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21 Jan 2015

Best of Football Outsiders: The Taint

(Ed. Note: Mike Tanier wrote this in March of 2012 and it seems appropriate to repost at this time, especially since Brad Johnson has been nice enough to give us yet another "tainted" championship. Feel free to use the discussion thread below to let out all your primal screams about the current Patriots scandal -- and keep it out of threads that discuss the actual on-field Super Bowl matchup. Thanks. -- Aaron Schatz)

by Mike Tanier

For those of you keeping score at home...

It is now possible to claim that the Saints victory in Super Bowl XLIV was tainted. Not just possible, but fashionable: a few major football analysts have made off-the-cuff remarks to that effect in recent weeks.

It is also possible to use some combination of Spygate and the Tuck Rule to void any and all of the Patriots Super Bowl victories. The Tuck Rule is a non-starter among knowledgeable fans and writers; it was a poor rule that was poorly applied, but a rule is a rule, and the Patriots still had to tie the game and come back, blah, blah, blah. Spygate still lingers in the minds of many people who send me long e-mails, and the Giants' victory in Super Bowl XLVI provides ammunition to conspiracy theorists, who claim that the Patriots are 0-2 in the Super Bowl when they don’t have secret knowledge of the other team’s game plan, blah, blah, blah.

Super Bowl XL can also be nullified by those who think the officials nudged the Steelers to victory because they are a popular team with an international fan base, while the Seahawks are the Seahawks. Please, for the love of heaven please, do not rehash the particulars of this game in the discussion thread. I promise to not editorialize on my personal feelings about this or that call, or the specifics of Spygate or Bountygate for that matter, because the individual scandals are not quite the point here. I look forward to your thoughts on scandal-mindedness or the phenomenon of discounting championships, but if I see a frame-by-frame analysis of Darrell Jackson’s exact arm movements in the end zone seven years ago in the discussion thread, I will treat it like a penis enlargement advertisement.

That now potentially taints, nullifies, or otherwise disparages five of the last 11 Super Bowl winners. If you are conspiracy-minded, or scandal-minded, or you just like to be contrary and have a thing for dethroning champions, you now have the power to erase nearly half of recent NFL history and rewrite it the way you wish. And that is without digging too hard to find steroid scandals or blown late-season calls that affected the course of future events.

During editing, the guys reminded me that the Broncos were fined for circumventing the salary cap during their Super Bowl seasons. That makes seven of 15 championships! There have been debates on our message boards and elsewhere about whether CapGate was worse than SpyGate, where BountyGate belongs in the hierarchy, and so on. Usually, the rankings fall along strict fandom lines, with Seahawks fans abstaining and stomping their feet a lot. And of course, the whole -gate suffix phenomenon secretly makes me wish that Nixon tried to break into the Bandershit.

(Again, it turns out to be eight, not seven. Thanks, Brad Johnson.)

This is an alarming amount of nonsense fodder, and I fear it could cause an epidemic of the inane. It’s one thing to still have a handful of people treating Super Bowl III like it was the moon landing. It’s another thing to give an entire recent decade completely over to revisionists. All that’s at stake when we sprinkle winking little suspicions over championships is the credibility of the sport itself, plus the delicate joy of the fan experience.

Baseball fans appear to be okay with the fact that an entire generation of players, events, and championships has been briskly labeled "The Steroid Era," which basically turns many joyous memories of my early adulthood into a cesspool of homogenized filth. Baseball’s steroid scandal was a real, league-wide issue that was hijacked by bleating, ill-informed alarmists and sensationalists and flown directly to Crazyland. The NCAA does this sort of thing to our memories all the time, literally wiping teams and seasons out of the record book, but I think we all know that the first qualification for working for the NCAA is to read a lot of George Orwell, and the second qualification is to completely misunderstand it.

We are one big scandal away from allowing the same thing to happen in the NFL. What if we learn that Tom Coughlin has secret cameras, or the 2010 Packers had a bounty system, or the Manning brothers did something heretofore unimaginable but dangerous to opponents' health or competitive balance? Welcome to The Scandal Era. Or the Spygate-Bountygate-ManningVampireGate Era. The era when the team that won the Super Bowl didn’t deserve it, so that parade your father took you to might as well have been a tickertape parade for a serial killer.

Only cool heads can prevent such a thing.

So let us vow to be those cool heads. Repeat after me:

Bounties are bad. They are also probably much more common than most fans realize and nearly every NFL team has done something only slightly less sinister than the Saints did at some point. Whether or not bounties played a role in the Saints Super Bowl victory, championships are often won under unusual circumstances, and directly crediting "bounties" misleadingly oversimplifies a complex situation in the name of recklessly cheapening an accomplishment which brought excitement to millions of fans.

Videotaping opponents’ defensive signals was bad. It was also much more common than most fans realized at the time, and many NFL teams did something only slightly less sinister than the Patriots did in the Spygate scandal. Whether or not Spygate played a role in the Patriots Super Bowl victories, championships are often won under unusual circumstances, and directly crediting "Spygate" misleadingly oversimplifies a complex situation in the name of recklessly cheapening accomplishments which brought excitement to millions of fans.

Bad officiating is bad. It is also incredibly common, as most fans realize, and every NFL team benefits from dubious officiating at some point. Whether or not bad/biased officiating played a role in the Steelers’ Super Bowl victory, championships are often won under unusual circumstances, and directly crediting "officiating bias" misleadingly oversimplifies a complex situation in the name of recklessly cheapening an accomplishment which brought excitement to millions of fans.

Anything else? The Manning brothers are not vampires. Earl Morrall did not see Johnny Orr in the end zone. And since major league baseball did not ban steroids until much later, no one was cheating, because breaking the law is not cheating, nor is "violating the sacred sanctity of our green cathedrals blah blah pontifiblah."

Every champion gets lucky. Every team in history has leaned on a few rules, sometimes inadvertently. We all drive 70 miles per hour in 55-zones. None of us would dance to an IRS audit with a shoebox full of itemized receipts, whistling "I have nothing to hide," even if we are saintly accountants, because we know the tax code has dark corners where we can get lost, and that client dinner did not have to end at 3:45 a.m., inside a Tattletales.

Every champion earned its championship. We can conjure up acts of obvious cheating –- poisoning the opponent’s team breakfast, for example –- that could be cause to nullify a championship. But they haven’t happened, and probably won’t.

Let’s condemn bounties and praise the 2009 Saints. And let’s be angry about recent scandals for the most important reason: because we really, truly love football.

Posted by: Mike Tanier on 21 Jan 2015

672 comments, Last at 01 Feb 2015, 3:25pm by anotherpatsfan


by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 12:51pm

There is a huge difference between an individual player breaking rules in pursuit of an advantage, and management engaging in a pattern of rule breaking.

by RickD :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 12:52pm

Oy vey.

I view last night's leak by the league as a sign that their case is weak. I would prefer it if they didn't feel like they should act like prosecutors, but instead would act like investigators. Some people doing quick calculations have suggested that it's ordinary for a ball to lose 1 PSI moving from a warm locker room to a cold, wet, playing field.

If the league has evidence of tampering, they should bring it. It would also be nice for the Patriots to issue a categorical rejection of the notion that anybody associated with the team tampered with the footballs. If BB did tamper with the footballs (seems unlikely to me), he needs to retire.

Maybe we can get the guys from Mythbusters on this. They do a much better job accounting for all the variables than I expect the league would do.

Finally, apparently the league is "livid" about this development. Sad that they discovered this word now and not when they saw the Ray Rice video (which they undoubtedly did see).

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 1:03pm


Each new release of facts keeps looking worse and worse.

The difference here between Rice and this, or even between Hernandez and this (classy organization you guys have), is that off the field scandals don't materially affect the on-field product. Cheating, however, does. The NFL can survive the perception that their players are criminals. The Raiders basically developed their fan base that way. What the NFL cannot survive is the perception that their game is fixed. This is why the Fail Mary ended the referee lockout overnight.

But what we have is that 11/12 Pats balls were illegal. 0/12 Colts balls were illegal. All balls were legal as of 10 minutes before game-time. At least one Colts player immediately noticed the Pats balls were off, and it appears at least one ref noticed as well. That one legal Patriots ball looks bad -- it would suggest the Pats knew they were breaking a rule, and kept one legal ball for emergencies. This implies malice aforethought.

Man, I wish Caldwell were as smart as Belichick. Simply bribing Corrente would have at least gotten DET into the conference semis.

by RickD :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 1:09pm

I don't believe any of the Colts' balls were tested.

Gee, thanks for bringing up Aaron Hernandez, as if that were relevant. Should I bring up Marvin Harrison?

"That one legal Patriots ball looks bad -- it would suggest the Pats knew they were breaking a rule, and kept one legal ball for emergencies. This implies malice aforethought."

Wow, that's pathetic. You honestly think that somehow somebody thought that the Patriots could use illegal balls all day, and would also think that all they would have to do is provide one legal ball to escape punishment? As if they could say "here, test this ball and only this ball!"

That's just idiotic. It's a ludicrous premise. Don't get carried away with your conspiracy theories.

by Eddo :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 1:16pm

The Colts balls were tested at halftime. All twelve were in the allowed range.

by Pat :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 1:39pm

Where did you see that? There's no "official story" on this anywhere - and the article by Mortenson doesn't mention this.

by Eddo :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 2:24pm

I read that in a summary of the Gerry Austin comments. I can't seem to find it again - maybe it was since removed.

If so, mea culpa.

EDIT: Apparently, he said that twelve of twelve passed on "Mike and Mike"; but I haven't actually seen a transcript, so who knows?

by Bobman :: Fri, 01/23/2015 - 1:57am

It is everywhere.

by Anon Ymous :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 3:49pm

"Wow, that's pathetic. You honestly think that somehow somebody thought that the Patriots could use illegal balls all day, and would also think that all they would have to do is provide one legal ball to escape punishment? As if they could say 'here, test this ball and only this ball!'"

Yeah, Aaron's commentary leaves a lot to be desired, particularly coming from someone whose team is known for piping in crowd noise. Should their 2006 championship be vacated now?

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 4:26pm

The last time my team won a championship, it was played in a baseball stadium, and it beat a Browns team that still had both Browns.

by Anon Ymous :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 4:36pm

Ahhh... mea culpa then. I saw the reference to Marvin Harrison and assumed that person had knowledge of your allegiance that I lacked.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 1:02am

You have been biased but mostly civil until that crowd noise comment. I didn't know people still talked about that (or ever believed it). It's complete bull and the "proof" was clearly shown to be a CBS glitch. Small building and low roof = noise. Simple.

(Now, if you want to complain about the temperature in the 07 championship, you'll get no argument from anyone who was there... but I'd have a hard time believing that's any different from deliberately leaving grass unmowed and uncovered for a week...)

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 4:49pm
by Noah Arkadia :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 10:44am

Whoa! To me this changes everything. The Colts balls were ok but not the Pats? The league knew it was an issue before the game? And the play in which the officials stop the game to change balls. I don't recall ever seeing that before.

Also, why is it always the Pats when something like this happens?

Who, me?

by Pat :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 1:10pm

I view last night's leak as the league saying yeah, something happened, but we have no proof other than the fact that something happened.

That 2 PSI drop is not 'normal.' Yes, you can handwave that you might lose 1 PSI going from a warm room to a playing field, but c'mon. I don't believe the NFL is so incompetent that a high school physics student could figure out the problem. If you bring the balls back inside to test them, and if the testing machine warms them up even a little, the temperature effects pretty much go away.

So at this point, all the league probably knows is:
1) When they were tested by the officials, they were OK
2) at halftime, they were not
3) this is not normal

The most likely reason for this happening is someone on the Patriots letting air out of the balls. You could handwave other explanations, but I doubt they would be likely enough to avoid that conclusion.

But until you know who or how it happened, you can't say anything, and I think that's where the league is now.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 1:22pm

I think you're largely correct, but I also think it is a mistake to believe that the standard of proof in a matter like this is beyond a reasonable doubt. At a certain point, 31 other owners of this cartel can conclude that the brand is threatened enough that a preponderance of the evidence is sufficient to establish that somebody's gotta go away. Where is that point? Beats me.

by Pat :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 1:35pm

You're right that the private standard is lower: but for the league to do anything publicly, they really do need to have something close to a "beyond a reasonable doubt" level of proof.

Suspicion/circumstantial evidence/etc. would probably lead to something like a fine and possibly some action coming through the Patriots rather than the league. I really, really doubt that this is a "someone goes away" level offense, since the league hasn't come out and even said that teams were warned about this.

That being said, Belichick is pretty well established as pushing as many boundaries as he can to get a competitive advantage. At some point you'd have to imagine that the other owners will tell Kraft to get him under control.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 1:43pm

The easiest thing to do is to have a 40K a year slob take the fall, with some unseen monetary encouragement. Yeah, I'm cynical.

by Revenge :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 1:49pm

Oh undoubtedly this will end up being some "rogue ballboy", and no players or coaches had any idea such malfeasance was going on. Problem solved.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 2:01pm

If they could somehow credibly produce evidence that the balls were within a half mile of the Bristol County Jail, they could hang it on Hernandez!

(no, I'm not serious)

by Hang50 :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 1:48pm

The most likely reason for this happening is someone on the Patriots letting air out of the balls. You could handwave other explanations, but I doubt they would be likely enough to avoid that conclusion.


Given that the altered balls would have been noticed by at least the center, QB, RBs, and receivers, it's almost certain that several people knew about or were complicit in the activity. (I'd be astonished if NFL players who regularly handle the ball couldn't tell at once when a ball is under- or over-inflated.)

Put another way, if the balls had been over-inflated, causing Brady to complain during the NFC title game, the equipment manager would be have been shown the door by the end of the first quarter.

by Insancipitory :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 1:20pm

The Patriots can't issue a denial until they have a complete accounting of the facts themselves. Maybe a ball boy wanted to give a 110%, and took some initiative after privately noting The Brady liked footballs with a little more give. Who knows what sinister or mundane reality set in motion the events that threaten to ruin Gridiron Christmas. If the Patriots don't know, issue an uncategorical denial, and are eventually proven wrong, they'll manage to look even worse and potentially make whatever mundane cause uncovered unforgivable.

by smade :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 2:05pm

The correct response is that a question was raised about the air pressure of the balls the Patriots were using. In the absence of a significant control for comparison such as, for example, data from measuring balls after lots of other games over a variety of atmospheric conditions, the sample size is way too small to draw any conclusions that warrant a punitive response. In 2015, therefore, NFL officials should routinely measure pressure before, during, and after games to ensure uniformity and produce a large data set by which future possible violations can be judged. Anything else is just a knee-jerk response by a kangaroo court.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 2:09pm

It would take a few days to replicate enough varied game conditions, with enough footballs, to obtain a large enough sample size with which to draw some conclusions with pretty strong confidence, assuming somebody actually wanted to have real insight. I don't necessarily think the people who run this cartel actually want to have that insight, however.

by smade :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 2:25pm

Tempest in a teapot. Next thing you'll be telling me is that a team deliberately designed their home stadium as an acoustic shell designed to amplify crowd noise and unfairly disrupt the opponent's play calling.

by duh :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 2:31pm

Which isn't against the rules unlike you know under inflating the balls

by smade :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 2:42pm

True, but it has an outsized impact on the outcome of a game and is a much bigger threat to the integrity of championships than the current matter at hand.

My point is, yes, deliberately underinflating the balls is against the rules, like holding, wearing cleats that are too long, and standing outside the 30s on the sidelines, but the overall impact of any of these is pretty trivial. If the league decides there is enough evidence to prove the case, any punishment more than a private tongue-lashing and a public statement by the league that they are disappointed to have found that one of their boys has been naughty is a colossal overreaction and makes everyone look like hysterical fools.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 2:51pm

If the general public becomes hysterical, then it is prudent for the cartel to account for that hysteria when doling out punishment. The cartel is in the television rating business, not the justice dispensation business, and Bill Belichik's participation really isn't all that important, at all, to the former business.

by smade :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 3:39pm

All too true. There's just no sense of proportion among scandal-mongerers in these modern times.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 3:46pm

Eh, I wouldn't engage in any good'oldaysisms. Sports are simply more mainstream than ever, and we live a more media saturated society. People didn't have any better sense of proportion in the supposedly halcyon days of yore, they just lacked the technical means to yammer about stuff as much.

by Bobman :: Fri, 01/23/2015 - 2:20am

@Smade #45 I'd argue that deliberately underinflating the balls is against the rules, BUT IS VERY MUCH NOT LIKE holding and standing outside the 30s on the sidelines. One is premeditated way to cheat, the others happen in the heat of the moment. In the criminal world, the punishment for murder 1 and manslaughter (both have the same result--a dead guy) are enormous. Ask a convicted guy on death row and one who got off after ten years if premeditation and a pattern of behavior versus being a first time offender have any difference. All the difference in the world.

I will agree that the overall impact of any of these is pretty trivial. But the league does not punish based on the results, but on the violations. (That's actually very different from the criminal justice system--i.e. attempted murder is waaaaay less serious than murder one, at least in terms of punishment.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 2:35pm

Next you'll be telling me that the cartel has specifically stated in what manner a stadium can be designed, with regard to acoustic properties, and that a cartel member deliberately tried to go outside those specifications, without it being detected.

Arguing well via analogy is difficult, except purely for purposes of humor, and is most often best avoided.

by puzzled :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 1:04am

Speaking of breaking the rules in pursuit of an advantage, how come no-one is up in arms over all of the defensive holding that is missed by refs and results in an unfair advantage to the teams that get away with it? Why is no-one complaining about all of the other cheating that happens on the football field? Why do they laugh it off, saying "oh, everyone else does it, so it's no big deal"?

It's such a disgrace to the game. Everyone who cheats at all should be suspended indefinitely. Holds, Pass Interference, Offsides. The penalties described in the rulebook are clearly not high enough, otherwise people wouldn't cheat on nearly every play.

If anyone think the rulebook's penalties are high enough here, and that these issues don't require just as much discussion as some deflated balls, why not? The only real difference is that the underinflated balls *could* be caused by negligence. Most of these other penalties *require* the person committing them to do something outside the bounds of the rules!

(In both cases, the penalties could also be allowed by negligence, on the part of the referees who either weigh the balls, or miss the penalties.)

by Dave Bernreuther :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 1:10am

Who isn't up in arms about terrible reffing?

by puzzled :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 1:16am

It's more the concept that people aren't up in arms about the people committing the penalties in the first place.

The refs being awful (in general) should help sway opinion to the idea that they didn't actually do a great job in their ball verification pre-game. (and yes, I know the NFL says it was all on the up and up, but they also always back said awful reffing, so the NFL's word could be taken with a grain of salt).

by Alternator :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 6:52pm

This is a drug testing joke, right?

by dryheat :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 9:24pm

The easiest thing to do going forward would be to allow each team to inflate the balls as much or as little as they choose. The inflation range is arbitrary anyway. If a team wants a little more or a little less, let them.

Note that I am not excusing the Patriots from violating a rule. Simply that the rule seems to serve no more purpose than the rule on how high a player must wear his socks.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 1:04am

It does, though. See post 223 below and links therein.

by Noah Arkadia :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 10:48am

Actually, what I don't get is why the two teams play with different balls. Isn't that just begging for tampering?

Who, me?

by Bobman :: Fri, 01/23/2015 - 2:13am

@ smade #27, Spoken like a scientist, not like a commish struggling in the court of public opinion, who handed out multiple suspensions to the Saints based on testimony only. In this case we have 24 balls that met the standard 2 hours before the game, and only 13 met the standard at halftime--that's more measurable, empirical evidence than the Saints faced.

Also, regarding the ball boy taking the fall, it may happen, but every GM/coach/player who has opined on the subject (some of whom have said the deflation issue is insignificant) agree that there is no way in hell a lowly ball boy (or even the HC!) messes with the balls without the approval of the QB, for whom the balls are his most important tool. After Brady's all-denial presser, multiple former players have said "no freakin' way" did he not know or have some input. In the micro-managed, detail-oriented world of Belichick and Brady, it's inconceivable that a ball boy would attempt this and get away with it. It is starting to bend reality so far that it sounds like an OJ Simpson defense argument. Aliens must have done it!!!

You've seen Brady tear refs new buttholes on-field on-camera when he gets an extra poke after the whistle (I thought he should have been flagged for that in the Ravens playoff game--If Suh completely lost his composure chewing out the refs over some unseen poke you'd be sure the yellow laundry would have come out) well what do you think Brady'd do to a lowly staff peon who messes with 11 of his most 12 important tools that he had already certified were perfect two hours before he game? If a staffer did it, it was approved from higher up--there is no proof and probably never will be, but can be no reasonable doubt about that.

by Revenge :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 1:25pm

The variables are well known. PV=nRT. R is a constant. And n is a constant (unless someone was letting air out of the ball...).

A nice analysis:

Bottom line, yes, the temperature difference will affect the internal pressure of the ball, but not by enough to account for the pressure difference measured. This, plus the fact that the Colts' balls checked out OK, leads to only one conclusion -- somebody let air out of the balls after the officials initially checked them.

by Pat :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 1:37pm

It's actually not correct - they used gauge pressure rather than absolute pressure. It's pretty clear the person involved doesn't really know the physics involved (converting from psi to pascals, for instance - it only matters that the two scales are absolute, not what units they're in). If you do it correctly, it's more like a ~1 PSI drop.

However this is pretty pointless, since I have to imagine they tested them back in the locker room, after they were warmed up a little.

by Revenge :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 1:46pm

Fair enough. Whether it's .4 psi or 1 psi, that's still not the 2 psi difference that was measured. And if you're correct that the halftime testing was done indoors, then that would just make the observed pressure difference even MORE out on the field.

by billsfan :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 1:50pm

2 psi difference requires legal inflation to have happened at ≥120 °F. (I got 143 °F as T1 for a 12.5 to 10.5 psi drop)

There's no reasonable explanation other than "if the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl are this bad, then the offseason is going to be intolerable"

by Bobman :: Fri, 01/23/2015 - 2:22am

global warming...?

by Turtle :: Sat, 01/24/2015 - 4:46pm

I'm sure there are comments elsewhere about the math but I'll note here that, assuming the ideal gas law, your math is incorrect.

You are taking pressure measured as proportional to temp (so 10.5/12.5 = Tfinal/Tinital) which requires an absolute temperature shift of 15% or so, which is about 80 degrees F.

Error is that the measurement is actually the pressure above atmospheric: a ball with a hole in it will actually have about 15 psi of air in it because that is what the atmosphere is. So the ball is really going from 27.5 to 25.5 or so, or a 7% or so temp change. 40 degrees or so temp change is enough for 2 psi.

That shift didn't take place in this game, but in some of these colder games, we are going to get a 2psi drop in the balls if they are filled inside. I would say in most winter games, if the balls are filled inside to the middle of the spec, they are going to drop the half psi (only takes 10 degrees) and be below spec. On hot days they probably got above spec.

I think nobody has really cared about it until now, which is why the suggested penalty is 25k (peanuts) and the team that was caught heating the balls on the sideline earlier this year got warned not to do it again and that was it.

by RickD :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 2:06pm

Still need a source for the claims about the Colts' balls.

You are also ignoring the possibility that the Patriots simply had a lot of inferior footballs. It could happen. I don't know why that isn't even being considered.

by Pat :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 2:18pm

I agree with you regarding the Colts balls, but, to paraphrase you, from a different reply:

You are also ignoring the possibility that the Patriots simply had a lot of inferior footballs. It could happen. I don't know why that isn't even being considered.

That's just idiotic. It's a ludicrous premise.

I agreed with you on that response above, but it applies here too. The idea that the Patriots just somehow got a batch of bad balls is really grasping at straws. It's a desperate enough reach to be equivalent to the "1 good ball implies malice" statement. Both of those ideas are possible, but realistically, they're almost certainly not true.

by ChrisS :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 3:03pm

I think "inferior" is not the word he wanted. They may have had a batch of "defective" balls (machine gets small piece of material caught in gears (do machines still have gears?) it slightly screws up a few balls then falls out and back to normal) In which case they should be testable to see if they always lose pressure or just this one time, during the game. Alright I don't buy it either.

by RickD :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 3:40pm

No, it's not idiotic. It's actually the most obvious reason.

Why is it "grasping at straws"? Is the manufacturing industry in sporting goods incapable of producing flawed output? If so, they deserve some kind of medal. Certainly that's not the case in most areas of manufacturing.

I'm not saying that it happens often. This would be a freak occurrence. But, hey, sometimes the team bus gets into an accident on the way to the park. Unlikely events actually happen. That's why they're called "unlikely", not "impossible".

I presented this as a possibility. And, really, symmetry aside, it bears no relation to the "they kept one good ball just in case the officials demanded a ball to be tested and for some reason let the Patriots pick which ball was the one to be tested" theory.

by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 4:00pm

They were checked before the game and were fine. I guess there could be some defect, but it is far more likely that they were tampered with.

by Anon Ymous :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 4:10pm

Agreed. Even if most of the balls were low but in varying degrees it would be possible to dismiss, but all the balls with identical low pressures... that's nearly impossible to explain otherwise.

I do wonder if everyone demands such precision in every area of their lives, though. Or should I assume all those complaining have never fudged a date on their reports or said that email must have ended up in the spam file.

Frankly, if there are so many quarterbacks who prefer it outside the normal range and seasoned refs can't seem to be able to tell the difference, why not just expand the range? No one has a competitive advantage if they're all happy with whatever ball they are playing with.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 2:20pm

You guys are priceless. Bob Kraft can't afford pro-grade footballs! =)

Let's say they were. It's still illegal. A team is responsible for providing its own balls. Supra that, the home team is responsible for providing a legal, playable ball. The home NE Pats failed at both tasks, and were playing with an illegal ball.

Now, it's questionable whether that constituted a material advantage or whether it was done knowingly. The evidence suggests there was a knowing component (or else, a grossly negligent component). The argument has already started to turn to whether it constituted an advantage. That was the last Spygate defense.

by Revenge :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 2:44pm

"Still need a source for the claims about the Colts' balls."

Could have sworn I read that on PFT, but now I can't find it. Maybe I'm mistaken. For the sake of argument, let's say I completely imagined it. Doesn't matter. The pressure difference measured from pre-kickoff to halftime is too large to be accounted for by the modest temperature changes involved. It doesn't take an experiment -- it's a physical law.

"You are also ignoring the possibility that the Patriots simply had a lot of inferior footballs. It could happen. I don't know why that isn't even being considered."

As others have already said... oh c'mon. Beyond that, I believe that the teams are required to buy offical footballs from Wilson.

That said, I'd absolutely LOVE to see the league kick off a science project to assess the quality of these footballs. Fill them up to proper pressure, hold them at 51 degrees, and wait to see how long it takes for them to lose 2 psi. Every day, issue a report on the state of the experiment. PFT would be all over it, and the controversy would take months to die.

Speaking of low-quality footballs, I also like the idiotic notion, that I've actually seen mentioned, that Gronkowski spikes the ball so hard it loses pressure. For one thing, no... just no. For two, he didn't even catch a pass in the first half.

by RickD :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 3:43pm

What takes "experimentation" is to validate the testing equipment. And you need to account for differences in pressure, etc. My reading is that temperature difference alone can account for a difference of 1 psi. Who's to say that a leaky football couldn't account for the other 1 psi?

"I believe that the teams are required to buy offical footballs from Wilson."

And Wilson only produces perfect products?

I hope you guys don't work for oversight committees. Your faith in the perfection of the American manufacturing process is praiseworthy, but more than a little bit naive.

by Pat :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 4:05pm

My reading is that temperature difference alone can account for a difference of 1 psi.

That's a very selective reading. It could account for at most 1 PSI, assuming the officiating staff are idiots and tested the balls at halftime outdoors, and assuming the ball room was fully open to the outside but giant heaters were blowing constantly to keep the temperature up.

More realistically the temperature difference didn't do anything, because they're not idiots and took the balls back inside to the same place to test them.

Who's to say that a leaky football couldn't account for the other 1 psi?

Eleven leaky footballs?? 1 PSI is a big drop. If relatively simple use could deflate a ball by 1 PSI, any hard hit would deflate it a ton.

Like I said before, any of these things are possible, but they're all much more unlikely than a bit of surreptitious ball-handling on the sidelines.

The reasonable conclusion is that someone let some of the air out of those balls. I don't think the NFL is wasting too much time putting together a crack ball-inflation team of scientists to discover all possible causes.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 4:26pm

I dunno, a crack team of ball inflation scientists, perhaps with jump training at Ft Benning, doing a HALO landing at midfield of the Super Bowl at halftime, sounds more entertaining than than Katy Perry! I say do it!

by Pen :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 4:24pm

It's possible O.J.'s innocent because his hand really didn't fit in that glove, but this isn't a murder trial that requires beyond reasonable doubt or really stupid, gullible jurors.

by Bobman :: Fri, 01/23/2015 - 2:26am

Damn, I didn't see your comment before I brought up the ludicrous straw-grasping of the OJ defense. Nice job.

That ludicrous "Hey, what if this is remotely possible, will this convince them?" defense actually worked, of course, but everyone on the planet aside from those 12 jurors knew he was guilty. And the standard of guilt is far lower here than in a capital criminal trial.

by MJK :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 4:02pm

This analysis is flawed. Here's the right analysis.

Treating air as an ideal gas (not right, but close enough for our purposes), p2/p1 = T2/T1. So the pressure at the time the balls were checked after the game, p2, can be calculated by assuming an inflation pressure and temperature, and knowing the temperature at the time they were measured.

Let's assume the Patriots are pushing the rules to the max and, knowing the conditions would make the ball hard to grip, inflated the balls to the very low end of the required spectrum. Note that the rule doesn't say that the ball has to be maintained between 12.5 and 13.5 psig for the entire game; just that it has to be inflated to a level in that range. So let's assume the Patriots didn't cheat and inflated the ball to 12.5 psig, which is 27.19 psia (assuming atmospheric pressure of 14.69 psi, which, from weather underground, is pretty close to the game-time air pressure).

Let's also assume they were inflated at room temperature, 72°. Technically, the Patriots could have gamed the system and raised their temperature in the equipment room hotter, so they could have stayed in the rules and still had the ball end up softer (the rule doesn't actual specify what temp you inflate to), but that's a little devious even for Belichick and co. So lets assume inflation was at 72°, and also that the inflation process was slow enough so that there wasn't appreciable expansion cooling or compression heating of the air in the process. I think this is a justifiable assumption, although I'd have to do the heat transfer calcs to make sure. 72°F is 531.67°R. (You have to work in absolute temperature to use the above equation, either Rankine or Kelvin).

The kickoff temperature was 51°. However, the balls were measured after the game, presumably around 10:30 PM at the earliest. Again according to weather underground, the temperature in Foxboro at 10:30 PM was about 45°F, or 504.67°R.

Now, p2 = p1 * (T2/T1) = 27.19 psia * (504.67/531.67) = 25.8 psia, which is 11.1 psig. So just from the temperature drop alone, the balls would have been underinflated by 1.4 psi. It's not quite the 2 psi that the Pats balls were reportedly underinflated by, but it's close.

If the equipment room where they were inflated was warmer (or if the inflation process adiabatically compressed the air and caused a temperature rise) to say, 80°F, then the balls would have dropped to 10.7 psig, or a 1.8 psi underinflation. Which a media source might report as "two psi".

So bottom line--simple physics combined with the weather report indicates that almost all of the underinflation can be accounted for without any foul play. All of it could be accounted for if we think the Patriots are devious enough to avoid the spirit of the rule while following the letter and heating up their equipment room before inflating the balls.

by Pat :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 4:16pm

The balls were measured at halftime. Not after the game. And realistically, the idea that the indoor pressure is the same as the outdoor pressure is unlikely.

To quote from the report (which is now updated):

"ESPN Sports Radio 810 in Kansas City reported that the Patriots' footballs were tested at the half, reinflated at that time when they were found to be low, then put back in play for the second half, and then tested again after the game. The report did not reveal the results of the test following the game. All of the balls the Colts used met standards, according to the report."

The Colts balls meeting standards pretty much rules out any environmental effects.

by BigNachos :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 4:29pm

Well, you don't know the ambient conditions the Colts' balls were kept. They could have been in a colder room and inflated to the maximum pressure before game time, which would have kept them within the allowable range throughout the game.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 4:34pm

Yes, it is big universe, with many possibilities. Nobody is trying to jail Bill Belichik, however, so it is not unreasonable for people to discount the more unlikely possibilities.

by BigNachos :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:02pm

If Luck is like Aaron Rodgers and prefers a maximally inflated ball, then keeping the balls cold and inflated to the maximum pressure before the game is exactly the right and legal way to achieve that.

Likewise, if Brady prefers a minimally inflated ball, then keeping the balls as warm as possible and inflated to the minimum pressure before the game (and maybe additionally having Vince Wilfork sit on each ball to deflate them a little more) is the right and presumably legal way to achieve that.

The point is that it's entirely possible within the realm of thermodynamics that the Patriots' balls were deflated by 2 psi without breaking any rules while the Colts' balls were still inflated within regulation. I'd be surprised if teams didn't have someone on their staff with this sort of knowledge to help them gain the greatest competitive advantage.

by nat :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:11pm

Your world requires we believe in a Belichick evilly coveting a low-pressure ball, but being unaware that he could get one legally by simply filling it with reasonably warm air.

That's about the most unlikely world I can imagine.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:24pm

Uh, no it doesn't, because I've made no claim that Belichik was aware of anything. Look, if you want to think that 11 of those 12 ball ended up underinflated without deliberate action of a Patriots employee, go ahead. If you want to think that deliberate action didn't entail releasing air from the balls, go ahead.

by Bobman :: Fri, 01/23/2015 - 2:31am

Will, I myself have personally seen evidence of the Easter Bunny and Santa Clause and Tooth Fairy. As unlikely as it is for them to exist, it must be true, right? That quarter didn't just put itself under my pillow!
(am I showing my age with the 25 cents? It's probably like $5 these days, isn't it?)

It appears to me that people will believe what they want, not many are on the fence, and for those on either side, no convincing will sway them to the other side.

by Will Allen :: Fri, 01/23/2015 - 2:49am

Hey, I really don't care who wins the games any longer, and I actually enjoy the games more as a result. This week in particular I'm just looking for some football related diversions for entertainment purposes, and as an aficionado of a good train wreck, all I can say is, Bravo!

by Pat :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 11:58am

Filling it with warm air doesn't really work. The air would have to stay warm throughout when the balls were tested... and then if you did, you think the officials wouldn't ask "why are these balls warm?"

by MJK :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:27pm

The temperature that night was remarkably stable--the kickoff temp was 51°F, the end of game temp was 45°F; the halftime temp was probably on the order of 47°F. The 2°F might change my result above in the last decimal place. The point is that all the temperatures were significantly below what an equipment room at room temperature would have been.

As to the Colts' balls--I still haven't seen any credible report that says the Colts balls did meet the standards. Could you point me to that? In any case, it doesn't rule out environmental effects completely, because the Colts could have started their balls at the high end of the spectrum. A 13.5 psi ball dropping 1.4 psi would bring it down to 12.1 psi, which is probably so close to the minimum spec of 12.5 that it would go unnoticed. Whereas a 12.5 psi ball dropping the same distance would end up at 11.1 psi, which may have been more easily detectable. This is perfectly plausible; Luck may like his balls fully inflated like Rodgers does.

by Noah Arkadia :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 10:55am

From Aaron Brooks' link at the top:

"Gerry Austin, longtime referee, says halftime Pats-Colts footballs brought in, checked at half. Colts footballs still legal. Pats were not.

— mike freeman (@mikefreemanNFL) January 21, 2015"

Who, me?

by Lance :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:46pm

This is obviously beyond me in terms of math and physics (but let me know if you need any Sumerian or Akkadian tablets translated). But do these numbers account for the fact that the air is in a football-- some object made of, like, pig skin and rubber?

Bear with me, but I feel like if I put a thin bag of plastic wrap shapped like a tennis ball filled with water in the freezer, and then also filled up an actual tennis ball with water and put THAT in the freezer, would that make any difference in how quickly one freezes over the other?

Does the fact that footballs are almost constantly being carried by someone matter (as in, transfers of body heat to the ball)?

I'm not doubting your numbers, but you seem to be operating in a sort of pure environment and I'm wondering if the physical realities could alter those numbers at all...

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 12:57pm

Gee, what a surprise. An acknowledged Pats homer is trying to wave away that the Pats got caught cheating, *again*.

Just own the black hat, Aaron. You guys have earned it.

by Insancipitory :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 1:24pm

If I'm not mistaken Tainer is an Eaglet(?) Igglati(?), whatever, Eagles fan.

by jacobk :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 1:34pm

Tanier wrote this article years ago about a different scandal. He's not the one who chose to re-run it when the Patriots got caught with their hand in the cookie jar again.

by Insancipitory :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 1:56pm

He was prompted to write it by a specific scandal, but he wrote it about a lot of scandals to encourage us to step back and consider scandals in their larger context, as they're colored by our ill informed preconceptions. One of those teams is involved in this new scandal and the advice of the writer still remains relevant.

Perhaps we can all agree the real hero in all this is one Vladimir Putin; who took it upon himself to save the integrity of the NFL by confiscating Mr. Kraft's ill-gotten gain.

by Eddo :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 2:21pm

See above: "Posted by: Mike Tanier on 21 Jan 2015."

by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 2:24pm

Yes, it was reposted today.

I promise you the original article was written after Bountygate.

by Eddo :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 3:17pm

It was written after Bountygate, yes.

But you implied that Tanier wasn't the one who re-posted it. The "posted by" line has always indicated the FO staff that POSTED the article, not necessarily the one who wrote it.

Notice that there is a byline and there is a posted-by line. Tanier wrote this and re-posted it today.

EDIT: To clarify, I was refuting your point about Tanier not being the one who re-ran it. He absolutely did re-run it himself.

by Aaron Schatz :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 3:23pm

No, it was my choice to re-run it. The "posted by" is just to point out that this article is written by Mike and not by me or Vince or anyone else.

by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 2:25pm

Double Post.

by Pen :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 4:26pm

Tanier was wrong about everything he said in that article years ago and he's wrong now.

by Paul R :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 2:34pm


by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 1:03pm

While Johnson's admission does bring up some interesting questions (and adds another ridiculous layer of intrigue to the most boring Super Bowl of its decade), there are two large differences:

1.) What Johnson did would effect balls used by both teams. Still cheating, but whatever advantage Johnson was getting, the Raiders would get the same, assuming Gannon liked his footballs that way.

2.) What Johnson did, tamper with the external condition of the ball, is no longer illegal. It was at the time, but, coincidentally, Manning and Brady jointly pushed for teams to essentially be able to wear in their footballs prior to games.

Finally, as Will mentioned, this is one player. What the Patriots did reeks of something worse. It may be a small edge, but it is one, and if people can speculate that this was the job of mother nature changing the pressure, I cant too speculate that this is unlikely the first time the Patriots have done this.

The fine will be minimal, but outside of win a lot, the Belichick-era Patriots have done a lot to deserve the scorn and scrutiny they face.

by Anon Ymous :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 3:58pm

"1.) What Johnson did would effect balls used by both teams. Still cheating, but whatever advantage Johnson was getting, the Raiders would get the same, assuming Gannon liked his footballs that way."

This is an enormous assumption and one that, if granted, leads to a deeper line of reasoning.

For instance, consider the following scenario. Two QBs face off, one with his ball inflated at 10.5 and the other at 12.5. Both are set to QB preference and the acceptable range is 12-13.5. Who has the competitive advantage?

Answer? Neither, because each QB was able to use balls that he was most comfortable with. Only if the latter would have preferred a psi outside of the acceptable range but chose to stay within the rules is there any reason to suggest anyone got a competitive advantage. The same is true for pressure above the range as well.

So, the real question is, why even have a range set in the first place? If seasoned refs couldn't tell a difference despite handling the balls between every down, what is the point of the apparently arbitrary pressure range? Sure, you eventually get to the point where it is blatantly too low, but then the grip benefits will be outweighed by the downsides (loose spiral, won't cut through wind as well). Just let every QB play with whatever makes him comfortable and everyone is happy.

by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 4:01pm

Brad Johnson did not ask for the PSI to change at all. At that time, both teams used the same balls. Brad Johnson had all the balls changed. He's also said, and I'll assume this is true, that Gannon knew this was happening and was fine with it.

by Anon Ymous :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 4:13pm

If Gannon knew and was fine, then great! But I'm still highly dubious of the assertion that PSI makes much of a difference aside from comfort. Since comfort is what QBs are looking for with all the scuffing and stretching and whatnot, it's all one and the same.

As I wrote in a comment above, if there are so many quarterbacks who prefer it outside the normal range and seasoned refs can't seem to be able to tell the difference, why not just expand the range? No one has a competitive advantage if they're all happy with whatever ball they are playing with.

by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 4:18pm

Balls deflated a little less are easier to throw and catch and not drop. There are reasons more than 'it feels good' to deflate a ball.

This is a level above scuffling up a football, which is allowed since 2006.

by Anon Ymous :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 4:34pm

It's only a level above because it is currently against the rules, which doesn't in and of itself make it bad. It's akin to the circular logic of people saying marijuana is bad because it is against the law without examining why it is against the law in the first place.

What is inherently bad about laxing the PSI? If "it feels good" to deflate the ball, why not? The QBs that like that feel will use that and the ones that prefer it firmer will go that route.

Again, I'm perfectly willing to concede that NE bent the rules, what I'm looking for is rationale for why PSI is viewed differently than scuffing the ball when the goal and the impact on competitive balance is identical.

by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 4:38pm

Because the league likes to have a balance between offense and defense. Because the league doesn't want this turning into Arena League.

Look, no one is saying it is criminal, but the league decided that balls should be pressurized at a certain level for it to be fair. The Patriots, allegedly, knowingly disregarded this.

by MJK :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:09pm

Really? The league likes balance between offense and defense? You could have fooled me... Look at the rule changes over the last decade or so. Or, excuse me, "points of emphasis".

by Pat :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:21pm

Touchdowns/game on offense:

2013: 2.4
1987: 2.4
1983: 2.4
1962: 2.6

(note that these are all close to the scoring peaks for their era. this isn't meant to imply that it's constant over time, just that it's not constantly rising)

Points of emphasis will always favor the offense, because you don't advertise what you're not paying as strong attention to. That doesn't mean that the offense is being favored. Defenses adapt to what they're allowed to do.

Points/game is at an all time high, but that's thanks to field goal kickers.

by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:24pm

There's more ways to prove offense is up than points. Y/G is also way up, as are all QB efficiency and raw stats.

by Pat :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 11:40am

Points are definitely up, because field goal kickers are awesome now.

Yards/game is up because the kickoff line of scrimmage moved back, so teams now have more distance to go - however, those yards are all in the "1st and 10 from the 15-20" range, so they aren't as strongly correlated with offensive success - in the first year of that rule change (2011) yards/game jumped almost 10 yards/game, but scoring barely budged (it definitely didn't jump the ~0.7-0.8 pts/game that you'd expect based on linear yardage).

QB stats are up because passing is on the rise, but I'm not sure that effect isn't economic, rather than rules-based. Because the passing is not leading to more efficient scoring - passing is up, but rushing is down.

Offenses are definitely up now relative to defenses, sure, but right now you can't say that it's a definite upward trend and not just near a peak. If points/game settles down to around 22 points/game and yardage drops to around 335-340 yards/game in the next few years, that'll just tell us that we were near an offensive peak, and the overall trend is relatively stable (save for kicking).

by tuluse :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 10:27pm

The key here though is that turnovers are way down, and I believe offensive plays per drive are way up.

The game is changing into fewer longer drives, which I don't personally like as much, but others may disagree.

by Pen :: Fri, 01/23/2015 - 3:51am

How much of turnovers being down are a result of the insane amount the Patriots have been dragging that average down since 2007. This link below provides some damning evidence that the Patriots have been deflating balls since 2007


"based on the assumption that fumbles per play follow a normal distribution, you’d expect to see, according to random fluctuation, the results that the Patriots have gotten over this period, once in 16,233.77 instances”.

Which in layman’s terms means that this result only being a coincidence, is like winning a raffle where you have a 0.0000616 probability to win. Which in other words, it’s very unlikely that it’s a coincidence."

by Behemoth :: Fri, 01/23/2015 - 5:57pm

And yet it is a certainty that one person will have purchased that winning ticket ....

Perhaps it might be wise to exercise some care about evidence and data before making such preposterous claims. Such statistical analysis is valid if and only if other conditions are equal and we have a reasonable control group. The world of professional football, with many personnel decisions and training practices does not provide a reasonable control to allow you reasonably to reach your conclusions.

Are we know going to argue that the Bear's defence is mystically forcing offences to over-inflate balls to increase the number of fumbles their players can cause? Or, maybe, they practice it to a greater degree or with more skill. Or, maybe Peanut Tillman was just good at it.

If you want to claim that the Patriots have been doctoring footballs since 2007 please present some actual evidence of it. Short of some actual, you know, evidence, such claims simply sound silly.

Keep going; we'll get the FOMBC curse activated yet ....

by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:29pm

Yes, because if they did not have a preferred balance, they would make it legal for offensive linemen to tackle pass rushers, and make opi legal. Why would one be so irrational as to suppose the league does not have a preferred balance between offense and defense, and that such a preferred balance might be evident in a rule pertaining to ball inflation?

by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:29pm

Yes, because if they did not have a preferred balance, they would make it legal for offensive linemen to tackle pass rushers, and make opi legal. Why would one be so irrational as to suppose the league does not have a preferred balance between offense and defense, and that such a preferred balance might be evident in a rule pertaining to ball inflation?

by Lance :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:59pm

"Because the league likes to have a balance between offense and defense. Because the league doesn't want this turning into Arena League."

Are you under 25 years old? Seriously. If you've watched football at all since, say, the mid 80's, or even just looked at basic offensive statistics, or, well, followed the rules the league has either changed or decided to put emphasis on, then you'd know that yes, the league has decided it favors offense-- in particular, passing.

I don't know how you don't see that.

by duh :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 1:22pm

One of the things that is odd to me about this is that it seems really unlikely that if done intentionally it was the first time. It isn't like Brady hasn't thrown other interceptions. So why was this only discovered in this game?

by smade :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 1:29pm

As a Raiders fan I have every reason to despise the Patriots and wish them an immediate and permanent fall from grace, but I have to say that even if this current scandal has any truth to it, they're mere pikers.

Throughout Al Davis' tenure as Raider owner, he was accused and probably guilty of bugging the visiting locker room at the Coliseum, of filling footballs with helium to add distance to Ray Guy's punts, of greasing jerseys so defenders could slide off blockers more easily and of encouraging dirty play and every imaginable bit of skulduggery on and off the field for more than a generation. Watch the Super Bowl XI episode of America's Game and you will see John Madden absolutely smirk knowingly at the allegation that his players changed their arm pads after the refs' inspection to iron-hard plaster casts, the better to beat hell out of their opponents with. You'll also see Phil Villapiano point out that Raider offensive linemen wore gloves that matched the opposing players' jerseys so they could commit holding penalties without getting caught. And that isn't even the half of it. Books have been written about the topic and no one seriously suggests the Raiders weren't champions in Super Bowls 11, 15, and 18.

So the Pats get caught with what is roughly equivalent in baseball terms to stealing signs and putting baseballs in a humidor and the world goes bananas? Ha! This is what causes the football universe to foam at its collective mouth?! Unbelievable. Villains are so pedestrian these days.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 1:38pm

It's all just business. If 24 of the 32 cartel owners think it is bad for business to have this stuff in the headlines (the NFL is much more mainstream than it was 40 years ago, even if it was very popular 40 years ago, and the cartel benefits more than ever from public subsidy), then somebody's gonna get clipped, and it's just a question of whether it a soldier, a made man, or a capo. It would take a Stirling-like enterprise-threatener for it to be a don, and we're nowhere near that, it seems to me.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 2:23pm

Some of it's just perception. The Raiders didn't cry foul at the accusations; they embraced being villains.

The Patriots want all the advantages of cheating, but also want to pretend that they're the choir boy. It's hypocrisy of the worst sort.

by PatsFan :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 3:32pm

So you're saying they need to do a face-heel turn and go with it? I could get behind that...

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 3:40pm

Exactly. The Bad Boy Pistons weren't happy unless the home crowd was booing them. If they weren't, they hadn't done their job.

by mehllageman56 :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 7:48pm

I'm sure Belichick and Brady are not happy in MetLife Stadium unless the crowd is heckling/booing them.

by PatsFan :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 11:27am

Heh. On a Pats message board this morning someone made a post titled "The Autumn Wind is a Patriot" and suggested NE go with it.

It'd work, too -- BB is obviously a heel. Brady is a face that looks like a heel.

The problem is Kraft. He's too soft and likes his "aren't I wonderful" press clippings too much.

by RickD :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 3:45pm

I missed the part where they pretended to be "the choir boy".

You're really dripping with hostility today. A true hater's gotta hate.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 4:33pm

That's a touch strong, but the comparison is Al Davis.

Al, when confronted with this accusation, would have grinned that rictus grin of his and said "Yeah? What of it?", winked, and then made a joke about Pete Rozelle wanting to feel his balls.

At no point would he have feigned innocent. If anything, he would have feigned guilt.

by Duff Soviet Union :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 6:02am

"Al, when confronted with this accusation, would have grinned that rictus grin of his and said "Yeah? What of it?", winked, and then made a joke about Pete Rozelle wanting to feel his balls."

Too true. As mentioned he was suspected, and likely guilty, of bugging opposition locker rooms. One time, an opposition coach looked at the ceiling and said something along the lines of "dammit Al, I know you can hear me". Once told of this, Davis just laughed and said "well, they weren't up there".

Most of the vitriol comes from so much of the media coverage, most of it self perpetuated, about how goshdarnit, the Patriots aren't always the most talented team, but they do everything the "right way", the "Patriot way". I.e "we win at football because we're better people than you are". Nice try guys.

I'll repeat what I said in another thread though, about what a total joke this whole thing is. The NBA was notorious for this stuff back in the day. The Showtime Lakers were well known for pumping up balls because they led to long rebounds and Magic liked a high dribble. The Adelman Blazers did the same thing. Other slower teams would literally take the air out of the ball ala New England. The Bad Boys Pistons tampered with one of the baskets at the arena, making it harder to score on. They always made sure to play their best rebounders and crash the boards extra hard when shooting at that basket. Phil Jackson used to bring a pressure gauge with him to measure balls. No surprise he knew what to look for because his Knicks teams hid pins in their shorts which they used to deflate the ball whenever they had the chance. He'd semi-frequently catch someone trying funny stuff, they'd laugh, toss the ball out, get another one and play the game. End of Story.

The NFL is well known for having it's head up it's own butt and taking itself way too seriously, so it's no surprise they tend to attract like minded fans, but good Lord, people need some perspective. Banning Bellichick for life? Forfeiting games? Taking away draft picks? Oh. My. God.

I also find it completely hilarious that everyone related to the NFL, whether they be players, owners, coaches, GM's or fans are completely happy to ignore that 99.9% of their players are juiced to the gills, but "SOMEONE DEFLATED A BALL BY 5%!!!! OH NOES!!!!!!!1111!!"

by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 9:20am

We ain't back in the day anymore. These sports are now gigantic businesses that people are investing billions of dollars in. People who have earned a few billion, and choose to invest it in an enterprise, tend to want to control every aspect of the business. They don't want the customers talking about this sh*t in the two weeks leading up to their biggest media exposure. Thus they tell their very highly paid subordinates to not get cute with the rules. If the highly paid subordinates are such idiotically stubborn woodheads as to ignore simple effin' instructions, the idiotically stubborn woodheads can go try to run an insurance agency down at the strip mall. To paraphrase one of the idiotically stubborn woodheads, they can do their job, as instructed, or if they think the cartel takes itself too seriously for the tastes of the woodhead, the woodhead can disassociate himself from the cartel. If he went and joined a monastery tomorrow, the cartel would not miss him one iota. Short of the cartel losing several of their top qbs simultaneously, the services of any particular individual is not critical to the cartel, and that is a major reason the cartel owners have been so successful. If you really aren't all that important to the operations of an enterprise, and the people who own the enterprise tell you to not do something, ya' oughta have enough self awareness, assuming your I.Q. is at least equal to the jersey numbers of your offensive linemen, to not do it.

by BJR :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 10:47am

All true of course, other than the point about the league not wanting people to talk about sh*t like this. Purist fans like yourself might prefer to just concentrate on the damned game rather than this nonsense, but I'm sure that doesn't apply on the whole. Just look at the volume of content, and the emotion this thread has generated! Anything that gets people talking about football over the next couple weeks, adding to the narrative of the big game, giving folk a reason to root for one team over the other, is surely good for the league, at least in the short term? All publicity is good publicity, and all that. Makes me slightly cynical about the timing actually.

Obviously repeated insubordination by league employees is not good for the product, and in time the Patriots will no doubt be dealt with harshly should sufficient indicting evidence be found. But a little bit of scandal, if it is well managed (which has certainly not been the case in recent episodes within the NFL), is probably not to the league's detriment at this moment.

by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 11:06am

Is this particular incident, in isolation, damaging? No, of course not. However, if a pattern of incidents develop, in which it is perceived that teams are regularly cheating in ways unseen on the field, in order to obtain advantage in the outcomes on the field, then it's bad for business. You spend a billion or two to purchase a business. and you don't want the schmucks (to employ Kraft's term for Belichick on one famous occasion) you are making multimillionaires to screw with the business model. It's not all that complicated.

by PaddyPat :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 3:16pm

I am rather inclined to think that the most likely culprit in this case is someone with media connections. This scandal serves to profit the press more than anyone else, and the timing is absolutely impeccable. Think about it. All season long since the Indy players made reference in the middle of the year, the league does nothing, but they decide to blow open a big scandal for the two week media downtime build-up to the Super Bowl??

Listening to Belichick's press conference today, I am inclined to believe that if one of the faces of the Pats' franchise was responsible, it was much more likely Brady than the coach. If that's the case though, it still doesn't explain this absurd timing. Someone involved leaked the story to the Indy press or otherwise made a big deal about it, and that person had media ties, I swear.

by Jerry :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 7:45pm

What's absurd about the timing? The game where the deflation took place was played Sunday.

by PaddyPat :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 9:13pm

If you listen to the press, it would appear that the balls have been consistently deflated throughout this season, with the first evidence surfacing after the first Pats-Colts tilt mid-year. So why is the story surfacing now?

by Jerry :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 9:22pm

A guess: Maybe after the Colts' original complaint didn't change the Pats' behavior, they decided to go public.

by Anon Ymous :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 3:46pm

They do? You have a serious problem with objectivity when it comes to the Patriots, Aaron.

by ChrisS :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 3:27pm


by Sporran :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 1:35pm

I'd be perfectly fine with shrugging off all "tainted championships" as long as I never heard the "BUT HE NEVER WON A SUPERBOWL!!!" as an argument against the greatness of any player or coach again.

In other words, it either matters or it doesn't. If you take away honors from people who didn't win solely because they didn't win, then you should take away honors from the people who cheated to ensure that the non-cheaters didn't win. Or, you should realize that winning championships has too much luck involved to be a definitive indicator of the relative skill of players and coaches, and therefore discount them when making evaluations.

by dcl0 :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 2:10pm

I mentioned this on the other thread, but no one commented.

Carbon dioxide will leak out of a ball much faster that air. The link below says that a 101 pound tire lost 35 pounds in a day with CO2 versus 8 with air. Granted there is a much greater pressure differential in the tire, but I bet there is a measurable effect over two hours in a ball.



by Tofino :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 2:42pm

I don't think anyone sees your point. This pressure difference isn't something we see in every game, it's just in this one, and just with one team's balls.

by Revenge :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 2:48pm

And now PFT is saying the Colts complained about this same issue back in November. In an indoor stadium.

by dcl0 :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 4:23pm

The point is that inflating with CO2 should be a reliable way of insuring the balls are somewhat under-pressurized a few hours later.


by JonFrum :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 2:20pm

He said 'taint' - heh heh heh!

As a Patriots fan who goes back to Babe Parelli and Jim Nance, if Bill signed off on this, I'd suspend him for eight games and take away their top two draft picks this year. And as Colin Cowherd said, make the Patriots appear on Hard Knocks next year.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 2:29pm

I really think that would be inadequate, given his repeat offender status. If the league values it's brand, in terms of a reputation of competitive integrity, and they can establish, with a significant preponderance of evidence, that the repeat offender in upper level management deliberately attempted to alter the equipment beyond specifications, in an effort to gain advantage, that guy needs to go. He just isn't that important, in the grand scheme of things.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 2:46pm

I think the phrase in question is "Lack of institutional control."

It's a phrase Carroll is familiar with, too.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 2:59pm

Besides the typical insufferable fan-boys, one of the reasons why the Seahawks are extremely hard to root for, for me, and not that the other side is any better, is that my view is that anybody who earned several million dollars coaching big time college football is pretty much an unfiltered creep.

by Xao :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:11pm

Well, at least you're reasonable about it, judging people by individual merit instead of making sweeping generalizations.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:47pm

Yes, I think every individual who makes millions of dollars performing management duties for an entity which belongs to a cartel or cartels, because the individual can sell his labor to the highest bidding cartel member, while the human beings that the individual manages, who expose themselves to significant physical risk, have their compensation fixed by the cartels, are unfiltered creeps. I think this because the behavior I just described is really quite despicable, in my view.

by PaddyPat :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 3:23pm

The Seahawks' franchise has been so poorly managed from a discipline perspective over the past few years that the team has been absolutely wracked by PED scandals. Is that NOT a much more serious violation of conduct and competitive regulations than mildly deflating a ball? There is much discussion over whether a deflated ball denotes a competitive advantage, whereas there is NO discussion over whether PEDs do, we KNOW they do. The Seahawks have led the league in PED violations under Carroll:


And Pete Carroll brings a history of PED violations with him from USC.

Personally, I have very little issue with all the PED nonsense, but if fans on these message boards are going to call for Belichick to be removed as a coach, they should be up in arms that Carroll was ever allowed to return to NFL coaching at all. Greg Williams should be banned for life, Fisher probably should be as well, by association; likewise Sean Payton. Mike Shanahan should be banned; we might as well ban Elway as a frontman by association. Mike Tomlin should certainly lose his job for the tripping violation, and probably be banned--that one was not only a deliberate violation of fair conduct, it carried significant risk of player injury. And I think Goodell should probably be publicly executed for conduct detrimental to the brand...

by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 3:33pm

Now, now, I think the traditional tar and feathering is not being given its due respect!

by PaddyPat :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 6:17pm

I prefer drawing and quartering.

by steveNC :: Fri, 01/23/2015 - 8:17pm

Why not shut down the whole NFL?

by Duff Soviet Union :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 5:50am

Anyone who ignores the NCAA's rules is fine by me. The first prerequisite to be employed by the NCAA is to read lots of George Orwell. The second prerequisite is to completely misunderstand it.

by Paul R :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 2:48pm

In order to put to rest any hint of cheating, during this year's Super Bowl broadcast, Michelle Tafoya should inspect Belichick's balls at every change of possession.

by mehllageman56 :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 7:50pm

I'm going to try to rewrite an AC DC song about this for a local open mike. ... cause Brady's got the smallest balls of them all...

by Noah Arkadia :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 11:11am

Haha. Good one. And Rodgers' got the biggest balls of them all, right?

Who, me?

by Paul R :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 2:54pm

Why does each team get to have their own balls anyway?
Why not just have official game balls that are put into play by the officials? You could give the quarterbacks the right to ask for another ball, the way pitchers do.

by PatsFan :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 2:55pm

Ask Brady and Manning. They led a bipartisan effort to have each team have its own footballs.

by Paul R :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 3:09pm

That makes sense. Manning wanted his own balls because he is an obsessive control-freak. Brady wanted his own balls because the Patriots are a bunch of filthy, cheating scumbags.

by Noah Arkadia :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 11:12am

Actually, Manning wanted his own balls because he didn't like his underinflated.

Who, me?

by PatsFan :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 3:10pm

Whoever came up with "Deflatriots" (which I've started to see on the internet), my hat is off to you.

by EricL :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:39pm

Adderhawks vs. Deflatriots.

Liking it.

by LyleNM :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:43pm

Wasn't it Browner that was the most flagrant Adderall user on the Seahawks?

by Anon Ymous :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:46pm

Shouldn't that be

Seadderal vs. Deflatriots?

by EricL :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:52pm

I was going for parallelism by changing the first half of the nicknames, but yeah, yours sounds better.

by Paul R :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 3:10pm

Has anyone considered that maybe the Patriots are just really lousy at cheating? Maybe the Colts were smart enough to reinflate their balls before halftime.

by dryheat :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 9:41pm

I don't know, but I bet they are smart enough to make sure their balls are OK on a day they blow the whistle.

by Cro-Mags :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 3:26pm

Assuming the worst in all this scenario, I still don't see the 'smoking gun' that pins it on them like Spygate.

Even with that, deflating a ball by 2 psi? This made me think of the old Pats/Colts rivalry and allegations of turning up the heat or pumping in artificial crowd noise into the RCA dome, or headsets failing in Foxborough - usually made by the team that had just lost. Cue the X-Files theme.

by PatsFan :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 3:29pm

"Assuming the worst", some ballboy said he was told to do it by Brady or the equipment manager (and the equipment manager said he was told to do it by Brady or Belichick or some other coach (and that other coach said he was told to do it by Brady or Belichick). There ya go.

by RickD :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 3:47pm

Can I assume that Goodell had some ballboy do this as a way to get revenge on Bill Simmons? I mean, if we're going to make assumptions about who the responsible party is? At least my assumption has some relationship to what the outcome would be.

by andrew :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 12:43am

There are plenty of ways it COULD be worse. Shouldn't be hard to conjure one up. Lessee... ah.

The patriots threatened or blackmailed an equipment guy into doing it.

by LyleNM :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 4:23pm

Really? So the fact (or "fact") that all of the Patriots balls were underinflated and none of the Colts balls were is not enough of a "smoking gun" to you?

And by the way, 2 psi wouldn't make much difference if the balls held 100 psi but since it's 13 psi, it does make a rather big change (15% so you don't have to do the math).

by ChrisS :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 6:24pm

Bad math Lyle, as other smarter people mention you have to look at absolute psi, including atmospheric pressure, which is a two psi change on a bad of 26.

by Pat :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 11:54am

That's not true. 12.5 PSI gauge does mean something. It means the balls are exerting an outward pressure of 12.5 pounds per square inch on the ball. If you want to compress it, you need to exert more than 12.5 points per square inch inward.

A 2 PSI drop in the gauge pressure means you only need to exert 15% less force. That part is gauge pressure alone. The absolute pressure only matters for temperature changes and figuring out how much actual air is inside.

Put another way, a tire inflated to 0 PSI gauge can't support any weight. But take that tire to the moon, and it can support just as much as a 15 PSI tire could on Earth. So yes, it really is a 15% drop in how 'soft' the ball is - e.g. , how much force you need to exert to squish it.

by ChrisS :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 2:08pm

Thanks for the clarification. And sorry Lyle.

by Turtle :: Sat, 01/24/2015 - 5:27pm

However, the actual effects on play, since a football is rather rigid, are not so simple. For example, if you exert 12 psi on a 10 psi football, the physics 101 first guess is that it would compress about 10% to allow the gas pressure to equalize the outside force.

In reality, that obviously comes nowhere close to happening. The reason is that the leather shell is rigid, so if, for example, you take one finger and press on it, you can't make much, if any, indentation for either ball because once the shell starts to deform much of the force gets transferred to trying to stretch the shell. Press on a balloon, as an example where the shell isn't partularly rigid, and you can put an indentation into it. The number I saw from actual testing is that they were able to compress the 10 psi ball about 1 mm more than the 12 psi ball by gripping it.

Considering you don't put a death grip on the ball to throw it, you actually hold it as light as you can without it slipping from your hand, I would say in the pressure ranges we are talking about the affect is nil. The friction of the balls surface is way way more important than the pressure in how it affects an nfl game. And apparently teams can do what they like to affect that.

by Peregrine :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 3:29pm

I wonder what the Baltimore Ravens are thinking about all this. I doubt any intentional deflation would have made a difference in the Colts game. But what about the week before, when the Patriots edged out the Ravens in a very tight contest? Game time temperature was 20 degrees, according to the gamebook.

And the defense that under-inflation doesn't provide a real advantage reminds me of how people used to defend the likely use of steroids in baseball, saying that steroids couldn't help someone hit a curveball. If breaking the rules doesn't provide a tangible advantage, why are they breaking the rules?

And yeah, if you think I might be hasty in assuming the Patriots broke the rules, then you also have to admit that there's good reason to believe they did exactly that.

by RickD :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 3:52pm

The argument that the Patriots would deflate a ball in wet weather is to gain an advantage in handling a slick ball. Why would anybody do that on a much colder day? Just to prove that they can break the rules?

FWIW, Jason LaCanfora is reporting that some Ravens think that their kicking balls were under-inflated that day. Presumably these would be kicking balls that the Patriots had no access to.

I wouldn't be surprised if variations of 1-2 psi in football inflation have been entirely common over the years. That's really not all that much air pressure. It's so little that apparently none of the officials noticed it during the course of the game. Of course, against a background of no controlled measurements, the first measured tests are going to be used to villify the Patriots.

Yes, Spygate Redux in that respect.

by Anon Ymous :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 3:55pm

"FWIW, Jason LaCanfora is reporting that some Ravens think that their kicking balls were under-inflated that day. Presumably these would be kicking balls that the Patriots had no access to."

It seems prudent to add that the idea that NE had any opportunity to alter Baltimore's kicking balls has been thoroughly debunked. Harbaugh himself has stated that they didn't notice any pressure discrepancy.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 4:03pm

I've heard more than one running back say today that it is harder to strip the ball out of their hands on a cold day, when the ball is a little deflated.

by Bobman :: Fri, 01/23/2015 - 2:48am

In that case, Boom "butterfingers" Herron probably bled the Colts balls to a floppy 5 PSI before they were conveniently reinflated just before halftime.

yes, kidding.

by Peregrine :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 4:15pm

A slightly deflated ball might be preferable whatever the weather. Apparently the grip is better with less air in the football, which would help ball carriers avoid fumbling. I don't know. I've thrown an NFL regulation ball before, but it's been a while and I have no idea what the air pressure was. Maybe some of us should run experiments at home and report back. I could likely confirm that my arm ain't what it used to be.

In other words, yeah, I think this is something the Patriots could have been doing all season (and potentially other seasons). Sorry, the team has earned every suspicion that comes their way.

by jonnyblazin :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:05pm

The idea that NE would deflate the balls used in the kicking game vs. Baltimore doesn't even make strategic sense. As I understand it the "K" balls are pooled together and used for both teams. The Ravens have one of the best kick off return games in the league, deflating the balls would result in more opportunities for Jacoby Jones to bust a big return.

by PaddyPat :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 3:29pm

The fewer fumble allegations are rather silly in reference to the Pats-Ravens tilt. The Patriots fumbled the ball in that game like it was a hot potato. Are we arguing that they would have fumbled 5? 6? times with a proper ball? Belichick explained in his press conference that he likes to make the balls all but unmanageable in practice--slick, hard-to-grip etc. in order to ensure that the team practices with balls that are far worse than anything they would have to handle in a game. That actually trips off memories of practice reports from yesteryears during the Belichick era. I think it's true. With that in mind, the allegations seem rather weird.

by Travis :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 3:49pm

They fumbled just twice in that game, not counting fumbles overturned on replay, and one of those happened with the unlikely-to-be-deflated K balls.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 3:35pm

Intellectual exercise: say Belichick got suspended for the Super Bowl. How much do you think the betting line would move?

7 points?

How much is that compared to the average coach?

by EricL :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:42pm

The highest-level person that I think has even a prayer of being suspended is Josh McDaniels.

And that only if they're able to conclusively point the finger at someone on the Patriots staff.

by Sixknots :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 10:22pm

The "Cartel", as Will says, will drag the resolution of this out way past the Super Bowl.

by PatsFan :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 10:26pm

Official League Mouthpiece Peter King has already said as much.

by Anon Ymous :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 4:25pm

Bringing a topic down to be sure it gets consideration.

I'm willing to concede that NE lowered the pressure. All the arguments against it - bad balls, air pressure, temp changes - seem absurd to me.

At the same time, I'm struggling to see a distinction between PSI changes and all the other scuffing and scratching QBs do midweek. We hear about how lowering the PSI offers the competitive advantage of better grip, but isn't that precisely why the balls are muffed up beforehand? To break in the ball and make it easier to grip and throw? And who's to say that Luck didn't prefer the ball at 12.5? If that's the case, then it eliminates talk of "competitive advantages" entirely because both QBs used a ball with their desired specifications.

The main question I have is this: if there are so many quarterbacks who prefer the ball outside the normal range and seasoned refs can't seem to be able to tell the difference, why not just expand the range? No one has a competitive advantage if they're all happy with whatever ball they are playing with.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 4:31pm

Well, presumably the league has the rule regarding PSI because it strikes the the balance they prefer between offense and defense, and not just in regard to passing, but also catching and general ball security. Thus the league has a rule in place. If one team plays with a ball inflated below specs, it has an advantage, and if it achieved that end deliberately, that's unacceptable.

by LyleNM :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 4:42pm

Anon, I was about to post something like this but Will said it better.

And no, teams can't just use any old ball they feel like. Imagine one team showing up and saying they wanted to use Nerf footballs. If they had been practicing using them, they would have a huge advantage over the other team's defense since they would be used to how the balls performed. Obviously, that's the absurd end of the argument, but the point remains - there is an advantage gained that is currently against the rules.

by Pen :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 4:38pm

Differently inflated balls will bounce differently as well. An underinflated ball will be easier to catch and less likely to bounce out of the hands of a WR and into the hands of Haha Cli...er, I mean a defender. So the Tom Brady's of the world won't have Russell Wilson type days so often. That's cheating.

Umpires check the base ball as a matter of course during a ball game to make sure the pitcher isn't using spitballs or some other unfair advantage. Should MLB just allow pitchers to throw whatever they want?

The suggestion is absurd.

by Anon Ymous :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 4:46pm

"The suggestion is absurd."

So, allowing someone to use 11 PSI instead of 12.5 is the same as spitballs? Your analogy - as well as your last line - are remarkably hyperbolic.

I'll grant that if the reason is balance between offense/defense it pokes a hole in my argument, but I'm not entirely sold on that rationale.

by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 4:48pm

Spitballs may be pushing, but it serves the same purpose.

The Patriots did something that benefits them and not the Colts (making the ball easier to grip, throw and catch). That is cheating.

You can say that in future they should relax the limits, but as of now, that is cheating, if they knowingly did it.

by Anon Ymous :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 4:53pm

"The Patriots did something that benefits them and not the Colts (making the ball easier to grip, throw and catch). That is cheating."

It only benefits them if they would have preferred to have used a ball with a lower PSI. A small distinction, I know, but one that I don't think should be dismissed entirely.

EDIT to add: Again, I'm fully conceding that NE broke a rule and did it clearly because it helped them in some way. I'm just not one to buy that something is "wrong" simply because it is against the rules. I need rationale. It's a trait that prior supervisors weren't too fond of. ;-)

by Noah Arkadia :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 11:25am

"I'm just not one to buy that something is "wrong" simply because it is against the rules."

This doesn't apply to a competitive environment. What I mean is the rules your supervisors have are for the supposed benefit of everyone involved. You are right to question if there is a better way. The rules in a sports competition are meant to keep things fair. There needs to be no reason, if you break them you should be penalized no matter what. Whether you want to call breaking them "wrong" is entirely optional. Is holding wrong? Not necessarily, and especially if you get away with it. It will, however, be penalized whenever it's spotted.

So yeah, I'd question your questioning in this case.

Who, me?

by LyleNM :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 4:51pm

So, allowing someone to use 11 PSI instead of 12.5 is the same as spitballs? Your analogy - as well as your last line - are remarkably hyperbolic.

Actually it's pretty much an exact analogy. One of those footballs meets legal specifications and the other doesn't. A "dry" baseball meets legal specifications and a spitball doesn't. How exactly is that hyperbolic?

by Anon Ymous :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 4:55pm

This is an absurd question. It's like asking why a comparison between jay walking and murder is flawed since they are both against the law. Degrees matter.

by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 4:59pm

Why is the degree for a spitball more. It isn't like spitballs turned Joe Schmo into Sandy Koufax, just like deflating isn't going to turn Blaine Gabbert into Drew Brees.

by LyleNM :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:03pm

This is an absurd question. It's like asking why a comparison between jay walking and murder is flawed since they are both against the law. Degrees matter.

Indeed they do which is why we compared an illegal ball in one sport to an illegal ball in another sport. Your comparison is more like comparing an illegal ball to the use of PEDs.

by Anon Ymous :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:04pm

I understand *why* you think your analogy works, but it still is flawed. Spitballs impact the actual play on the field far more than a small drop in PSI.

by LyleNM :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:06pm

OK. Prove it.

by Anon Ymous :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:08pm

I knew you would say that, I certainly went too far with my statement.

Paradoxically, though, it is you who has the burden of proof on the original analogy. You need to demonstrate that 2lbs of PSI affects the play on the field as much as a spit ball.

by LyleNM :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:12pm

Actually, I don't. What I said was that they are both illegal balls in their respective sports. If you can demonstrate that that is not a fact, go for it.

by Anon Ymous :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:17pm

You can state this, but it doesn't make it true. You're original point clearly did more equivocating than simply that they were both "illegal." And if that was your only point, it appears to be a largely meaningless one.

Either way, I got a reasonable answer to my query so further debating appears to be unnecessary.

by LyleNM :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:27pm

I guess you must mean Pen's original point which was the first analogy to the spitball. And I'm curious as to which you think "doesn't make it true" - that an underinflated football is illegal or that a spitball is illegal?

My original point - supporting Pen - was that the analogy to the spitball is pretty much an exact analogy and nowhere close to "hyperbolic" (your word).

by jonnyblazin :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:07pm

Spitballs move unnaturally, so can result in a guy getting beaned. Aside from the competitive advantage, spitballs place the health of the batter in serious danger.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:17pm

The spitball is a breaking pitch.

A guy was killed by one in 1920, but it was during a poorly lit night game with a ball that was literally brown from spit. He couldn't see it.

The spitball's current illegality has nothing to do with safety.

by EricL :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:47pm

The first night game in major league baseball was in 1935. Ray Chapman wasn't killed during a night game.

Not disputing the other parts, but it wasn't due to bad lighting.

by jonnyblazin :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 6:00pm

My point is that deflating a football may help a football team win a game, whereas throwing a spitball may help a baseball team win a game and endanger the batter. There is no moral equivalency between the two.

Edit: Oh, and the spitball is not a breaking pitch. Per wiki, it is the equivalent of a "fastball with knuckleball action".

by Anon Ymous :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 6:21pm

You know, after some lonely teenage years, I thought I knew all there was to know about handling balls, but this thread has been very edifying.

by runaway robot :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 6:39pm

Please don't elaborate.

by tuluse :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 10:44pm

They're similar in that they're both illegal and you're found guilty of doing one you will be punished.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 4:52pm

Why wouldn't the league want to strike a balance between offense and defense? Do you think it is just coincidence that o-linemen can be penalized for holding, and not just d-backs? Are the the defensive players inanimate objects? Or do you really think an underinflated ball is no easier to hold on to?

by Anon Ymous :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 4:57pm

You are building a straw man with these questions. I actually prefer more defense oriented games.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:01pm

I made no comment which implied anything about your preferences. I simply find it a little ridiculously skeptical to doubt that the league has a preference for offensive/defensive balance that would be evident in a rule pertaining to ball inflation.

by Anon Ymous :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:10pm

Why is it ridiculous? You seem to be implying that I don't think the league desires balance whatsoever, whereas I'm saying that in the matter of PSI only, I'm not sure I buy that balance was the primary rationale. As I've said 4 times now, if that is the case - and it certainly could be - it pokes a big hole in my argument.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:37pm

Do you suppose they made up the rule about ball inflation just for the hell of it?

by Eddo :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:50pm

And even if they did, it's a rule!

The field is 100 yards long "just for the hell of it". An offense can only have seven men on the line of scrimmage "just for the hell of it". Most sporting rules are arbitrary.

And yet, if you break them, there is a punishment.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 4:58pm

Taking steroids allows a pitcher who can normally only throw at 93 to throw at something more like 98. That's less than 5% difference. That's 11.9 psi.

That's enough to keep a player out of the HOF.

by Anon Ymous :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:03pm

This makes no sense. The only way this analogy works is if you can demonstrate that ability and PSI are equally negatively correlated.

by Eddo :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:46pm

"Taking steroids allows a pitcher who can normally only throw at 93 to throw at something more like 98."

Of all the unfounded assertions in this thread, I think this one takes the cake.

(And ABGT - I agree with most of your points on the deflation, actually. It's just this steroids one that seems ludicrous.)

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 6:08pm

Pages 4-5



The real reason pitchers would take steroids has less to do with velocity increases and more to do with faster post-game recovery speeds. But it could still juice their fast ball.

by Pen :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 8:02am
by Pat :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 4:42pm

Because the quarterbacks play against another team? Why does the quarterback get to decide? Why not let the defense decide how they want the ball inflated? They have equal rights to the ball when it's in the air, after all, and they need to know what to practice with as well.

The ball's got to be standardized within some range. Otherwise you just get silliness.

by Anon Ymous :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 4:49pm

I'm not sure I buy this. Sure, if they could substitute balls of entirely different material (i.e. Nerf) that would be problematic, but you can only get so low on PSI with a standard ball before the negatives outweigh the positives.

I've already conceded the opening point, but considering the changes the league has made of late, I'm dubious that the reasoning has anything to do with being fair to the defense.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 4:55pm

"Fair" has nothing to do with anything. They simply think the product is better with the balance they currently have. That's why offensive linemen are still penalized if they tackle pass rushers.

by Anon Ymous :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:13pm

I'm still not sold you can draw a direct link between holds and PSI. I could be wrong.

by Pat :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:15pm

but considering the changes the league has made of late, I'm dubious that the reasoning has anything to do with being fair to the defense.

Off-topic, but the idea that the NFL wants super-high scoring games and is constantly favoring the offense is really just not well founded.

The only rules change that seems to have raised scoring at all is restricting the area where you can hit quarterbacks, and I'm even a bit dubious of that. Scoring is up slightly (2013 was the highest scoring season in the NFL, at 23.2 ppg) but that's only because field goal kickers are so much better now.

If the NFL had modern kickers back in 1962, they would've been scoring 24+ points per game. In 1962, offenses were scoring 2.6 touchdowns/game. In 2013, offenses were scoring 2.4 touchdowns/game (for a more recent reference, in 1983 and 1987, offenses were also scoring 2.4 touchdowns/game). The reason why the NFL has to "reinforce" rules to favor the offense is that passing rules enforcement naturally slips down over time since defenses adapt to what officials are focusing on, and refs aren't perfect.

by Led :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:31pm

"The reason why the NFL has to "reinforce" rules to favor the offense is that passing rules enforcement naturally slips down over time since defenses adapt to what officials are focusing on, and refs aren't perfect."

That's a bit of a stretch. It's more likely that scoring becomes more difficult when players get bigger and faster but the field dimensions remain the same. Anyway, the point is not that the rules changes are intended to promote scoring, per se, but that they are intended to promote passing, and it's working.

by Pat :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 11:11am

I think we're both right, and I should've clarified it a bit more. In the long term, I completely agree with you. Faster players means defenses have an advantage, so the rules adjust to open things up a little. In the short term, though, I think it's definitely true that passing rule enforcement naturally slips down. That's why you see the "illegal contact point of emphasis" thing pop up every five years or so. Officials focus on that for a year or two, defenses adapt so they're not doing it much anymore and officials focus on other things. Then when the refs' attention is elsewhere, teams go back to doing it. Lather, rinse, repeat.

As for rules changes promoting passing, I don't really agree there. I don't think the league is doing that - I think the sport is doing that on its own, for a variety of reasons. Passing is lower risk now, and much cheaper - running backs only last for a few years, whereas quarterbacks can play almost 20. It doesn't make much sense to focus on running the ball when an efficient passing attack can set you up for a decade.

Not all of the rules changes have favored scoring, obviously. Moving the kickoff yard line back, and getting rid of the force-out rule have both helped reduce scoring and offense.

by Eddo :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:48pm

Exactly. The NFL keeps adjusting rules in the offense's favor because players keep getting bigger and faster. And when the playing field is a fixed size, players that are bigger and faster benefit the team defending its own end zone.

EDIT: Coke to Led.

by poplar cove :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 4:51pm


Sorry for the capital letters but want to be heard here with this as I have been preaching this for years. I can never figure out why the Patriots seem to lose less fumbles year after year than other teams. I went back and looked and the Patriots have been top 6 or so team in NFL fumbles and fumbles lost 7 of the past 8 seasons.

I know fumble luck has more to do with percentages of balls recovered but a ball with less air from time to time may explain why a team wins turnover battle at absurd rates the last 8 seasons. I did some quick research on it I am quite sure they also have fumbled least amount of any team since 2007. Not saying this going on every game but maybe there's something behind all this.

Love for someone to dig deeper and write a story on this.

by BigNachos :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:12pm

Ball security is a huge point of emphasis for the Patriots, to the extent that they've benched Stevan Ridley for games at a time for fumbles.

by Revenge :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:25pm

And to the extent that they under-inflate the ball to make it easier to hold onto.

Sorry, couldn't resist.

by Bobman :: Fri, 01/23/2015 - 2:55am

Hell yeah, if Ridley gets every advantage of an underinflated ball and STILL fumbles, then GTFO my team, loser! I give and give and cheat for you and this is how you repay me? You're benched, pal!

by poplar cove :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:44pm

I'm sure ball security is huge point with all teams though in the NFL. Every coach nowadays knows the importance of winning the turnover battle in the NFL as a teams win percentage with turnover margin is the one big constant in the NFL.

I bet sports at fairly serious levels and am always looking for any edge or piece of information I feel can help me. Trying to predict turnovers is something most serious football bettors have said could make one a very rich man with betting the NFL. I've been saying for few years now that it seems this is the one thing that always stands out with the Patriots as their at a whole different level than other teams. Their success with this has always felt a little bit unexplainable to me. In fact if you look at a lot of other stats out there with the Patriots they don't seem to add up to a team who should win at the level's they have been winning at.

Maybe i am totally wrong here but like I said earlier, I was wondering if their fumble numbers since 2007 make sense. I be shocked to see if there's a case of another franchise in NFL history that has been in top 20 pct of the league in 'the least amount of fumbles in a season' 7 times over an 8 stretch.

by BigNachos :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 6:06pm

Some teams are far more tolerant of fumbles though. Adrian Peterson was never benched no matter how much he fumbled.

The Patriots favor the less dynamic running back who's less prone to fumbles more than other teams, and structure their roster accordingly.

by poplar cove :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 7:05pm

Sorry but I just don't think the Patriots would bench Adrian Peterson either in this spot. This is a coach who's been known to give some very questionable characters a shot meaning talent is usually a huge factor for BB when deciding who plays or not.

I am quite sure that if this was Tom Brady who fumbled two times in a game on his own he be still be out there playing the next series and I am sure you would agree with me on that. Thats the comparison that needs to be used here with Peterson or Ridley.

I just find it a little hard to believe they fumble at the unusually low rates they've been fumbling at these past 8 years just because they bench a guy here or there or they supposedly preach it more than every other team year in and year out. If that's all it took than I would think there would be lots of copycats out there trying to do the same stuff or there be a little more randomness.

To me the answer that makes the most sense right now is they have most likely been messing with the dynamics of the football just enough to make it more difficult for their team not to fumble.

What a monster black eye for the NFL and the Patriots legacy as well.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 10:15am

I took a look at NWE's various RBs over the last 8 years.

Ridley, Vereen, Boldin, Gray, and Faulk didn't have any meaningful carries with other teams.

This left: Green-Ellis, Maroney, Morris, Blount, and Woodhead.

All five had markedly lower fumble rates at NWE than with any of their prior or successive teams. These guys made up the majority of rushing attempts by NWE players since 2007.

Cassell's fumble rate on a per game started rate is roughly constant across his teams, but I would expect QB fumbles to be different in nature than RB fumbles, and less grip dependent.

The WRs vary. Moss and LaFell were roughly the same as elsewhere. Ben Watson was actually higher at NWE than elsewhere. Welker was much lower at NWE than at MIA, but was even lower at DEN than at NWE. Amendola is much lower at NWE than at STL.

The only NWE receivers with more than one fumble in a season are Moss, Welker, and Edelman. Welker and Edelman also returned kicks. No one has lost more than 2 fumbles in a season since 2007.

So it appears that NWE's RBs have an unexpectedly low fumble rate while at NWE and only while at NWE. The fumble rate for NWE's receivers is low, but roughly commensurate with the rest of their career rates.

by RickD :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 6:07pm

It's well known that Patriots' RBs who fumble get benched. BenJarvis Green-Ellis was given a lot of playing time precisely because he never fumbled (at least, not when he was on the Pats).

Your statistical study could depend a lot on the fact that BJGE never fumbled.

by PatsFan :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:03pm

LaCanfora's latest piece. He both calls for NE to be punished severely if they did something, but also believes it's very common:


by Anon Ymous :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:23pm

I can't promise to be objective, but "it's very common" and "they should be punished severely" seem irreconcilable to me.

LaCanfora's debunked piece about Baltimore's kicking balls doesn't exactly make him the most credible source, either.

by RickD :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:46pm

It's par for the course when dealing with the Pats.

by MJK :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:31pm

Does this remind anyone else of the Matt Walsh affair? An allegation of Patriots cheating arises the week before the Superbowl that the Patriots are in, that later was completely debunked was blown way out of proportion by anti-Patriots fan and a media that's rabid for a SB story that doesn't involve marriage proposals to Tom Brady?

by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:35pm

The only similarity is the timing. Other than that, we have way more proof this actually happened.

by RickD :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 6:04pm

Well, something actually happened. Exactly what happened remains unclear.

by jds :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:54pm

I look forward to how this is handled in the off season, because I can't think that Goodell is going to want to address this in the two weeks up to the big game. I can expect a bland statement about ongoing investigations, with the qualifier that they have determined that it did not affect the results of that last game, you know, so they can seem to justify the Pats in the Super Bowl.

Its going to make media day during Super Bowl week interesting.

I am also intrigued as to whether they will allow a low level employee to get thrown under the bus to end this, or whether someone digs in and tries to take this all the way to the top. Are they going to let someone say, I knew Tom liked it underinflated, so I did it, rather than, Tom told me to underinflate it.

The issue right now of Tom/BB ordered it, Tom/BB knew about it and didn't do anything to stop it, or Tom/BB didn't know anything about it - well, I will leave that for internet message boards to solve. I know the best theories, and the best defenses and counter theories will be delivered by guys on the internet 1,000 miles away from Boston. And I will read as much of the ESPN message boards as I can stomach for entertainment purposes.

Last, I think we can expect a rule change to have the league put control of the balls in the hands of the refs, and not allow each team to have their own set. That seems like the no-brainer response to the situation going forward. How they deal with the past is anyone's guess at this point.

by RickD :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 6:03pm

Based on their respective statements this week, I'm convinced Brady at least is in the clear. Belichick may not be. Of course he could tell the truth and look like he's lying. (I don't think he's capable of the opposite.)

I disagree about your statement. I think that the league wants to settle this by the end of this week.

I do think this will be the end of the rule allowing each team to not only produce, but "work up" their footballs before the game. That rule, introduced by Brady and Manning a few years ago, has evidently been abused here. And really, it's a rule begging to be abused. That the different teams should have separate supplies of footballs seems ludicrous.

by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 6:15pm

I think the 'roughing up' of hte ball and the PSI level are two separate issues. I do agree that this likely spells the end of teams being able to supply their own balls.

I wouldn't be so quick to clear Brady. If a LB can tell the difference, I'm pretty sure Brady can as well.

Assuming this is a deliberate move by the Patriots, Brady may not have any say in the matter, but I find it doubtful he had no idea this was going on.

by RickD :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 9:59pm

The LB couldn't tell the difference. The difference wasn't noticed until he gave the ball to his equipment manager.

It wouldn't be surprising that an equipment manager would have a better feel for the difference made by 2 psi.

by Pen :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 8:11am


First off, it just takes a second to tell the difference. Brady HAD to know the difference. As Madden said, this couldn't have come from Belichek. He wouldn't mess with the QB's balls unless the QB requested it. Brady knew and it was Brady who asked to have it done.

More importantly to this entire scandal is that the NFL was made aware Nov. 16th, said they'd monitor the situation and then the entire first half of the AFCCG the refs, who also had to have known - just look how easy it is to tell and how quickly they can tell in that video that the ball is deflated - the refs did NOTHING.

That smells of collusion. Goodell is far too chummy with his good bud Kraft. The owners should vote Goodell out, ban Belicheat, suspend Brady from the Super Bowl and strip NE from all its draft picks next year.

They won't and the NFL will forever carry an asterisk next to it's logo.

by Pen :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 8:11am


First off, it just takes a second to tell the difference. Brady HAD to know the difference. As Madden said, this couldn't have come from Belichek. He wouldn't mess with the QB's balls unless the QB requested it. Brady knew and it was Brady who asked to have it done.

More importantly to this entire scandal is that the NFL was made aware Nov. 16th, said they'd monitor the situation and then the entire first half of the AFCCG the refs, who also had to have known - just look how easy it is to tell and how quickly they can tell in that video that the ball is deflated - the refs did NOTHING.

That smells of collusion. Goodell is far too chummy with his good bud Kraft. The owners should vote Goodell out, ban Belicheat, suspend Brady from the Super Bowl and strip NE from all its draft picks next year.

They won't and the NFL will forever carry an asterisk next to it's logo.

by Behemoth :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 12:28pm

Keep going Pen. You'll trigger the FOMBC sooner or later.

If your reasoning passes for informed comment in the United States, then I will make extra, extra careful when I next travel to your country to make sure that I do nothing, nothing, that could land me in conflict with your legal system. If people who reason as you do would constitute a jury of one's peers, then the various crises of the American justice system become very clear ....

My experience working at a senior management level where I am very frequently dealing with people in conflict and subsequent legal cases has taught me over the years that it is exceptionally foolish to make assumptions, much less statements, about what someone else had to have known, or about who knew what when, or about what a particular individual believed are incredibly unwise and counterproductive, even in cases where relatively more information is available. Baseless attribution of motive is a scourge of our society.

What you actually *know* here is very little. It's based on information leaked to reporters. The rest is largely, although not exclusively, pontificating and bloviating.

Once again, let's all relax. Let's find out what really went on. Let's take a measured approach and act if and only if we have clear evidence of wrong-doing, whether by an individual or through a culture of willful ignorance on the part of an organization.

For what it's worth, for those many of us who are casting stones at the NFL or Belichick or Brady, or Kraft, or the refs, or any or all of the above, a substantial part of the posts on this thread have been exceptionally careless in their phrasing of their language. Some of this language almost certainly constitutes defamation and libel, against one or more parties. Yet how many people who have posted language that crosses the line here have stopped for a moment to think that, even though their posting is in fact unlikely to lead to a suit, their conduct is indeed wrongful and tortious? I suspect the answer is very few. Yet those same folks are ready to ban, to suspend, to compel Kraft to dispose of his asset ... yada, yada, yada.

In short, Pot ---> Kettle, "You're black"

Frankly, I expected better from people here at FO. I would expect this conduct on ESPN or NFL boards on the rare occasions I look to see the appalling poor level of discourse there; I had hoped for more reason and less hot air, so to speak, here. Yikes.

by mehllageman56 :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 12:34pm

Belichick and Brady are public figures. Good luck filing the lawsuit.

by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 12:34pm

I think you are exceptionally ignorant with regard to how high the bar is when it comes to engaging in libel or defamation of a public figure, under the laws of the United States. Here's a clue. It's really, really, really, high. Really.

by Behemoth :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 12:42pm

No, Will, I am aware that the standard to launch a suit has a much higher bar in the United States. That's why I used the language I did. Saying that someone is lying when one has no evidence that they did is wrongful; it doesn't mean that a suit will immediately follow. The fact that they can't sue me still doesn't, in my mind, excuse the conduct - especially when the folks resorting to such conduct are condemning others for their *supposed* failings in their moral conduct, while lacking a clear chain of evidence to support their contentions. I find such conduct distasteful, and intensely depressing. You seem not to find it so. So be it.

by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 12:48pm

Sorry, but words have actual definitions. To say a statement constitutes libel or defamation has a specific meaning. In this instance, what you wrote is simply false, in that there is not even the tiniest chance that anything written in this thread would be found to meet that specific definition. If you had simply written that people had wrongfully made false accusations in this thread, I would not have responded. That isn't what you wrote.

by Behemoth :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 12:59pm

Sorry, but laws are written. After that, they get interpreted in certain ways by the courts. Does language here cross the boundary of defamation of character as written in law? I think it patently self-evident that it does. One simply has to read read the various state laws and, to the extent it might apply, federal law. Now, as a practical matter, is a law suit likely? No, as courts routinely rule them out of order for practical reasons. It doesn't mean the conduct isn't wrongful; it means that one is unlikely for practical reasons to be able to seek redress for such conduct.

This conflict of interpretations of legal standards aside, shall we agree that making unsubstantiated allegations is unhelpful, which was my point?

by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 1:10pm

Yes, and the current definition of the terms "libel" and "defamations" aren't even close to being met by anything in this thread. It is simply not accurate to say otherwise. As a matter of law, nothing in this thread constitutes libel or defamation.

As I already stated, if you had simply written that a lot of people in this thread had wrongfully stated that some specific individuals had engaged in bad behavior, without any evidence of it, I would not have bothered to respond. When you start tossing about the term "tortious", among others, thereby inaccurately implying that there may be some cause for legal action based upon what has been written in this thread, I find that troubling in itself, for the simple reason that it is not true.

by Behemoth :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 1:32pm

Will, it is patently self-evident to me that elements of the accusations in this thread clearly surpass the minimum tests as applied in, say, Massachusetts law. I therefore believe that there is potential cause for legal action. You disagree. Fine. We both agree (I think) that it would be phenomenally unwise and unlikely to lead to any good result for any of the potential injured parties to file a suit. Let's move on.

Again, whatever our disagreements about this legal issue, my main point remains. Accusations without proof are simply that. It is, in my view, unwise and unhelpful to make them. Again, let's move on.

by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 1:51pm

I'm not a member of the Massachusetts bar, but I believe the actual malice standard applies, and if you see evidence of that standard being even close to being met in this thread, yes, we will have to differ.

On the latter point, we agree.

by tuluse :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 10:55pm

Don't you have to cause economic damage to be guilty of libel? Lying about someone isn't enough, you actually have to cause harm in some manner if I understand it correctly.

by RickD :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 1:01pm


I would make a similar comment, but everybody would dismiss me as a Patriots' homer.

I am constantly impressed by people arguing what a certain person "must have known". I try to use language with qualifiers like "seems likely", "seems unlikely", "I believe", etc. As you say, people who build their knowledge base from press releases are not being terribly rigorous about selecting their beliefs.

The current state of the media is to use leaks as a way to publish anonymous press releases, often with innuendos and blame-casting. Anybody using a reporter's anonymous sources as a basis for anything will find himself with bad information very often.

by dryheat :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 10:33pm

Eh. Neither Brady, or any other player or Coach, is obligated to tell the official he suspects the ball is underinflated.

by RickD :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:57pm

OK, so I heard a theory on the radio which would fit all the evidence and fit BB's tendency to push the rules without breaking them.

What are the rules here?

a)The ball-supply rule

"The home club shall have 36 balls for outdoor games and 24 for indoor games available for testing with a pressure gauge by the referee two hours prior to the starting time of the game to meet with League requirements. Twelve (12) new footballs, sealed in a special box and shipped by the manufacturer, will be opened in the officials’ locker room two hours prior to the starting time of the game."

(Aside: the note that the kicking balls must be brand new in a sealed box from the manufacturers implies, by a correct application of "the exception proves the rule", that the other 24/36 balls need not be brand new.)

b) the don't tamper rule (from Slate)
"Once the balls have left the locker room, no one, including players, equipment managers, ball boys, and coaches, is allowed to alter the footballs in any way. If any individual alters the footballs, or if a non-approved ball is used in the game, the person responsible and, if appropriate, the head coach or other club personnel will be subject to discipline, including but not limited to, a fine of $25,000."

OK, so if the Patriots are responsible here, what might have happened? They may have supplied footballs that had been inflated to the proper pressure, but at a much higher temperature. If they did that, then the first rule would be satisfied because they were at the correct pressure. And then they would cool down and the pressure would drop. As for (b), it wouldn't require any tampering for the pressure to drop 2 pounds psi, not if they'd started out overheated.

Note that it's not the responsibility of the Patriots for the balls to stay at the desired PSI. It's only their responsibility to be so when they are given to the officials.

Yes, this is a bit cooked-up, but it's exactly the kind of approach that would appeal to Belichick. It would be technically legal while violating the spirit of the rules.

Since unsupported speculation is rampant this week, I thought I'd throw this in.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 6:14pm

The full text of the rule doesn't state that balls must be between 12.5 and 13.5 psi only at the time of inspection. It states that they shall be inflated to between 12.5 and 13.5 psi.

the rule:
Rule 2 The Ball
Section 1
The Ball must be a “Wilson,” hand selected, bearing the signature of the Commissioner of the League, Roger Goodell.
The ball shall be made up of an inflated (12 1/2 to 13 1/2 pounds) urethane bladder enclosed in a pebble grained, leather case
(natural tan color) without corrugations of any kind. It shall have the form of a prolate spheroid and the size and weight
shall be: long axis, 11 to 11 1/4 inches; long circumference, 28 to 28 1/2 inches; short circumference, 21 to 21 1/4 inches;
weight, 14 to 15 ounces.
The Referee shall be the sole judge as to whether all balls offered for play comply with these specifications. A pump is to be
furnished by the home club, and the balls shall remain under the supervision of the Referee until they are delivered to the
ball attendant just prior to the start of the game.
Section 2
Each team will make 12 primary balls available for testing by the Referee two hours and 15 minutes prior to the starting time of
the game to meet League requirements. The home team will also make 12 backup balls available for testing in all
stadiums. In addition, the visitors, at their discretion, may bring 12 backup balls to be tested by the Referee for games
held in outdoor stadiums. For all games, eight new footballs, sealed in a special box and shipped by the manufacturer to
the Referee, will be opened in the officials’ locker room two hours and 15 minutes prior to the starting time of the game.
These balls are to be specially marked by the Referee and used exclusively for the kicking game.
In the event a home team ball does not conform to specifications, or its supply is exhausted, the Referee shall secure a proper
ball from the visitors and, failing that, use the best available ball. Any such circumstances must be reported to the
In case of rain or a wet, muddy, or slippery field, a playable ball shall be used at the request of the offensive team’s center.
The Game Clock shall not stop for such action (unless undue delay occurs).
Note: It is the responsibility of the home team to furnish playable balls at all times by attendants from either side of the playing

by deus01 :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 6:39pm

I guess we should change all stadiums to indoor ones that stay at SATP.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 6:19pm

If that's the case, then, if we had a commissioner who was actually mostly concerned with ensuring honest competition, the "best interests of the game" powers would be invoked, and Belichik would be told to go do something else with his time for at least a year. I'll say again that Darth Hoodie was treated entirely to generously in the videotaping brouhaha.

by RickD :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 10:03pm

I think that Goodell negotiated the punishment with Kraft. I'm betting they are doing the same thing behind the scenes right now. Either that or they are jawing about what exactly happened.

What has gone unmentioned so far is that Kraft has been one of Goodell's biggest supporters.

FWIW, the Pats could certainly have contested the Spygate thing. They could have gone to court and the way the rules were set up, they would have had a legal case. But it might well have hurt their image more than pleading out would. In retrospect, I wish that Belichick had been allowed to make his argument in public. He never did explain what he was thinking.

by Jerry :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 5:42am

You're not the only one who'd like to have heard Belichick's defense:

“I was given assurances that [Belichick] would tell his side of the story,” Goodell said at the time. “He went out and stonewalled the press. I feel like I was deceived.”

Belichick said at the time, “I did not make any assurances about thoroughly discussing the subject publicly. I said I would address it following the league’s review. I then did that in a way I thought was appropriate. I don’t think that was deceptive.’’

by deus01 :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 6:37pm

Based on the outside temperature during the game, that the balls were minimally inflated indoors, and that the NFL doesn't know how temp effects pressure the balls would have had to have been at about 80F when they were checked before the game (assuming a 1.5 PSIG drop is 'about' the measured 2 PSIG difference).

I don't think it's unreasonable that's what happened and but it satisfies the letter of the rule; not the spirit.

by PatsFan :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 6:44pm

Especially if NE was further trying to game the rules by inflating with hot air.

by deus01 :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 7:03pm

I don't think anyone has cared about the physics enough in the past that they've worried about testing under standard conditions. It seems like this could be plausibly explained under the current rules so I don't see why it should be a big deal.

by LamKram :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 7:20pm

Excellent, RickD!

And, to extend the conspiracy, anyone heard of adiabatic heating? No need to even check them in an overheated room. Just the act of pumping them up from a flat state will cause the air to self-heat as it gets compressed. All scuba divers know that compressed air tanks get super hot when you fill them. So all the Patriots had to do was pump the balls up from completely flat to the minimum required pressure just before the refs have to check them. If the balls were perfect thermal insulators (which of course they aren't), the air would heat to 170F going from zero to 12.5 psig! Cooling down from the adiabatically heated state to the field temperature would be more than enough to cause a 2 psi loss.

But all conspiracy theories aside, I'm applying Hanlon's razor here: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. The stupidity in this case being the referees. I'm guessing the Patriots balls were underinflated before the refs checked them out, just the way Brady likes them. I'm guessing the refs don't check that carefully and probably never have, because they know that every team pushes the rules, and everybody likes their balls a little different, and everybody knows that everybody pushes the rules a bit. Notice that no players or coaches have come forward and accused the Patriots of deliberately cheating.

The squishy balls were brought to the refs attention. They checked it out at halftime, fixed the problem, and went on with the game. No biggie. But then an Indianapolis sportswriter gets wind of it, suggests some sort of tampering, and now the NFL is shocked - SHOCKED - that the Patriots balls were in violation of the rules!!!!

by mehllageman56 :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 7:58pm

The question no one is asking is, if the balls were inflated correctly after halftime, why did the score change from 14-7 to 45-7 in favor of the Patriots? Were the improperly inflated balls holding them back?

by Steve in WI :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 12:25pm

That's a really good point. IMHO, any outrage at New England is only appropriate if you assume that the Patriots presented the balls for inspection at legal pressure, then deliberately deflated them. If, as you suggest, the balls were in the same underinflated state all along, then it's the officials who screwed up. In that case, it's like a missed holding or PI call on the field - it's not a dirty or unfair play, but one that should have been appropriately penalized but what missed. (Correct me if I'm wrong, but if a ball doesn't pass inspection prior to the game, the officials simply say it can't be used in the game, right? There's no additional penalty like a fine or anything).

by PatsFan :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 6:25pm

An explanation for that stoppage in play at the beginning of the third quarter, from Boston sports station WEEI:

The Patriots used 12 backup footballs for the second half of Sunday’s AFC championship game after issues were found with most of the original 12 balls used by the offense in the first half, an organizational source told WEEI’s Joe Zarbano. Team spokesman Stacey James confirmed to WEEI.com that the team had 24 footballs available, 12 of which were tested by the officials pregame and another dozen stored inside as backups. After the officials found that the majority of the balls used in the first half were below the acceptable PSI as mandated by the NFL, the backup balls were brought in. According to the source, the backup balls were tested and found to be at the correct levels, and subsequently put into play — just barely in time, as the second half already had started by the time the testing was completed. This is why the officials stopped play and swapped out the kicking ball on the first play from scrimmage of the second half.


by MJK :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 8:29pm

Wow, this is critical. The Patriots then had no control over which of their 24 balls would be the 12 "primary" balls, and which would be the backups? Basically, this all but ensures that either the "malicious ball boy" or the "temperature" argument is correct.

Since the Pats didn't know which balls would be used, the assumption is that all 24 were in the same initial state. They were then subjected to two different environments--the 12 first half balls were stored outside for an extended period of time, and subject to potential tampering by the ball boys, while the other 12 were stored inside and presumably left alone.

At halftime, the first 12 were at least 2 psi lower than the second 12.

The only possible environmental differences between the two was therefore tampering or temperature.

We KNOW that temperature would cause at least a 1.4 psi change, and possibly more if the interior temperature was higher, or if the balls had been inflated quickly.

We do not know that any tampering occurred. It is certainly possible, but the question is how plausible is it, given that a ball boy (technically a league employee) would either have to be corrupt in some way, or a 3rd party from the Patriots organization would have had to secretly deflate them under the ball boy's nose. All this in an environment with cameras everywhere, officials glancing at them occasionally, etc.

Lacking any further evidence, I think it's pretty clear which scenario is more likely.

Of course, the ultimate test was whether the 12 balls used in the second half were then low on air after the game. I wonder if they were checked then? If so, that would basically confirm the temperature theory.

by PatsFan :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 8:38pm

Well, the problem is that this info defeats the "hot inflation" theory -- if teams in fact do not know which balls will be primary and which will be backup.

If the balls were in the OK range after having sat in a room for the first half, presumably their interiors would have cooled to room temp. So if they measured OK at halftime (which they did), then they could not have been inflated to 12.5 PSIG with hot air, since by the time they were measured at halftime they would have read less than 12.5 PSIG by virtue of cooling to indoor ambient from the hot inflate.

by RickD :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 10:04pm

I suspect that teams do know which balls are initial and which are backups.

by Noah Arkadia :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 11:34am

They definitely could know, if they care, as they are the ones who supply them to the refs.

Who, me?

by Dave Bernreuther :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 1:09am

No, they had 12 on the sideline and 12 in reserve. They modified the former once they got there after the refs tested them. The other 12 hadn't been tested or been given the opportunity for modification.

Not sure why you think that "clears" anyone. Temperature has been soundly debunked and basic logic and minimal understanding of QBs kind of kills any notion that it was done without anyone knowing.

by PatsFan :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 9:14am

Temperature hasn't been "debunked", especially if they were inflating the balls with hot air.

by PaddyPat :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 9:20pm

Honestly, I think the two press conferences from today clear up a lot of this. Belichick makes a lot of eye contact, appears dejected and unhappy throughout, and points the finger, rather obtusely at Brady. He appears to be telling the truth. He makes reference to his personal history and to several points of context--no vague generalizations. Brady makes many sweeping statements in his presser, and each time he indicates that he has no knowledge of wrongdoing and didn't notice that the balls were underinflated, he pointedly shakes his head from side to side, which is a clear tell that he doesn't believe in what he's saying. Watch people who are lying sometimes--eye movement and head nods are great tells. My opinion (life-long Pats fan here) is that Belichick was uninvolved, and Brady is completely full of shit. What do you do with that as Goodell? The fact that Brady is bold-faced lying about it makes it an awful lot worse, imo.

by Noah Arkadia :: Fri, 01/23/2015 - 12:36am

I buy this. I never would have expected anything Belichik had to say to impact my opinion, but it did. I think when he's being devious he's typically evasive, even complementary ("The officials do a great job of checking footballs" wouldn't have surprised me). This was very un-Bill like and convincing.

Who, me?

by Bobman :: Fri, 01/23/2015 - 3:10am

I more or less agree that it's more likely to be a Brady thing (former players, Madden, Aikman have all said, basically, "no way the QB isn't in on this because it's so vital to him." Though punishment is problematic, since Goodell established the "ignorance is no defense" and "the HC is in charge of the organization" stances with the Saints three years ago.

Even if it IS determined to be all Brady, I expect BB to be punished as well for not being in charge enough. Boy, that's ironic.

by Pen :: Fri, 01/23/2015 - 3:54am

it's the entire organization. I'll post this link again. It's very damning evidence that the Patriots have been deflating balls since 2007.


"based on the assumption that fumbles per play follow a normal distribution, you’d expect to see, according to random fluctuation, the results that the Patriots have gotten over this period, once in 16,233.77 instances”.

Which in layman’s terms means that this result only being a coincidence, is like winning a raffle where you have a 0.0000616 probability to win. Which in other words, it’s very unlikely that it’s a coincidence."

by PaddyPat :: Sat, 01/24/2015 - 10:42pm

The data from this site is honestly pretty foolish. All that the data indicates is that the Patriots' lack of fumbling is not a coincidence. If you were to run a similar simulation to show passing efficiency, it would demonstrate that Peyton Manning's career is not a coincidence either. He obviously must be doing something illegal to be throwing the ball so well over such a sustained period, right? Seattle's home field advantage is not a coincidence either--it is clearly outside the expected range of a normal distribution on several levels--opponent false starts, average win rate vs. road win rate, etc. Does this mean by definition that the Seahawks are somehow cheating? Correlation says nothing about causation in these instances.

The Patriots have always emphasized situational football throughout the Belichick tenure. It stands to reason that his team is good at things that he heavily prioritizes. Football handling is certainly one of those things. Perhaps he simply has a far superior practice routine for ball handling. That is an equally plausible explanation for the data. It's certainly no coincidence.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 01/26/2015 - 9:52am

There are a couple of other things that stand out.

NWE passes notably more often in bad weather then their opponents do, or other teams in other games.

Once the die has been shown to be weighted, you can no longer make likelihood calculations on the basis of a fair die.

We now have a result (better performance in bad weather), evidence (deflated balls), and a means (deflated balls are easier to pass and receive in poor conditions than inflated balls). This is a workable theory for explaining the Pats success, above and beyond a desire to reduce fumbling likelihood. NWE is more than 1 SD above any other team. Your whole theory is that no other team in the NFL makes efforts to not fumble the ball? Are you guys serious?

by Steve in WI :: Fri, 01/23/2015 - 11:57am

I didn't see either of the press conferences, but from what I'm hearing about them, I think both Belichick and Brady are lying. Both of them seemed pretty strident in their denials not only about tampering with the balls, but about knowing or caring anything about how they are inflated. I believe Belichick said something to the effect that he's never talked to anyone on his staff, in his entire career, about the inflation of a football. Really? We've heard this week that pretty much every QB has a preference. It seems absurd that the issue of ball preparation has never come up.

Similarly, with Brady, it's one thing to come out and say that he knows nothing about how the balls got deflated on Sunday. It stretches the limits of belief to think that a guy who is so focused on minute details (wasn't there an SI piece recently that revealed he has planned out his schedule for every day in the next five years?) doesn't know what's going on with his footballs.

by mbmxyz :: Fri, 01/23/2015 - 2:10pm

Brady said in press conference that he chooses the 24 footballs (12 game and 12 backup) presented to the officials for inspection. Speak with knowledge next time.

by Behemoth :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 6:16pm

Can we just go back to the good old days of the irrational Brady-Manning argument. I miss them ....

by jds :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 7:54pm

I wonder if the number of posts on this thread are going to be over or under the number of posts on the Brady-Manning thread.

by PatsFan :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 6:49pm

So what do you think the timeline is going to be? I would think that the NFL will want to get some of this behind them so people will focus on the game.

I'm thinking that by the end of the week they will announce the findings. I doubt they can get away with not announcing anything (or not having it all leaked anyways) until after the game.

Whether you believe it or not I imagine they will announce that the balls didn't meaningfully affect the AFCCG game. (Because they'd be stupid to say anything else regardless of what they think.)

And then given that Mr. Lousy Coffee and Bad Beer is a total NFL shill & toadie, I will take at face value what he says in an article today that unless the NFL has incontrovertible proof, the penalties will be announced sometime after the game because Goodell for once will want to get it right the first time. He also notes that the NFL Constitution guarantees NE an appeal (no doubt to Goodell), so that's another reason it would be pretty hard to announce penalties before the game.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 7:02pm

Has anybody not in need of about 500ccs of Thorazine actually suggested that the Colts may have won, if a couple more psi of air had been in the balls in the 1st half? It seems to me that the more credible supposition is that it wasn't the first time a stunt with inflation was pulled, and the larger concern is that it be ended once and for all, with new procedures, and some pretty severe punishment of the organization, that has no impact on the game in 12 days, if the preponderance of the evidence strongly suggests a rule, or even the spirit of the rule, was broken deliberately.

by jds :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 8:06pm

I think timeline has to be post-Super Bowl. Its a given that the game is going to be Seahawks - Patriots, played on Feb 1, in Glendale. That cannot change. Even if they can conclude an investigation by then (and Roger has learned by now to do a complete investigation, and view all videotape), I don't think they want to (1) say nothing happened or (2) sanction a Super Bowl participant, even if justified.

NFL gets way too many eyeballs on this game. Even if they put away a coach (or anyone else) for 16 games (or even 1 game), it is not going to start with the Super Bowl.

All in all, from what appears to be the case so far (deliberate breach of the rules by a team), there has to be a significant sanction. There's no way in hell that is going to be applied to the Super Bowl, even if it is to be the equipment guy thrown under the bus. I expect skating, waffling, and delays for two weeks, with sanctions in the offseason after a complete investigation.

by Pen :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 8:16am

Actually, it can change via Rule 17. Goodell can vacate the Patriots win and have the Colts play. He won't. But it can be changed.

by PatsFan :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 9:15am

Only with the assent of 23 owners (see McCann's piece at SI.com). Not going to happen. Especially with Rooney calling this "not serious".

by Jerry :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 7:42pm

"#DeflateCancer Night scheduled against Boston affiliate"


by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 10:20am

"Eleven of every 12 fans will receive a deflated ball, while one in every 12 will receive a "properly" inflated ball."

Oh minor league baseball, don't you ever change.

by mehllageman56 :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 8:06pm

I think this whole scandal is ridiculously minor, as a Raider fan pointed out earlier. It galls me as a Jets fan for Don Shula to insult Belichick as Belicheat, when he pulled off way worse stuff in the 1982 AFC championship game. It's called the Mud Bowl for a reason; the Dolphins intentionally turned off the drainage system so they wouldn't have to deal with Freeman McNeil and Wesley Walker. Hell, the week before that, Walt Michaels was yelling at the ceiling light in the visiting locker room at halftime because he thought Al Davis was listening in. This and spygate are so limited in their effect on the game, I don't see why it's such a big deal. If a bettor has an issue with all this, perhaps they save their anger for the NBA and Tim Donaghy, and worry if a ref has been turned in any of the sports they bet on.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 9:39pm

From the perspective of running the league, it's a big deal, because talk inevitably turns to questions of competition integrity, no matter how weak an affect the actions have, in the two weeks leading up to the league's greatest media exposure, and because parties may be involved who have previously been punished for being titanically stupid with their stubborness, after being told to stop being cute with the rules. The NFL does not need Bill Belichick, and it may be the case that Bill Belichick is just a willfully slow learner. If you want some irony, think about what Bill Belichick does when he has a subordinate who he deems as being non-critical, and who Belichick identifies as being a willfully slow learner.

by mehllageman56 :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 10:13pm

Oh, I understand why this is important to the League. Still, Shula's attitude irritates me so much and fills me with disgust. Belichick isn't on the rules committee, but Shula was. Belichick doesn't pretend to anything but a ruthless coach, Shula did. Someone needs to call him on his absolute hypocrisy, and short of Bill Simmons, I don't know if anyone will.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 10:17pm

Oh, I'm quite sure Shula is a complete phony.

by Noah Arkadia :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 11:40am

Well, if they did flood the field -and I have no information on that one way or the other- it would affect both teams "equally". Tampering with the field of play is a common thing and it deserves its own discussion thread. But what about the snowplough game? Now that was some cold-hearted cheating, and no kidding. And Shula was on the other end of it. Against the Pats. Probably something that colors his opinion on anything Pats.

Who, me?

by mehllageman56 :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 2:22pm

They didn't flood the field, just didn't turn on the drainage system the entire week before the game. Yes, it did effect the Jets more than the Dolphins; the Dolphins had a 250 pound fullback, the Jets offense was based on Freeman McNeil, who led the league in rushing in 1982 due to his ability to cut. The Jets also had super fast receivers in Wesley Walker and Lam Jones. Of course, the Fins may have won anyway, but I'm sure not turning the drainage system on effected the game a lot more than the Patriots underinflation.

by Noah Arkadia :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 2:35pm

I'm sure it did, but the reason I said stadiums deserve their own thread is because extract advantage from them as a matter of course. The weather, domes, altitude, all those things give an advantage to teams in different ways. In other words, stadiums aren't standardized, but game balls are.

Who, me?

by Pen :: Fri, 01/23/2015 - 3:56am

Then read this:


his findings will change your mind.

by Pat :: Mon, 01/26/2015 - 1:02pm

It's really, really not a great analysis.

The most important thing is that fumbles are not random. At all. They're strongly controllable by the team, for two reasons:

1) Quarterbacks are the strongest contributors to total fumbles for a team. Fumble leaders are always quarterbacks. And since 2007, Brady doesn't fumble a lot (about 0.8% of dropbacks, as opposed to ~1.2% for an average QB).

To compare, the Redskins (the worst on that list) since 2010, have fumbled 68 times at quarterback. The Patriots have fumbled 27 times. So at non-QB positions, the Patriots have fumbled 57 times, and the Redskins have fumbled 74 times. What was a 58-fumble gap is now only a 17-fumble gap.

The 6 lowest fumble-rate QBs in the NFL since 2010 are Matt Ryan, Chad Henne, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Andy Dalton, and Tom Brady.

Ryan, Brees, and Brady's teams are 1-2-3 on that list. This is not a coincidence.

Where are Henne, Manning, and Dalton's teams? Manning's split between two teams, and the Broncos have had some of the worst fumbling punt returners/kick returners in the league, contributing something like 20 fumbles (!!! WTF Denver!). If you remove KR/PR fumbles and the 2010/2011 QBs and replace them with league average and Manning, the Broncos are more around 100 fumbles since 2010.

by mbmxyz :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 8:54pm

Can anyone demonstrate an error in MJK's calculations (comments 80 and 143) or LamKram's point about adiabatic heating (comment 189) above? At the end of most plays, and NE ran 42 in the first half, the football is compressed under several hundred pounds of persons. Is there any evidence that football deflation is not normal during the course of a game? Everyone claiming malfeasance needs to first prove that the pressure measured in the NE game balls at halftime was outside expected values. Anyone have evidence - not conjecture but data - that such is the case?

by Lance :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 9:13pm

I asked some questions about it (#158? I forget). I don't have the knowledge to challenge directly, but I wonder if some of those calculations don't take into consideration that the air in the football is inside a rubber/leather ball (much like the difference between me jumping in cold water wearing a wetsuit vs, a speedo?). I don't have an answer, but this layperson wonders if that could change the math.

by blan :: Wed, 01/21/2015 - 9:52pm

The calculations are based on the ideal gas law which is reasonably general in it's applicability. The only major assumption is that the pressure is not too high or the temperature too low. For the temperatures and pressures we're talking about the ideal gas law is very accurate.

Another assumption people are making is that the volume of the football is constant. This assumption also seems quite reasonable. You would expect some volume changes due to thermal expansion or the pressure change, but they would be negligible.

The final assumption is that the footballs do not leak to any significant extent. This seems quite likely to be true, but I can't be sure about it.

by mbmxyz :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 2:16am

Repeatedly compressing a football under several hundred pounds of human beings might cause some leakage.

by Lance :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 7:47am

I guess I didn't make my question clear-- probably because I'm out of my element-- so I'll rephrase and try to make more sense.

My (limited) understanding is that air at a certain temperature-- say, 72 degrees-- will exert a certain pressure. But at a lower temperature-- say, 50 degrees-- it will exert less pressure because the air is denser and therefore contracts.

My question was that just because the air outside the ball is 50, does that mean the air inside the ball is 50? If I fill up a ball in a room that's 72 and the air inside the ball is 72 and then I step outside into air that's 50, the air inside the ball won't immediately also drop to 50, will it? It's inside a rubber and leather ball. It should take some time for the air inside the ball to drop and thus have the pressure drop, no?

But perhaps I'm not understanding at all.

by deus01 :: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 10:15am

The temperature doesn't change instantly, it will take some time but a half should be more than long enough. That's why people are curious how they measured the balls before the game and at half time.