problem?

Goodell: This is bad sportsmanship. You've let the NFL down, you've let the Patriots franchise down, you've let the fans down. But above all, you've let the balls down.

Belichick: *Punches Commissioner*

posted by owlhouse at 03:37 AM on January 22

Rob Gronkowski is not afraid of making a buck off the situation.

posted by Etrigan at 06:54 AM on January 22

Simple solution. Recheck all videos to see at what point 5 or 6 coaches were surrounding the ball bag, blocking the camera view. I'm sure someone somewhere has a video of this.

posted by scuubie at 08:24 AM on January 22

"Rob Gronkowski is not afraid of making a buck off the situation."

Unrelatedly, I saw another Gronk shirt that said:

"Gronk know only three things :
Touchdowns and fucking."

Even as a Dolphins fan I almost bought that.

posted by Mr Bismarck at 08:25 AM on January 22

If you just want to punish the team and not the coach, take away ALL of the Patriots draft picks for the upcoming draft (unless the pick has already been traded away), and make them draft dead last in every round for the next three drafts after that.

That's way too harsh for a rules violation that suggests a $25,000 fine as part of the punishment.

Taking away a single high draft pick would be a significant penalty.

SpyGate was eight years ago. The Patriots haven't been caught cheating since then. Either they didn't cut as many corners or they got better at cheating.

posted by rcade at 08:30 AM on January 22

Taking away a single high draft pick would be a significant penalty.

But that was the penalty for getting caught cheating the FIRST time they did it.
Shouldn't repeat offenders be punished more harshly?

SpyGate was eight years ago.

It's the same people in the same positions.
If a person commits fraud once, and gets punished for it, I assume that if they get caught committing fraud eight years later that the judge isn't going to say "Well, it's eight years since the last one so I'm going to give you the same penalty as last time."

The Patriots haven't been caught cheating since then. Either they didn't cut as many corners or they got better at cheating.

"I swear these are the only two times we've ever broken the rules. It's purely coincidental that you've also caught us the only two times we cheated. I guarantee that we've never attempted to circumvent the rules in ANY other case."

posted by grum@work at 09:01 AM on January 22

Shouldn't repeat offenders be punished more harshly?

Only if there are rules that stipulate it. Lacking that, the punishment should fit the specific violation.

posted by rcade at 09:29 AM on January 22

Only if there are rules that stipulate it. Lacking that, the punishment should fit the specific violation.

I'm sure the commish can invoke the "best interests of the game" rule and throw down whatever punishment he wants. In fact, that's what he did with SpyGate, so why couldn't he do it again with P.S.I.Gate?

posted by grum@work at 09:33 AM on January 22

Simple solution. Recheck all videos to see at what point 5 or 6 coaches were surrounding the ball bag, blocking the camera view. I'm sure someone somewhere has a video of this.

Not sure where I read it, but someone pointed out the sheer number of cameras at a playoff game would make this unlikely. NFL Films alone had 47 cameras. If we assume 23 of those are on the Pats' side of the field, plus the CBS cameras, plus the All 22 camera and a zillion still cameras, you'd have to be pretty sly or pretty stupid to try something like on the sidelines.

posted by yerfatma at 09:38 AM on January 22

Only if there are rules that stipulate it. Lacking that, the punishment should fit the specific violation.

In this instance, the rule book only really sets a floor for tampering with balls after they've been checked - $25,000, plus discretionary additional penalties subject to other agreements in the game.

I think on the basis of the balls being tampered with, you can't throw Brady and Bellichek out of the Superbowl. That's just appeasing a witch hunt who isn't even waiting for an official NFL investigation report to render a verdict anyways.

If you can provide some evidence (i.e., camera footage, or perhaps a ball boy who is being paid by the NFL who comes clean) that goes from the existence of balls that are not up to standard to a cause/effect relationship with one or both of Brady or Bellichek directing people, yeah, throw them out of the game. That's a fair ways from where the public evidence is today.

"I swear these are the only two times we've ever broken the rules. It's purely coincidental that you've also caught us the only two times we cheated. I guarantee that we've never attempted to circumvent the rules in ANY other case."

I am amused at the juxtaposed view of Bill Bellichek being a Keyser Soze-esque genius mastermind who is so much smarter than everyone else in the NFL and who must be constantly getting away with things, but also the same schmuck who's gotten caught cheating twice as much as virtually everyone else in the NFL. How patently absurd.

posted by dfleming at 09:59 AM on January 22

Bill Belichick's statement to the media is interesting, particularly because it doesn't say anything about anyone else (read: the QB who likes his balls deflated) and their role in it. Just that Bill B doesn't really care about footballs.

posted by dfleming at 10:18 AM on January 22

I am amused at the juxtaposed view of Bill Bellichek being a Keyser Soze-esque genius mastermind who is so much smarter than everyone else in the NFL and who must be constantly getting away with things, but also the same schmuck who's gotten caught cheating twice as much as virtually everyone else in the NFL. How patently absurd.

You can be a brilliant cheat, but still get caught because of the number of times you've tried to cheat is simply too many to avoid detection...

I'm not saying the crime (soft balls) is what should draw the big penalty. Since that can happen accidentally, and the penalty is to make sure that teams don't let it happen accidentally, that's okay by me.

The big penalty is the for the possible conspiracy to deliberately tamper with the balls, and for the fact that they'd already gotten caught once before in a conspiracy.

Obviously, if they can't prove that they were deliberately tampered with (and given the NFL's incredibly weak investigative skills during the Ray Rice incident, I wouldn't be surprised if they find nothing) then I don't think some draconian punishment should be invoked.

But if they find someone willing to squeal and say that he was told to do that by Keyser Belichick, then drop the Super Bowl ban hammer on him (or other extreme punishment).

posted by grum@work at 10:21 AM on January 22

I don't think a ref is as likely to notice suspicious balls as a quarterback. The ref's not going to be OCD about how a football feels in his hand.

So the balls aren't deflated enough for a normal person to tell the difference but enough to warrant talking about losing draft picks or suspending a coach for a Super Bowl?

I'm with these guys:

NFL head coaches here at Senior Bowl seem downright offended that people think this deflation stuff is a big deal.

posted by tron7 at 10:24 AM on January 22

So the balls aren't deflated enough for a normal person to tell the difference but enough to warrant talking about losing draft picks or suspending a coach for a Super Bowl?

Like I said, it's not the balls, it's the conspiracy (and seeming recidivism) that should be harshly punished.

posted by grum@work at 10:27 AM on January 22

If there is any sideline footage of balls being tampered with (which I personally think is unlikely), I would like for Goodell to do something clumsy first and THEN have the damning footage come to light as it did in the Ray Rice case. So that the Commissioner's true colors could be held up for all to admire once again - as building security escorts him from his offices at NFL Headquarters on the orders of league-wide team ownership.

One of the reasons the Patriots have an enduring image problem is because Goodell destroyed the Spygate evidence. That should have never happened. He should have been dismissed when he did that. If heads are going to roll in this deflation episode, it would be fitting if his were one of them.

posted by beaverboard at 10:31 AM on January 22

So the balls aren't deflated enough for a normal person to tell the difference ...

Why does this matter? The NFL had a rule, the ref inspected the footballs, someone deflated 11 of 12 footballs up to 2 PSI. Arguing a league rule is stupid after it has been intentionally broken is beside the point. Obviously someone at the Patriots believed the underinflated balls would give them a competitive edge, so they broke the rule and now should face punishment.

posted by rcade at 10:33 AM on January 22

Like I said, it's not the balls, it's the conspiracy (and seeming recidivism) that should be harshly punished.

I see this as so far from the spying stuff that I wouldn't consider it recidivism. It's OJ getting a speeding ticket. If it happened, which seems likely but I'm not sure yet, it is somebody sticking a needle in a ball for 3 seconds because that's how how Brady likes them and no one has ever once given a fuck about ball pressure. They intentionally broke the rule but I don't even know why the rule exists. Either let the quarterbacks make the balls the way they want them or else take it out of their hands completely.

posted by tron7 at 10:48 AM on January 22

Obviously someone at the Patriots believed the underinflated balls would give them a competitive edge, so they broke the rule and now should face punishment.

Sure, but it should be speeding ticket punishment, not murder punishment.

posted by tron7 at 10:51 AM on January 22

They intentionally broke the rule but I don't even know why the rule exists.

Equipment standards are not a new thing - as seen here, the spectrum goes from Aaron Rodgers who wants the ball overful, to Tom Brady who wants it underfilled.

So, in order to get some consistency in equipment that doesn't favour anyone, you have a standard for how the equipment is prepared that allows for some variation that would likely occur during typical game play.

People agree to these rules as part of playing to the NFL. You might not like 'em all, but it's implicit upon your receiving a salary that you adhere to all of them, not just the ones you agree with.

Sure, but it should be speeding ticket punishment, not murder punishment.

A more apt comparison is conspiracy to commit a crime vs. the crime itself. Yes - it's not as bad - but we punish severely because when they intended to cheat, they didn't know it was going to be a blowout where the act was inconsequential, otherwise they wouldn't have done it at all.

That is of course assuming that's what actually happened, which is as of yet up in the air.

posted by dfleming at 10:53 AM on January 22

If it happened, which seems likely but I'm not sure yet, it is somebody sticking a needle in a ball for 3 seconds because that's how how Brady likes them

You can hand wave any rule breaking like that, if you are so inclined.

"The players used only half an ounce of stick-um on their gloves, and no one would have noticed it was there if they hadn't shook hands after the game."

"The team is only over the cap by $150,000, which is just over 1/10th of 1% of the salary cap. That's barely even noticeable, except for some number geeks."

and no one has ever once given a fuck about ball pressure

Obviously someone once gave a fuck about ball pressure because there was a rule about it.

posted by grum@work at 10:57 AM on January 22

Sure, but it should be speeding ticket punishment, not murder punishment.

If I had to choose one or the other, I'd agree with you. Some of the talk is getting out of hand. The Christian Science Monitor actually ran this headline yesterday: "Will Patriots be banned from the Super Bowl?"

... and no one has ever once given a fuck about ball pressure.

This is not true. The Colts complained to the league earlier in the season about the Patriots doing it. The NFL was planning to inspect the Patriots' footballs at halftime even without the Colts noting the dodgy ball after the interception.

posted by rcade at 10:58 AM on January 22

The Christian Science Monitor actually ran this headline yesterday: "Will Patriots be banned from the Super Bowl?"

You know the rule about headlines. If it asks a crazy question, the answer is always "no".

posted by grum@work at 11:01 AM on January 22

Sure, but it should be speeding ticket punishment, not murder punishment.

What if someone was caught drunk driving, was punished, and then later on were caught sitting in their car with the keys in the ignition, with 6 empty beers beside them?

Sure, they didn't actually do anything that caused a problem (like the deflated balls probably had no affect on the outcome of the game as they were only used during the first half, and the Patriots trounced the Colts harder in the second half), but it should does look like they were caught TRYING to do something, and that should be severely punished.

posted by grum@work at 11:04 AM on January 22

Obviously someone once gave a fuck about ball pressure because there was a rule about it.

This is not true. The Colts complained to the league earlier in the season about the Patriots doing it.

Never been a story or a fine before this week even though the league has known about it since November. I'd say that's not really giving a fuck. Unless you think the Patriots only did it for this one game, I suppose. I'm not hand-waving away the rule-breaking. They should pay the fine. I'm suggesting they didn't think it was a big deal. If I thought they would throw me in prison for speeding, I wouldn't speed, but they never have before so I knowingly break the law and drive ten over. I'm going to keep riding the speeding analogy, if you don't mind.

posted by tron7 at 11:22 AM on January 22

If I thought they would throw me in prison for speeding, I wouldn't speed, but they never have before so I knowingly break the law and drive ten over.

So we're in agreement that the right punishment might prevent an act from happening.

Well - if all that happens when you break rules is you pay a fine (which is minuscule compared to the revenue generated by getting to the Super Bowl), there is absolutely no reason for people to follow the rules. Which is the point of a punitive system - to prevent, not to penalize.

posted by dfleming at 11:29 AM on January 22

One of the fascinating subplots of this drama is that mistrust and hatred of the Pats has proven widespread and powerful enough to overcome even Serbian levels of historic sectarian enmity.

J. Glazer is reporting that the Ravens tipped off the Colts about the Patriots' footballs inflation issue. After what the Colts did to the city of Baltimore and how the locals feel about that franchise, I never thought anyone in that town would ever do anything to help the Indy defectors.

I guess this means that the Browns are going to help the Ravens at some point.

posted by beaverboard at 11:31 AM on January 22

So we're in agreement that the right punishment might prevent an act from happening.

Sure, but I think we disagree on the severity of the crime. I think it's speeding, punishable by fine if it gets out of hand.

posted by tron7 at 11:36 AM on January 22

Never been a story or a fine before this week even though the league has known about it since November.

There wouldn't be any news value in a story while it was still an unverified suspicion.

To me, your comment is like waving off the importance of an NCAA recruiting violation because it wasn't reported until the school got caught. How is that a mitigating circumstance at all?

posted by rcade at 11:36 AM on January 22

J. Glazer is reporting that the Ravens tipped off the Colts about the Patriots' footballs inflation issue.

John Harbaugh came out and say they noticed the kicking balls were underinflated and didn't think it was a conspiracy. Kicking balls don't get handled by the teams pre-game.

Which means there is some clandestine shit happening behind the scene or some incongruity going on between sources.

posted by dfleming at 11:39 AM on January 22

I'm working under the suspicion that, if the Patriots did this, they do this every game. I doubt Brady would want properly inflated balls some games but not others.* So the league either didn't investigate or waited to investigate but nothing points to them caring before this incident.

*Unless it's a cold weather thing maybe

posted by tron7 at 11:41 AM on January 22

Sure, but I think we disagree on the severity of the crime. I think it's speeding, punishable by fine if it gets out of hand.

But the point of penalties is to prevent - not to punish - otherwise, they're just revenue generators (which is most people's big problem with speeding fines and how they mysteriously happen at the end of the month.)

posted by dfleming at 11:47 AM on January 22

Harbaugh said they never touched the Patriots offensive balls* but Glazer says the Ravens did tip the Colts off which makes the whole "Colts noticed it earlier this year" thing weird.

One of the reasons the Patriots have an enduring image problem is because Goodell destroyed the Spygate evidence. That should have never happened.

This is an interesting myth-- at the press conference announcing the penalties the SpyGate footage was shown on a loop for the media, leading Rich Eisen to comment, "This is the first time ever that a journalist is watching a video in a hotel but doesn't have to pay $9.99 an hour for it." I am hoping regardless of what happened this does blow up in Goodell's face, possibly like Tom E. Curran envisions:

[I]f the league suspected the Patriots were using underinflated footballs and thought that would impact the game, why would even allow a chance that the game would be compromised? If the answer is that the NFL wanted to "catch" the Patriots Belichick in particular red-handed, then they risked the Patriots gaining a first-half advantage over Indianapolis in the AFC Championship to do so. Which, to me, would show just how deep the enmity for Belichick and the Patriots run at the league level. They would rather set him up than ensure the game isn't compromised.
* I've given up on trying to phrase this stuff in non-sophmoric terms.

posted by yerfatma at 11:49 AM on January 22

Harbaugh said they never touched the Patriots offensive balls* but Glazer says the Ravens did tip the Colts off which makes the whole "Colts noticed it earlier this year" thing weird.

It's also strange that the balls are seemingly undetectable by officials who are handling them and the Ravens say they never touched them (despite the fact Daryl Smith picked a Brady pass off, so in fact someone did), so either they had no basis to tip them off, or they did because they did in fact touch a game ball. Either way - something in that story is incorrect.

posted by dfleming at 11:55 AM on January 22

But the point of penalties is to prevent - not to punish - otherwise, they're just revenue generators

Fines keep me from driving twenty over and they'll keep the Patriots from tossing flaccid pigskins around. I don't care if people drive ten over and I don't care if Tom Brady wants his balls at 11 PSI.

posted by tron7 at 12:00 PM on January 22

Fines keep me from driving twenty over and they'll keep the Patriots from tossing flaccid pigskins around. I don't care if people drive ten over and I don't care if Tom Brady wants his balls at 11 PSI.

The latter part of your argument negates the first - some things you think are illegal that shouldn't be (otherwise you'd care about them), therefore the fine isn't prevent you from acting however you want to act. So it's useless.

Plus - I am sure you're aware you're way more likely to get caught doing 20 over than 10, which isn't about the fine as it is the likelihood of getting prosecuted for the crime. So yet again, I think the speeding analogy isn't correct.

posted by dfleming at 12:12 PM on January 22

I think it holds up.

posted by tron7 at 12:17 PM on January 22

Fines keep me from driving twenty over ...

School zones keep you from speeding at all. Maybe dodgy balls are a school zone, not an interstate.

posted by rcade at 12:54 PM on January 22

To what accuracy is the pressure gauge

Good catch, hincandenza. I forgot all about calibration data on the gauge. If I had done that when running a test at work, I would have been looking for other employment. All of our test equipment had to have been submitted to an independent calibration laboratory, or to one that had traceable standards, and certified as accurate. Next time anyone wonders why military hardware costs so much just consider what the manufacturers have to go through.

Just found this

I had looked at that link, beaverboard, and found that either the writer had done some sloppy work in putting the story together or the physics professor shouldn't be teaching in university, and might be over-matched in middle school. A 30 degree drop in temperature, and I assume he was speaking in Fahrenheit as opposed to Celsius, would produce something close to the .7 psi drop in pressure that I calculated. Run your numbers, prof. Further, he talks about the shrinking of the football. The shell of the ball is inelastic, not rigid. That is, it will maintain its shape unless it is deformed by some force. A rigid structure would also deform, but would require significant forces. The reason the shell of the ball becomes easier to grip is that the bladder has actually shrunk slightly. Thus, the shell of the ball has room to deflect before coming into contact with the bladder and causing it to deflect in turn. Gay-Lussac's Law assumes a constant volume, while Boyle's Laws treat the relationship between pressure, temperature, and volume. In order to maintain the pressure, the bladder would have to be squeezed by some amount to reduce its volume. Football bladders actually do shrink a bit as pressure drops, but the force they impose upon the contained gas changes as a bladder expands.

That's the physics class for today, folks. There will be a quiz on the material sometime this week or next. Find your college or high school physics textbook, or wear yourselves out on Google.

posted by Howard_T at 02:47 PM on January 22

It's fucking nuts how disingenuous Tom Brady is in this interview.

posted by phaedon at 04:31 PM on January 22

It's fucking nuts how disingenuous Tom Brady is in this interview.

If he doesn't know anything (hypothetically) - what would he say that would be genuine right now to satisfy you?

posted by dfleming at 04:43 PM on January 22

How can you say that you jokingly "prefer" a ball being inflated a certain amount, and then not realize mid-game there was something wrong with the balls? How do such preferences exist if there isn't some acknowledgment?

He's also saying he didn't alter the balls, but he's not coming out and saying nobody in his organization did.

He's also saying Belicheck things like "you know there are a lot of opinions out there and we have to focus." But yeah, there's also the one opinion that matters, the fucking truth. And you guys have a limited roster. And the ability to hold a meeting, and publicly report with certainty whether or not this was intentional. So figure it out.

You'd have to be an idiot to think this wasn't intentional. To me, it's very disingenuous.

posted by phaedon at 04:49 PM on January 22

If the NFL knew the Patriots were doing this months ago and didn't do anything about it, they were either fine with it or are (through inaction) encouraging it. Once again, it makes the entire organization look like its led by ham eating ass clowns.

I started this season ready to quit following the NFL and only started getting into the season because the Patriots looked like they were going to be contenders. I'm so disgusted with this ball situation that its made me regret not just giving up on the whole sport in September.

Not that my minor fan-ship matters to the NFL, but after the Superbowl this year, I'm going to really, seriously try and be done this time. A pox on all of them.

posted by Joey Michaels at 04:55 PM on January 22

You know - one thing has me confused here - one of the key "facts" so far is the 11/12 balls stat - but Tom said he selected 24 balls before this game. Sometimes it's 12, sometimes 16, this one was 24. So - where are the other 12 balls in that "fact"?

He's also saying he didn't alter the balls, but he's not coming out and saying nobody in his organization did.

He said specifically he was comfortable saying nobody in the organization did anything to the balls. About 2/3 of the way through the interview.

But yeah, there's also the one opinion that matters, the fucking truth.

Truth is not an opinion. It is fact.

posted by dfleming at 05:15 PM on January 22

He said specifically he was comfortable saying nobody in the organization did anything to the balls.

That's not true, he later qualified that by saying "to his knowledge." Look, I'm not trying to crucify Brady in particular. The guy can play the, "I just throw the ball" card. But Patriots, come up with an organizational response.

Truth is not an opinion. It is fact.

"Whatever." The point I'm making is that by intentionally obfuscating the details, he is portraying journalistic inquiries as "crazy" and "you can't listen to everybody." The point is there's one accurate version of the what happened that is actually true, and he's not providing it.

posted by phaedon at 05:21 PM on January 22

Towards the end, Brady also talked about playing the game with integrity, and yet, what's interesting is the Patriots have shown a pattern of creating the illusion that they are playing the game with integrity, meanwhile behind the scenes they are pushing the limits and occasionally breaking the rules.

Say what you will about sports in general, but this is a big difference.

posted by phaedon at 05:26 PM on January 22

The very idea we are supposed to believe Belicheck, the most controlling image in NFL football, knew nothing about this, is ridiculous. After him, believing that Brady, the biggest name in New England football and the most famous quarterback in recent NFL history, knew nothing about this, is disrespectful to the sport of football and everyone who follows it. I'm assuming the cowards will find some insignificant pawn in the organization to accept the blame.

Two things you can never trust: Cheaters and liars.

posted by dyams at 05:46 PM on January 22

That's not true, he later qualified that by saying "to his knowledge." Look, I'm not trying to crucify Brady in particular. The guy can play the, "I just throw the ball" card. But Patriots, come up with an organizational response.

The organizational response if they honestly don't know is "we don't know." It really doesn't sound like there's a statement on earth that is going to make you believe anything other than what you already do.

posted by dfleming at 06:10 PM on January 22

It really doesn't sound like there's a statement on earth that is going to make you believe anything other than what you already do.

It's unclear what position you are trying to carve out. Sorry if you already did. Would you have me believe that this was accidental? A coincidence?

Because you're making it out to sound like I'm unreasonable.

An account of why 11 of the 12 balls were underinflated would suffice.

posted by phaedon at 06:26 PM on January 22

The organizational response if they honestly don't know is "we don't know."

Really?

The Patriots expect people to believe that they have some unidentified rogue staff member that has a secret fetish for removing a specific uniform amount of air from balls after they have received official approval.

End of the discussion, over with, let's focus on the next game.

The head coach and the quarterback who handles the ball on every down has no knowledge that the ball feels different or has any part in them being altered (PSIgate - love that one, grum).

I haven't played football in 10 years and I could easily tell the difference ... anyone on this forum could.

posted by cixelsyd at 06:56 PM on January 22

Mark Brunell hot taek

posted by phaedon at 07:09 PM on January 22

It's unclear what position you are trying to carve out. Sorry if you already did. Would you have me believe that this was accidental? A coincidence?

No - I find it painfully ironic that someone calling for "the fucking truth" is so ingrained in a story that currently has anonymous league sources at the core of it and no actual, you know, report you can read.

11/12 balls has not been confirmed by anyone - it's one story's anonymous sources. 2 PSI has not been confirmed by anyone. Heck, the Mortensen story has a contradiction between two different reports - one that balls were refilled and put back in for the second half, another that different balls were put in for the second half because the first were irregular.

There are sources saying that the Colts noticed balls in a previous game - and others saying the Ravens tipped them off. So forgive me for not rushing to a conclusion on a story where nobody with access to actual information is on the record yet. Nobody on the Ravens, or the Colts, has confirmed anything they did. Wait, sorry - Pagano is on the record saying he didn't notice anything.

Tomorrow, maybe I wake up to a league source, on the record, confirming all of this. Or - maybe it's a story that a lot of the sources were incorrect and it has been blown out of proportion.

So that's my position - Brady's press conference confirmed his position that he knows nothing, to which I would expect some confirmed evidence to prove that isn't true before I indict him as disingenuous, a liar, and a cheat. If he got up and said "yeah, I did something", that would be a new fact, for which we have very, very few at this point. But that didn't happen.

I haven't played football in 10 years and I could easily tell the difference ... anyone on this forum could.

...except that the idea that the Pats have been doing this at least since November has not been noticed by refs who actually do handle the balls every week. How does that figure in to "anyone could" if they couldn't?

posted by dfleming at 07:24 PM on January 22

No - I find it painfully ironic that someone calling for "the fucking truth" is so ingrained in a story that currently has anonymous league sources at the core of it and no actual, you know, report you can read.

When the league is stonewalling, what else can people do but regard the best NFL reporters' work as the authority on what happened? Roger Goodell is once again mismanaging a crisis. Tom Brady claimed today he's never been interviewed by the league about the balls. Four days in, and the NFL hasn't talked to him?

posted by rcade at 07:33 PM on January 22

Two things you can never trust: Cheaters and liars.

Well, who is telling the truth around here and what reporting are we supposed to believe? Remember how this all started, with D'Qwell Jackson's hands? He doesn't. This is clearly all a conspiracy to bring down the Patriots for breaking with the Illuminati. Tom Cruise is informed and Oprah's couch is ready.

posted by yerfatma at 07:50 PM on January 22

We accept the sports media as a reasonably accurate gatherer of information all the time. Don't you find it a little odd to insist on a higher standard than that because the Patriots had dodgy balls?

posted by rcade at 08:03 PM on January 22

At this point, I'm far more interested in what's going to come from the league than from the team and at least some of the media on this.

The Commissioner has shown an aversion to addressing things that are known to be happening until public revelation and outcry forces his hand. Whether it's long term player health or spouse safety and well being.

Many teams have doctored their game balls in one way or another for a while and the league has known about it for a while. The K balls were also being doctored by teams and the league addressed that issue and resolved it, but chose not to address the game ball issue. For reasons unknown.

Apparently, the Commissioner was fine with whatever teams were doing to game balls until the current uproar arose. Now he has to deal with it. He has no choice. Being forced to act is his least favorite scenario. Avoidance is seemingly far preferable. I want to see how he is going to handle it.

For all I know, this drama is playing out just as Belichick would have it. The media is breathlessly occupied, the opponent may be distracted or spurred to look for other tricks that could be getting played at their expense, and it may be useful as a motivational tool for his own players.

Belichick and Brady could be high fiving each other in a windowless room for speeding the flow of hot lava down the mountainside while having said and done virtually nothing in their appearances.

To those who say that Belichick has wrecked the team's image, brand, etc., no one has ever viewed him as a fabulous ambassador for the organization to begin with. Anyone who cared about image would evaluate every custodian on the premises as a potential spokesperson before sending out the rumpled, reticent curmudgeon to face the cameras.

Marshawn Lynch could be looking on and saying to himself: "Once Feb 1 comes and goes, that's my man."

In a way, Belichick is a victim of his own dynastic success and longevity. No one is asking Pete Carroll what really happened when Mike Holmgren's Seahawks sent out the newest, shiniest K ball in the bag for Romo to tortuously mishandle during the Cowboys critical FG attempt in their playoff game in 2007.

posted by beaverboard at 08:08 PM on January 22

For all I know, this drama is playing out just as Belichick would have it.

I think it would be foolish on his part to think this helps his team. It's a big distraction that's getting bigger. All three broadcast networks led with the story tonight.

The Patriots don't need outside drama to rally around. They're a creative, solid, well-coached team with experienced hands across the organization. They don't need to invent a sense of persecution -- like some immature athletes do with all their "you didn't respect us, everybody doubted us" garbage -- to find their motivation to win the Super Bowl.

posted by rcade at 08:20 PM on January 22

Tom Brady claimed today he's never been interviewed by the league about the balls. Four days in, and the NFL hasn't talked to him?

That's baffling. I don't even know what else they could be doing the four days previous other than interviewing key people and watching video. Tom Brady is, arguably, the most key person involved. It is incredible that we're four days in with only Troy Vincent's "we're looking into it" statement as the only thing from the NFL.

I get that I'm beating a dead horse nobody really wants to ride (and I'm stopping after this post), but as I said upthread, for me - if this ends up being true, I'm fucking done as a Pats fan. Full stop. So I'd like to at least have one person on the record with access to some information who says that they believe the Pats intentionally cheated, and a sequence of events or confirmation of facts. It isn't Pagano. It's apparently not D'Qwell Jackson. It's not Tom Brady, or Bill Belichick.

So it is coming down to someone in the NFL head office waking from their collective nap to actually confirm exactly what happened, and ideally, by whom. I'm willing to wait for that before I pour a scotch and commiserate over fallen stars.

posted by dfleming at 08:30 PM on January 22

There is a handy calculator for doing Gay-Lussac's Law temperature vs pressure problems on line. I ran the numbers assuming a beginning temperature of 30C (303.15 Kelvin) and an ending temperature of 10C (283.15 Kelvin), and a beginning pressure of 12.5 psi.

The 12.5 psi would have to be a relative pressure though, i.e., 12.5 psi above and beyond atmospheric pressure, which is 14.7 psi. (If it were 12.5 psi absolute pressure, the ball would be compressed by the greater atmospheric pressure until it was equalized.) But to properly apply Gay-Lussac's law you have to use absolute pressure: 12.5+14.7 = 27.2 psi as the starting pressure. Which, upon moving from 30C to 10C, results in 25.4 psi absolute pressure, or 10.7 psi relative pressure, a loss of about 2 (1.8, to be precise) psi.

Much as I hate to admit it as a Colts fan, the balls being inflated at room temperature and then brought out into the cold would account for the pressure loss. The only straw left for me to grasp at is that, if that were the case, one would expect the pressure loss to be found in all 12 balls tested, not 11 out of 12.

posted by DevilsAdvocate at 08:31 PM on January 22

The very idea we are supposed to believe Belicheck, the most controlling image in NFL football, knew nothing about this, is ridiculous.

Mark Brunell, who has otherwise been Very Disappointed with the Pats, said today in his 17 year NFL career he never once had a head coach ask him how he felt about his balls. So there's that on one side and your begging the question on the other side. Which should win out? If no one cared about Mark Brunell's balls, should we really assume Bill Belichick is obsessed with Tom Brady's balls? This ball pressure sucks.

But to properly apply Gay-Lussac's law . . .

That, and Howard's posts are why this site is so awesome.

one would expect the pressure loss to be found in all 12 balls tested, not 11 out of 12.

Bill Belichick vows "swift justice" for whoever failed to deflate 12th football

posted by yerfatma at 09:58 PM on January 22

There is a handy calculator for doing Gay-Lussac's Law temperature vs pressure problems on line. I ran the numbers assuming a beginning temperature of 30C (303.15 Kelvin) and an ending temperature of 10C (283.15 Kelvin), and a beginning pressure of 12.5 psi.

The temperature arguments are interesting (even if I barely passed my physics courses back in college), but a former NFL referee said that when the balls for both teams were checked at halftime only the New England ones were deflated.

If the weather conditions are to blame for the sudden deflation of all 12 of the Pats' footballs, 11 of which were severally underinflated, how is it possible the Indy balls all checked out?

posted by Goyoucolts at 10:44 PM on January 22

if this ends up being true, I'm fucking done as a Pats fan.

5 bucks says if they beat Seattle in February, you're back on board.

posted by phaedon at 11:31 PM on January 22

Eli Manning's Footballs Are Months in Making [nyt]

posted by phaedon at 11:33 PM on January 22

If the weather conditions are to blame for the sudden deflation of all 12 of the Pats' footballs, 11 of which were severally underinflated, how is it possible the Indy balls all checked out?

As discussed previously, it all goes back to what temperature the balls and the room they were in were at when they were initially inflated.

If the New England balls were kept at a very warm temp (90 F) before being brought up to 12.5 psi and the Colts balls were at, say 68-72 F when they were inflated, the Colts balls would not lose much pressure when they were brought into a 50 F environment outdoors.

None of the reporting mentions what pressure the Colts balls were at when they were checked by the refs prior to the game, or what pressure they were at when they were checked again at halftime. All we know is that they fell within the mandated pressure range both times. They could have been inflated to 13.2 psi when first measured and at 12.6 when measured at halftime.

Similarly, we don't know pressure the Pats balls were at prior to the game. And we don't know precisely what their pressure readings were when they were measured at halftime, just that they were below official specs and may have been as low as 2 psi too low (which some are saying is an interpretive, speculative number, not a precisely measured number.

As long as everyone is going this deep on the details, we need to know some precise measurement numbers on the Indy and NE balls.

If a team wanted soft footballs, it's clear that it would be very easy to make that happen without technically breaking the league rules. For a night game in January. If there was a 2 psi drop below league specs measured at halftime during a day game in early September, then you have a story.

posted by beaverboard at 01:18 AM on January 23

There's going to be some embarrassment when the facts come out and there's no "there" there, that this is all a fake story for drummed up controversy with no actual foundation- no real complainants, no real facts on the ground, just one person with an axe to grind that "forced" the media to talk about it, and thus compelled the NFL to "investigate" what they probably already know is a total non-issue.


Habeas Corpus
The first and most obvious question some- but nearly not enough- are asking is, "Is there even any smoke, much less a fire?". I mean, we can't even establish who started asking the question that prompted news reports and an investigation!

One person we can rule out: D'Qwell Jackson, the alleged Colt player who intercepted a Brady pass and claimed it was light. He has come out, on record, and claimed no, he didn't blow a whistle, he didn't feel the ball was any different, and didn't suspect anything or notify anyone. All he did say was that he asked someone to keep the ball for him as a memento: his first playoff interception, against Tom Brady no less.

So uh... who even started this story?

We're also four days in, and we can't get exact measurements and facts to be agreed on, and the NFL hasn't apparently interviewed anyone from the Patriots yet. We hear "two pounds" or "nearly two pounds", but we don't know how accurate that is or who is claiming to have observed that, or how it was measured, or where, or by whom. Shouldn't we at least be discussing specific measured pressure drops, and be comparing those to other measurements seen experientially in other games, so we can tell for sure if this is an anomaly even worth investigation?

Oh right- because the NFL has never cared before, they've never kept any kind of logs or records, and it's all just a fuzzy and friendly "Eh, ball seems good to me" when the ref checks it. This only looks like a "controversy" because no one is looking at any other teams, or any other situations. Also, most Americans are functionally innumerate, as my Facebook feed has been showing the last few days. :)


Does the science add up?
Thanks to Howard_T, we have this handy calculator to work with, which simply requires the effective pressure of the air in the ball (ambient pressure + pump pressure) and the two temperatures, converted from Fahrenheit to Kelvin.

Since we don't know actual starting figures, I decided to explore how much temperature change would drop the pressure in the ball, assuming we had a perfectly accurate gauge at all times, in various scenarios. I vary the starting PSI from 12.0 to 14.0 in .5 increments- so I can also look at an intentionally overinflated and underinflated ball, and initial temperature of the equipment room at 72, 77, and 85 degrees.

This is to demonstrate the expected changes in these various scenarios, to see if significant pressure drops- even below "legal" levels, would be expected- and how much.


Hard, Indisputable Facts
First, let's get some facts to work with- actual, hard, scientific facts, such as temperature and pressure in Foxboro, MA at kickoff and again at half time (estimated as 8:20). This data is from Weather Underground:

At kickoff: ~52.0 degrees, 29.75in @6:50PM ET, January 18th
At half time: ~52.0 degrees, 29.61in @8:20PM ET, January 18th

As you can see, temperature and pressure didn't change much over the course of the half on-field, but now we have a temperature and pressure (14.61) of the ambient atmosphere on the field. If you search for a Fahrenheit to Kelvin convertor, Google will have it built in to convert 52, 72, 77, and 82 degrees F into their Kelvin equivalents.

The one big presumption I had to make is that the adjustment due to temperature takes time, so the ball would "deflate" gradually over the half, and not immediately "spring back" to form when brought into a room, at least not for several minutes of exchanging heat with the surrounding room. I'm guesstimating, but I assume it would take at least several minutes to return to 72 degrees, based on this ESPN video showing how in 10 degree weather the ball drops to 10PSI after an hour. Amazingly, this video is from 2010. :)


Calculating the different Scenarios
Below is a hopefully straightforward table, built using the indisputable pressure and temperature above, along with the Gay-Lussac's law to determine an ideal estimate of end pressure after play. At each starting "verified" PSI of the ball and a given room temperature, we determine the PSI of the ball itself after a half spent outside at the above temperature and pressure.

.
Initial PSI of ball14.0
Effective pressure28.61
Room tempPressure on fieldChangeFinal PSI
8227.03-1.5812.42
7727.28-1.3312.67
7227.53-1.0812.92
.
Initial PSI of ball13.5
Effective pressure28.11
Room tempPressure on fieldChangeFinal PSI
8226.55-1.5611.94
7726.80-1.3112.19
7227.05-1.0612.44
.
Initial PSI of ball13.0
Effective pressure27.61
Room tempPressure on fieldChangeFinal PSI
8226.09-1.5211.48
7726.32-1.2911.71
7226.51-1.1011.90
.
Initial PSI of ball12.5
Effective pressure27.11
Room tempPressure on fieldChangeFinal PSI
8225.61-1.5011.00
7725.85-1.2611.24
7226.09-1.0211.48
.
Initial PSI of ball12.0
Effective pressure26.61
Room tempPressure on fieldChangeFinal PSI
8225.14-1.4810.53
7725.37-1.2410.76
7225.61-1.0011.00


Conclusions
I encourage you to double check my math, because given the amount of calculations, cut-and-pastes, and table building I probably made a couple of mistakes. You are also encourage to confirm my presumptions, my raw data, and my calculations.

But what I'm seeing above is nearly indisputable: the laws of physics make it clear that if the Patriots filled their ball legally- meaning between 12.5 and 13.5 PSI, or up to .5 PSI lower but still signed off on by a ref and wholly untampered with after that- that the end result would always be a football that naturally ends up always well under 12.5 PSI, and in some cases far enough under that the value is reasonably rounded up to "two pounds".

My own conclusion is therefore that that there is no evidence, not that we've been offered by the NFL as actual measurements and facts apparently not in science, that the Patriots or Colts in any way tampered with the balls.

In fact, the only way a team could have still had a ball measure between the "legal" 12.5 and 13.5 PSI after the half would be if it was originally inflated higher than 13.5- again, this could be done perfectly legally within the rules simply by knowing that in the past, the refs do an eyeball glance or quick feel to validate the balls are good enough, and wouldn't catch or care about it being 14.0 instead of 13.5.

  • It is possible the Patriots always inflate the ball a little less than 12.5 and/or raise the temperature in the equipment room... but are never called on it. This is possibly a minor rules violation... but since the refs consistently let them- and presumably other teams- use those balls without any complaints or rejections it's legal.
  • It is possible the Patriots always inflate to exactly 12.5, as the bare minimum, per Brady's preferences. In this case, the ball will still end up underinflated by the half by at least 1 PSI, possibly more if they- again, perfectly legally- inflated the ball in a room with the temperature turned up considerably higher than 72 degrees.
  • It is possible the Patriots always inflate their ball to 13.0 or around there- right in the middle- and end up with a ball that's .6 to 1.5 PSI lower depending on the room temperature, meaning they aren't necessarily even doing anything intentional about the ball at all- but can still show, rounding up, "almost 2 pounds PSI" lost.

Most interestingly, per the table above, the only way you could get a football to still be above 12.5 PSI after a half spent in that weather is to have overinflated it initially. If the Patriots footballs were deflated at the halftime measurement but the Colts were not, that could mean simply that Brady prefers them at league minimum (12.5) or a little less, and Andrew Luck prefers them at league maximum (13.5) or even more, leaving the Colts' footballs seemingly "untampered with" and the Patriots looking suspicious, when literally no malfeasance whatsoever occurred by either team.


But none of this math will sway anyone, not even here at SpoFi, I suppose.

Ah well... Go Pats. :)

posted by hincandenza at 01:18 AM on January 23

I appreciate the effort you put into that, hincandenza. Your data definitely makes this all less clear-cut in my mind. Thank you.

posted by Goyoucolts at 01:37 AM on January 23

The only problem I have with hincandenza's essay is one number: 11.

Why did only 11 (of the 12) balls "naturally deflate"? Shouldn't all 12 of them be "deflated", if it was a natural occurrence?

posted by grum@work at 01:56 AM on January 23

Thanks, Goyoucolts. Whatever our fandom differences, you've been a real mensch and a great example of sportsmanship here lately. :)

grum: Yeah, I'm kind of hung up on that a little, but not too bothered... when the story initially broke, I was thinking "Why 11 of 12? If it was an evil plot, wouldn't it be 12 of 12?" So maybe one got a little overinflated (accidentally), or maybe it was the one in the middle of the remaining unused balls so it had far less air surface temperature loss buried in the sack, like the middle rolls in the dinner table bread basket. But that's just me making some shit up for a post hoc explanation. :)

I will of course retract everything I've said- except the admonishments for us to not rush to judgment- if tomorrow the NFL releases hard facts that prove to be a smoking gun. Barring that, then hopefully soon the NFL would come out with more facts, including a prettier version of the work done above showing this was just what happens all the time when games are played in 50 degree weather or lower and exonerates the Patriots. They'd then further issue a statement that starting next season, they will keep game balls in a climate controlled container on-field and periodically rotated in and out, under ref supervision or something, to ensure all balls are consistently within the pressure range throughout the course of the game regardless of on-field conditions.

The hardline haters will never believe the "cheating" stories aren't true, or that no team or QB gets an advantage, but the league and fans can move past this (I hope) utter nonsense of a media tornado.

posted by hincandenza at 02:38 AM on January 23

The 12th ball is for Edelman, who likes it a bit plumper than Brady.

posted by beaverboard at 02:49 AM on January 23

From a local bakery:

posted by beaverboard at 03:04 AM on January 23

Well, I stand (possibly) corrected. In my defense, I did make sure to say that until more facts came to light, which until recently were very much missing. :)

There are now elements that I'm becoming aware of that it's not the pressure but the amount of air- as if leaked out- that was down when measuted at half time, then stayed back up after the game. And that apparently the NFL had been targeting them in a sting because of a prior complaint. Or possibly not, it's very hard keeping on top of this story, and filtering out biased or faulty reporting. That still doesn't implicate the main people; some overzealous Southie ball boy might be out there somewhere, freaking out because he knows sooner or later his name and pictire is going to be on national news.

Honestly, I should just tap out for a few days to relax, and just wair and see what the final verdict is from the esteemed panel of Internet sports historians. :)

posted by hincandenza at 07:43 AM on January 23

a former NFL referee said that when the balls for both teams were checked at halftime only the New England ones were deflated.

This is another piece I don't entirely get: was Gerry Austin in charge of checking the balls at halftime? His Wikipedia page says he's been out of the NFL since 2007 and that he now works for ESPN in some capacity. I guess the implication is he has a source among the officiating crew.

posted by yerfatma at 09:31 AM on January 23

Former Bears ball boy on ball prep:

" . . . occasionally inflating or deflating the balls a very small amount, which I believe is legal to a degree. Quarterbacks are very particular about the way a ball feels in their hand, and we worked meticulously to match their particular preferences," Kester said.

Two hours before kickoff, he would bring the balls to the referees' locker room for inspection.

"I recall them having a pressure gauge in the locker room, but most often they just squeezed the balls, turned them over in their hands a few times each, and inspected the laces. I don't recall them ever rejecting one of our balls," he said.

"My thought process was, 'Let's get the balls exactly the way our quarterback wants them, and if the refs reject one or two before the game, no big deal. But there's no harm giving them our ideal balls and hoping they make it through inspection.'"

posted by yerfatma at 11:00 AM on January 23

That certainly seems plausible to me, though more importantly, if it is the refs' job to inspect the balls before the game, then they dropped the ball here.

posted by bender at 11:32 AM on January 23

The hardline haters will never believe the "cheating" stories aren't true

So football fans who want the truth and honest fair play are now labelled haters?

the league and fans can move past this utter nonsense of a media tornado

Sounds like you agree strongly with the latest Belichick / Brady denial show.

The media tornado formed around the well documented history of denial and previous violations of rules. It won't stop until the parties involved come clean.

posted by cixelsyd at 11:58 AM on January 23

It won't stop until the parties involved come clean.

The problem with this (as is the case most of the time) is that if they have "come clean", no one will know the difference between that and "covering up/lying". If someone says "I had nothing to do with it!", how do you prove you had nothing to do with it, unless someone else comes forward and says "I did it"?

posted by grum@work at 12:35 PM on January 23

So to me, it seems plausible that the balls were given a cursory check pre-game, and "seemed" fine. Then, for some reason, given a more thorough check at half time and were found to be low. How low is anybody's guess at this point. Given how the NFL seems to work under Goodell, it doesn't seem out of the realm of possibility that the "normal" check game balls are given is just what the ball boy reports.

In that belief (cursory pre-game check), by hand is it really possible to tell the difference in a ball within specs and a ball below specs? Especially if you've got to check 24. In how many minutes? Even 2PSI, doesn't seem to be that much of a difference to be able to tell just by a quick feel.

They make a fairly precise rule, and then implement in a careless manner. Seems to me to be similar to bringing out the chains and being short by 1", after the haphazard ball placement during the prior 29' 11".

posted by opel70 at 01:07 PM on January 23

Unless stark, revelatory evidence is found, the league is going to come out of this looking worse than the Patriots.

The league knows this, hence the lack of urgency to show that they are pushing forward with their investigation. Belichick and Brady know this, and are content to say and do little and let the league squirm as the firestorm continues.

The league has known for a long time that many teams tweak the footballs they bring to a game. The tweaking of the K balls got to the point where the league felt the need to take control of that set of balls. Why they didn't just take charge of all the game balls at that time is not clear. When they decided to continue letting teams doctor their own game balls, they paved the road to the present moment.

What other teams have done to their balls is now being widely discussed. No way the league didn't know about it. They have been lazy and indifferent about this issue and now it's come home to roost.

My gut feeling is that if/when the NFL provides info on what happened in the game from the officials' standpoint, the public will see that the refs' handling of the situation was not rigorous or diligent. They didn't carefully inspect the game balls prior to the game. I'll bet they don't have rigorous data on what the readout of the Pats balls were when they were deemed unusable.

The refs either did or didn't simply swap in the Colts balls for use by the Pats in the second half. Or they pumped up the Pats' balls and went with those. There are conflicting reports on that. If they used the Indy balls, they did it almost informally on the fly, apparently without informing the Pats. No Patriot has said that the refs advised them that their game balls were illegal and that they'd have to use the Indy balls for the rest of the game.

With what we know thus far, the story reads thus: the NFL knew something might be up with the Pats balls, they checked them during the game, and quietly made sure the Pats played with a proper ball for the duration, without confronting the Pats either on the sideline or up in the booth. The league made no statement during or after the game. The story was broken by reporters.

Goodell > league officials > refs: "There may be an issue with the balls. We've known about it. Take care of it without disrupting the game. If the subject doesn't come up, let's move on to the Super Bowl".

This is a story that the league completely doesn't want. Further poking by interested parties will show how detached from reality the league has been on this issue, like other issues.

Goodell has to do something decisive between now and noon Sunday. He can't let this continue to drift into Super Bowl week. He is reluctantly decisive at best. He can't be feeling comfortable at the moment.

At the very least, he ought to issue a decree that the league is taking full charge of all game balls starting right now.

If the league lets this go into next week without showing some sort of command and leadership, I'd love to see a few major sponsors threaten to pull their Super Bowl ads. That would get the NFL's attention. The league will allow itself to get kicked in the balls, but not in the wallet.

posted by beaverboard at 01:17 PM on January 23

The refs either did or didn't simply swap in the Colts balls for use by the Pats in the second half. Or they pumped up the Pats' balls and went with those. There are conflicting reports on that. If they used the Indy balls, they did it almost informally on the fly, apparently without informing the Pats. No Patriot has said that the refs advised them that their game balls were illegal and that they'd have to use the Indy balls for the rest of the game.

D'Qwell Jackson has also said that someone took the Patriots' balls out of play during the first half:

Jackson does, however, recall one interesting moment during the first half that has something to do with the latest controversy. He recalls, during a television timeout, there was an especially long delay that prompted him to approach an official.

The game official mentioned something about their efforts to locate a usable football. Shortly after, Jackson noticed that the Patriots were using the Colts' footballs late in the first half. Jackson said it was odd to him that New England couldn't find a football to use, especially in the AFC Championship Game.

posted by Etrigan at 01:35 PM on January 23

It stands to reason that the league has handed over the responsibility of providing the balls to the teams for a reason. When the balls are inflated to the quarterbacks' liking, then they will perform better, making for better play. As mentioned earlier, different QBs like more or less air pressure, but the refs have an opportunity to check the balls before the game. If that happened, then it is the refs' responsibility to determine that the balls are legal or not, and the Patriots should not be on the hook, even if the balls they submitted were under-inflated. HOWEVER, if the balls were inspected and the Patriots subsequently somehow switched in new illegal balls (not that I know of any evidence of that happening), then that would be a big deal, and they deserve a hefty punishment.

If there was no pre-game inspection (which I also don't believe to be the case), then there would be some amount of shared blame between the Patriots and the league, and some sort of modest punishment should be handed down.

posted by bender at 01:40 PM on January 23

This is a story that the league completely doesn't want. Further poking by interested parties will show how detached from reality the league has been on this issue, like other issues.

I hate to throw another Roger under the bus, but Goodell is a spectacularly bad commissioner at crisis management.

One of the reasons this story keeps growing is because the media can speculate on punishments like banning Belichick from the Super Bowl without looking like hysterics. Another is the perception of stonewalling. A third is the public spectacle of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady being dragged in front of the cameras for questioning.

The NFL could have avoided all that by imposing a penalty already after deeming the 11 deflated balls as clear evidence of rule-breaking. Goodell could announce that the Patriots will lose a fourth-round pick in 2015 and more punishments may be doled out later if further evidence comes to light. He could then describe the steps being taken to avoid this problem in the future.

I think that would smother this story within 48 hours.

posted by rcade at 01:55 PM on January 23

The NFL has issued a statement that makes the investigation sound like something it could drag out for months.

posted by rcade at 02:05 PM on January 23

The league found that kicking units on various teams were over doctoring their own sets of K balls to their individual liking, which probably resulted in better special teams play.

However, the NFL decided that they needed to put an end to that practice and took full control of all K balls. Now all teams kick governed by the same standard. The league thought it was important to have that standard.

They made a major mistake by not doing the same to the game balls. A football is a critical piece of equipment. There's no reason why a Pats' sideline attendant couldn't go up to an official NFL ball handler and ask that the team's game balls be set at the bottom end of the inflation range before the game.

posted by beaverboard at 02:10 PM on January 23

I hate to throw another Roger under the bus

But why? The league is so incredibly tone-deaf it's almost a joy to watch now. They've let this spiral so far out of control you had a press conference yesterday where one reporter said his colleagues were rougher on Tom Brady than they were on Ray Rice. It's awesome. Look at that statement: 2 paragraphs of all the investigators and tools at their disposal and then a third paragraph that basically says, "Of course, this could all be nothing and just a misunderstanding. We will let you know."

My current working theory is that this is a desperate ploy to increase NFL ratings. You laugh, but wait until you turn on the TV this Sunday and hear, "Our regularly scheduled Pro Bowl has been replaced with 3 hours of ex-players crying about the sanctity of football. You know, the sport they usually brag about biting and clawing in piles and all sorts of misdeeds. After the break, Night Trane Lane and Deacon Jones will be comforted by Cowboy Bob Orton and Roddy Piper!"

You leave Roger Goodell to dog-sit for two hours, expect to come back to a house on fire and a litter of puppies.

posted by yerfatma at 02:25 PM on January 23

League statement - so far, they know the balls in the first half were under inflated despite a pre-game inspection, balls were re-inflated at halftime and remained inflated in the second half.

This statement on, say Monday night, would seem like an appropriate amount of detail, as all of the cursory measurements and referee actions would've been defined by then. But this is day five. If the Pats are co-operating as the league says, you could assume they would've had all video, plus interviews with all key staff, available at their disposal almost immediately. And yet - on Friday - they're talking about retaining a forensic investigative firm, as though that has just occurred to them?

This is absolutely bonkers bad management on the part of the NFL. At this rate, it is going to dominate into next week - the week that is supposed to be about hyping the biggest game of the year. Is Goodell going to hide from the media until the investigation is complete? Because it's the only thing they're going to want to talk to him about now - not just the facts, but also the bizarrely slow investigation that took at least 4 days to interview Tom Brady.

It'll be a distraction not only for the Pats players, but also for the Seahawks who have to prepare for the personnel they think will be on the field, as well as do a ton of media next week.

posted by dfleming at 02:25 PM on January 23

For the 13-year-old me, Tom Brady does nothing but talk about his balls.

posted by grum@work at 03:10 PM on January 23

This is absolutely bonkers bad management on the part of the NFL.

I know it's foolish of me to get my hopes up, but surely this...

Goodell delenda est.

posted by Etrigan at 03:28 PM on January 23

The 12.5 psi would have to be a relative pressure though, i.e., 12.5 psi above and beyond atmospheric pressure, which is 14.7 psi.

Exactly true, DevilsAdvocate. The thing is that the pressure gauges used are also subject to atmospheric pressure, thus yielding measurements of relative pressure. A difference in absolute pressure would not have been measured.

how is it possible the Indy balls all checked out?

If the balls used by the Colts were inflated toward the upper end of the specification, they would not have lost enough pressure to test below specification. Had the officials recorded the starting pressure (i.e. at the time of initial inflation) and then compared it to the pressure at halftime, they wold have seen a decrease in pressure, but not enough to put them out of spec.

We accept the sports media as a reasonably accurate gatherer of information all the time.

rcade, this is not to start a flame war, but sports reporters are one thing and sports talking heads are quite another. The responsible reporter will tell what facts he knows and can verify. The talking heads will take whatever unverified scrap they have heard, embellish it without telling a flat lie, and scream as loudly as possible. It's an attempt to gain viewers or listeners or readers, depending upon the medium involved. It's their job, and they have the right, and indeed the obligation to their media organization, to do this. It's our job to separate the speculation from the facts, the spin from the story. The 2 psi story is an example. Could some very clever person have done exactly what DevilsAdvocate demonstrated and then "leaked" (pun intended) the story? It would be truth, but not reality.

The only problem I have with hincandenza's essay is one number: 11.

I think I might have an explanation for the 12th ball. It was never measured at halftime! Go back and re-read the story told by D'Quell Jackson about what he did after the interception. OK, you're back with me. He took the ball to the Colts' sideline and asked their staff to keep it for him as a souvenir. So do you think the staff then just turned the ball back to the officials? Nope, that ball is now somewhere in Jackson's trophy case, or at least on the way there. I don't posit this as fact, but it is an explanation of the Grassy Knoll 12th ball.

By the way hincandenza, great job on taking the physical analysis further. I have not checked your numbers, and I probably will not, but the initial sanity check looks good. You have earned an A+ from Prof Howard, and may skip the quiz.

A couple of final thoughts before I take something for my recent case of diarrhea of the keyboard.

On the initial inflation value: In his presser yesterday Belichick admitted that the footballs used by the Patriots were inflated to the bottom of the specification limit (12.5 psi) as a regular practice. This was to satisfy the wishes of Brady. He also said that the practice henceforth would be to inflate to center specification. The question now becomes one of how much Belichick understood about the effects of temperature upon pressure. If he knew all about it, then he was "cheating", but only by knowing more than he suspected others knew. He was within the rules, but knew that there would be an advantage. You may also believe that Bill Belichick and the entire Patriots' staff were not forced to take freshman physics, and thus had no understanding of Gay-Lussac's Law, or at least were not thinking about it. Call me fanboy or whatever, but I honestly think Belichick didn't really think about the pressure decrease. For the majority of games during the season the temperature difference between the officials' room and the field is sufficiently slight that it will make little difference in ball pressure, and during warm weather the pressure might actually rise. If you're the DA, he knew everything all along. If you're the defense attorney, he was ignorant of the physics. Of course, the old saying is "ignorance of the law is no excuse". Does that apply to Gay-Lussac's Law?

On feeling the difference between footballs at different inflation values: If you are handed in rapid succession balls that are at different inflation levels, the difference will be apparent. Will you be able to detect the difference if you are handling balls that are at one pressure, take 15 minutes without handling a ball, and then are given one at a different pressure? I'm not so sure. In Brady's defense, he is not standing there squeezing the ball to determine how it feels after the snap. He is looking at his receivers, looking at the pass rush, and wondering if he will survive long enough to throw the ball. True, a baseball pitcher can recognize differences in the baseball. Within the past minute or two, he's just handled one that feels right, and the one he has now feels different. I believe the same holds true for any person who is asked to make a decision based on sensory perception. For a hypothetical example, someone who is blindfolded is given a room temperature beer to hold, then immediately given one that has been refrigerated for just a moment or 2. He'll likely be able to tell the difference. If you do the same experiment, but wait several minutes between the samples, he might have a bit more trouble making the distinction. Personal note, I prefer to do this test with a red wine, unchilled, and a nicely chilled dry white. Drinking the samples is encouraged.

posted by Howard_T at 03:50 PM on January 23

"My SpoFite is an Honors Student". :)

The latest is... still fuzzy. But the story that's shaping up to me is: the Patriots likely underinflate their balls a little, which is a quiet and customary practice around the league the NFL has never really cared about too much. After all, they take greater pains to regulate the kicking balls as a separate group, but pretty much leave the rest of the team balls to their own devices.

This ball boy, Eric Kester, is on record saying that in his experience, ball boys were encouraged to tweak the ball a little to their QB's specifications, because the refs didn't care and only touch-tested balls so you might get a couple tossed but mostly not, so might as well try. He worked several years ago, so that might not be the case these days. This wouldn't require involvement or knowledge from Belichick; it's probably something that the equipment managers know to do, to get a sense of when their QB likes the ball a little less or a little more and adjust it accordingly. Heck, Brady might not know the rule, he might just say "Ball feels a little stiff out there" or something and they keep adjusting per his tastes.

It sounds like the NFL suspected some pre-game deflation because of a formal complaint (and thus were obliged to check), but for some reason the refs or other officials didn't do a thorough pressure check initially. Thus when they did check at half time- possibly because a Colts staff member reminded them of their complaint, not so much due to "feel"- they found them a little low due to both less air and the temperature difference, then inflated them back up.

Oddly, the Pats played much better in the 3rd, so depending on where they measured and where they inflated at half time, it could be that Tom Brady just found out via a roundabout fashion that all this time he should have been playing with a more inflated ball. :)

I suspect no tampering in-game was ever done, and that the story got misreported as "intentional in-game tampering/deflating" because the unmeasured balls at kickoff were measured at half time and found light. The evidence is likely limited that the most the NFL can do is ding the Patriots with some minor penalty for not fully meeting the requirements- requirements that the NFL at the start of this game, and every game, basically never enforced.

posted by hincandenza at 04:53 PM on January 23

Nope, that ball is now somewhere in Jackson's trophy case, or at least on the way there.

Jackson has said he has no idea where the ball is at this point.

posted by Etrigan at 05:10 PM on January 23

Thinking of the picks that Brady has thrown at critical moments in Denver...Professor Howard, what happens to a 12.5 or lower ball at altitude? Does the internal pressure go up or down?

Also, I expect Welker to come forward at any moment to say that if Brady had only thrown him a goddamn properly inflated ball in Super Bowl XLVI...

posted by beaverboard at 05:12 PM on January 23

sports reporters are one thing and sports talking heads are quite another. The responsible reporter . . .

It's one of the really unfortunate aspects of The Death of Print (and yet another place where sports shine a light on a larger cultural issue) that forces me to disagree with my learned colleague from New Hampshire. I think to feel like you still have a job as a "sports reporter" you need to be conversant with sports yelling, be a huckster and self-promoter and know how to generate page views. Other than a guy like Charlie Pierce who straight Does Not Give a Fuck and can write whatever/ wherever/ whenever he wants because he's old enough and made enough of a name during the good days of print, everybody needs to do some yelling and get their face on TV so they can jump ship to ESPN or the in-house TV channel of the sport they cover. And who could blame them? It's got to be a heck of a thing to have young kids and not know if your job will exist when they're about to go off to college. So reporters work spurious sources and report anything they can glean without doing much fact checking because there's no time for fact checking when there are a hundred other reporters on the same story and someone in that group has fewer ethics than you so it becomes a race to the bottom to publish the most salacious rumor or the story that best satisfies the predisposition of the majority of your audience.

There was a great article/ book review in The Economist a couple of weeks ago about how we "debate" issues in the US:

"Lots of other countries debate such issues as the death penalty, abortion, gun control or global warming in parliament, allowing partisans to admit when they are advancing emotional or religious arguments. From its earliest days American law courts and congressional hearings have rung to the noise of impassioned partisans, hurling facts (and, all too often, confected para-facts) at one another in a bid to prove the other side wrong."

posted by yerfatma at 06:52 PM on January 23

... sports reporters are one thing and sports talking heads are quite another.

True, but there are enough reputable, professional sports reporters that we generally can get enough of the truth on a situation like this to form an educated opinion. So I disagree with the idea that we were going on nothing but baseless speculation the past several days before the NFL finally went on the record.

posted by rcade at 10:34 PM on January 23

This is absolutely bonkers bad management on the part of the NFL.

What's that supposed to mean?

(Couldn't resist)

posted by Bonkers at 01:37 AM on January 24

Justin Verlander has contacted the Patriots' staff asking for an off-peak hourly rate on the deflation equipment.

posted by beaverboard at 10:53 AM on January 24

Professor Howard, what happens to a 12.5 or lower ball at altitude?

Absolutely nothing, beaverboard, assuming that the ball is initially inflated at the high altitude. Gauges measure relative pressure (that is, ball pressure minus atmospheric pressure), the gauge is subject to the same atmospheric pressure as it was when the ball was filled, disregarding fast-moving weather fronts. Now if you were to fill the ball at sea level and take it to Denver, the ball pressure would read higher as a result of the lower atmospheric pressure on the gauge and the result of more force being exerted by the bladder on the air inside it (Boyle's Law, if one of the variables, pressure, volume or temperature is varied, and another kept constant, the third must vary accordingly (P1*V1)/T1 = (P2*V2)/T2). Longer kicks and passes that are overthrown are the result of lower air resistance and a slightly reduced force of gravity due to increased distance from the earth's core.

True, but there are enough reputable, professional sports reporters that we generally can get enough of the truth on a situation like this to form an educated opinion.

True enough, rcade, but their voice is muted. OK, time for an engineering anecdote. In order to measure a very weak signal with an instrument called a spectrum analyzer (does just what it sounds like, measures the strength of signals in the RF spectrum), it is necessary to reduce the noise level in order to see the signal. Most spectrum analyzers do something called video averaging, where the each signal sample is subtracted from the sample which follows it. Since the noise is a random thing, it will eventually cancel itself out and leave nothing but the constant signal. So it must be as we put our own video averaging to use and try to filter the noise of the talking heads fighting for ratings from the signal of the reporters trying to get it right. How this is possible in today's environment (thank you, yerfatma, for making this point) is beyond me. I do know some facts, but I can only guess at much of the rest. If the talking heads would issue disclaimers of what they really know and who are their sources, and would tell us what is speculative and why they believe it, the filter process would be well along.

What's that supposed to mean?

All this time, bonkers, we were assuming your screen name meant that you were a member of the NFL staff.

posted by Howard_T at 04:19 PM on January 24

To try to maintain some sanity, I've been limiting the number of media sources I read on this topic. One of them is Mike Reiss' ESPN Pats' blog.

He is reporting that the Pats used friction, not heat to warm up the footballs before the refs inspected them. So in general, our postulating at SpoFi that the balls were overwarmed, then cooled outdoors after inspection to create the deflation seems to be on the mark.

The Pats have now fully arrived as national bad boys - here's the Saturday Night Live cold open from last night's show.

posted by beaverboard at 11:50 AM on January 25

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