For the latest entry into the Deflategate series here at Elevation 5280 Sports, let me tell you about my weekend. I had a great night out with friends on Friday night, Saturday I did some shopping and did some work around the house. Saturday night I went to go see Southpaw (great movie if you haven’t seen it yet), and Sunday I assisted my flag football team in winning a game 28-0 (Thank you Kyle Shefferly, former inside linebacker at Colorado State University).
Something else also happened over my weekend. It happened over everyone’s weekend. Throughout the excellent time I had with family and friends, the NFL decided that it would attempt to insult my intelligence and the intelligence of most football fans who actually exhibit common sense. Over this past weekend Mike Pereira, the once vice-president of officiating for the NFL, and a current analyst for the Fox Sports Network, announced and elaborated on the NFL’s plan to roll out new procedures for footballs and how they are prepared and maintained for games.
In this new process there will be more footballs used (double the amount of game balls previously used). Each ball will be numbered and will be set to a standard 13 pounds per square inch before the game and then measured again after the game (presumably the refs will be using the same pressure gauge here). One set of footballs will be used for the first half and another for the second half. While this is being touted as the NFL doing a better job “protecting the integrity of game” according to non-Patriots fans, this is simple a science experiment. This is a science experiment for an organization that isn’t entirely sure they got it right after spending $5 million dollars on an “independent report.” This is also the most responsible and morally acceptable action the league has taken throughout the process.
It also has the potential to be the most damaging for a league that can’t afford to take any more damage.
Throughout this process, the Wells Report has hinted at air pressure being below “normal deflation standards” for the footballs used by the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. The problem with this is that, up until now there have been no records of “normal deflation standards” in the NFL. This has been a main pivot point for the New England Patriots in their crowing about this being a witch hunt (it is, in case you can’t tell by now). I also realize that you might not have a big appreciation for Bill Belichick, but he hasn’t just been working in the league since 1975, he is from a football family, and happens to be a history major on the NFL. When Deflategate first broke, even he couldn’t understand why something that hasn’t been an issue in the league, well, um, EVER, could be such a cause for concern now.
For fans outside of the New England area, the idea and mostly public appointed conviction of the Patriots being “cheaters” comes from an extremely prejudiced ESPN report that is also COMPLETELY inaccurate, that the NFL never bothered to clear up. Let’s get one thing straight here, this isn’t the NFL attempting to finally do the right thing and obtain as much knowledge as possible about something that has come to be known in the science world as the Ideal Gas Law (heard of it?), but it’s all about the fact that the NFL initiated a punishment with no knowledge of it at all. Sounds about right.
In an interview with Yahoo Sports, Dr. Michael Naughton, the chair of the physics department at Boston College states, “I still don’t believe there were sufficient data to make any conclusions about the inflation levels during that game.” (Quote courtesy of Yahoo Sports).
So now the NFL will undertake what seems to be a thesis level project for the minds that run the office, and they might find out what the word “probably” means. It is extremely difficult to see how this ends well for the NFL. If this experiment shows that a football loses almost none of its pregame inflation level, regardless of what the conditions are, and therefore making the numbers of the Patriots’ footballs outside the allowed variance (because almost no variance exists), the NFL will need to desperately support its deflate-gate conclusions. Anything less, and this is going to be a nightmare that Goodell might not be able to wake up from.
Even if the results point to some devious Patriots behavior – a person named “the Deflator” did disappear into the bathroom with a bag of balls – the Patriots could still come back and claim that no experiment could accurately recreate the rainy conditions of that specific night in Foxborough. Is anyone really going to argue that the game balls played in Phoenix, Oakland, and Tampa Bay are going to measure out the same as they were at the beginning of the game? What about footballs used in Chicago, Green Bay, and the notoriously thin aired Denver, CO? Would those measure up the same as at the beginning of the game? Not likely.
On the other side of the coin, what happens if the results come back the news exonerates the Patriots of any wrongdoing? Does the NFL hand back the check for a million bucks and restore the draft picks? One would hope so. Does the league apologize along with multiple arrogant fan bases who spewed off accusations without adequate knowledge of how a football actually works? That’s even less likely than a ball being in the same condition as before. One could thing the Patriots are as guilty as Nixon on this one and they would still need to recognize that this was a reckless and insane handling of this situation by the NFL and the way they handed out such punishments.
Most importantly, what if the information comes back and Brady is found to be innocent. Will all of you Peyton apologists still hold the “Brady cheated and that’s why he continues to smack Peyton Manning lead teams around the football field more often than not,” argument? Will you admit that maybe Brady has a killer instinct and Peyton doesn’t? What if the numbers come back and Brady has served a four game suspension, but it is found that he did nothing wrong? How does Brady get reimbursed for lost time and money? If this is a witch hunt to have Brady benched to give a competitive advantage to other teams, it’s doing a really good job. Many assume, because the Patriots are just that good, that Brady could miss the first four games and the Patriots would still make the playoffs. But what if they don’t? What if the Patriots start 1-3, 2-2, or even worse, 0-4 and miss the playoffs? Or what if they start 0-4 make the playoffs and instead of playing in a game in the dreaded Gillette Stadium, they get to go to Lucas Oil or Whatever-You-Want-To-Call-It at Mile High?
How could the league recover from messing up an investigation based on poor information and inadequate evidence and changing the course of a season for a Super Bowl contender? How could you as a fan clamoring for fair play and no cheating, think it’s fair that the course of a season was changed based on a ruling without any true idea if anything actually happened?
Now, what if it were your team?