Category Archives: deflategate

The Truth Revealed, Definitively

I couldn’t resist this comment, which finally puts to rest the entire fabricated “Deflategate” controversy. As I have said almost from the beginning (see my Blogs to that effect), it was a fabricated attack fueled by ignorance and resentment directed at the New England Patriots — but its wider ramifications concern the ability of established forces to use the media to fabricate a reality for ulterior motives. That’s why I long ago linked it to the Bush Adminstration’s fabrication of a case for its criminal invasion of Iraq. With the so-called “Deflategate” controversy, however, we now have a patently clear demonstration that this alternate reality was fabricated. (Will Mike Francesa at WFAN ever apologize for his outrageous behavior in condemning the Patriots from Day One, and in refusing to countenance any alternative comments on his radio program? But I doubt it.)

For the details, see today’s New York Times article by Joe Nocera;

True Scandal of Deflategate Lies in the N.F.L.’s Behavior

BY JOE NOCERA

A scientific consensus that deflation of footballs in the 2015 A.F.C. title game could be explained by physics has not done anything to mitigate the Patriots’ punishment.

Or, copy and paste this URL into your browser: http://nyti.ms/1PbrjC6

Here’s a brief excerpt from that article:

“John Leonard is a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who roots for the Philadelphia Eagles, listens to sports talk radio when he is exercising, and teaches a class called Measurement and Instrumentation. When the Deflategate story broke after last year’s A.F.C. championship game between the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts, he found himself fixated on it, yearning to dig into it from a scientific point of view….

Numbers in hand, (finally,) Leonard went to work. He bought the same gauges the N.F.L. used to measure p.s.i. levels. He bought N.F.L.-quality footballs. He replicated the temperatures of the locker room, and the colder field. And so on. When he was done, he concluded that Exponent (the company hired by the NFL’s investigators) had made a series of basic errors. Leonard’s work showed the exact opposite of Exponent’s conclusions: The drop in the Patriots’ footballs’ p.s.i was consistent with the Ideal Gas Law; the smaller drop in pressure in the Colts’ balls was not. (Leonard surmises that because the Colts’ balls were tested after the Patriots’ balls, they had warmed up again.)

By early November, he had a PowerPoint presentation with more than 140 slides. By the end of the month, he had given two lectures about Deflategate, the second of which he had videotaped and posted on YouTube. A viewer who watched the lengthy lecture edited it down to a crisp 15 minutes; Leonard agreed to let him post the edited version.

The edited lecture went up on YouTube on Dec. 1 and has been viewed more than 17,000 times. It is utterly convincing. Leonard told me that if an M.I.T. undergraduate made the kinds of mistakes that Exponent made, “I would force them to repeat the experiment and correct the analysis.” Based on his study of the data, Leonard now says: “I am convinced that no deflation occurred and that the Patriots are innocent. It never happened.””

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There is no DEFLATE in “Deflategate.”

There is no DEFLATE in “Deflategate.”

If you can’t be charged with murder unless there is a dead body, how can the New England Patriots be condemned and punished for so-called “deflategate” when there is absolutely no evidence that anything unusual happened?

Roger Goodell has confirmed the NFL’s judgment and punishment, but was unable to provide any evidence that any “crime” had actually occurred. In fact, he did not even try to effectively rebute the factual and scientific studies that call into effective question every single claim that the Patriots deflated the footballs in their game with the Indianapolis Colts. (I include below a copy of the second impartial scientific study that confirms this assertion. Another study was included in a previous comment.) What are we to make of this astounding situation?!!!

It is clear that the vast majority of people have been convinced that the Patriots cheated. And it seems clear that the NFL is committed to that claim, and to punishing the Patriots for it. But the questions remain: Where is he evidence? And how and why did this apparent travesty take place?

It is my belief that: 1) a general presumption exists that the Patriots are cheaters – rooted in their previous – somewhat dubious — “conviction” of spying on the New York Jets’ practice; 2) a pervasive resentment exists of the Patriots continued success; and 3) further resentment is felt at their past ability to creatively but legally use the rules to obtain a competitive advantage, as with the switching of linemen and backs in a recent playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens.

Clearly, people inside the NFL promoted the initial story, leaking so-called “factual” claims that were in error, and never seeking to correct them. Further, the NFL’s authorized Wells Report seems to have been committed to finding the Patriots guilty from the outset. They concocted a series of probable surmises, botched their scientific analyses, and have been unable to even begin to try to effectively defend their study from the withering scientific critique since then. And Roger Goodell’s treatment of the Brady appeal does not even try to refute those critical scientific studies.

Further, I doubt if we can expect a court to address the substance of these issues, however it may choose to rule on the procedural matters. This we are likely to be left with a prevalent public perception, and possible official verdict, of Patriots guilt in a situation in which it does not seem that ANYTHING inappropriate actually happened!!!!

What are we to make of all this?!!!!

See attached scientific article from SCIENCE NEWS, June 17, 2015, below:

Deflategate favored foul play over science

In case you haven’t followed the story: During the first half of the January 18 AFC championship game in Foxborough, Mass., the Colts intercepted a pass thrown by Brady. Suspecting that the ball was underinflated — rules allow a pressure range of 12.5 to 13.5 pounds per square inch (psi) — the Colts requested an inspection. Brady is known to prefer his footballs on the low end, around 12.5 psi, and pretty much everyone agrees that that’s what the Patriot balls were inflated to before the game started. But at halftime, officials tested the Patriots’ game balls: All measured below the minimum required level of 12.5 psi.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick was one of the first to take a stab at the science, citing “climatic conditions,” “equilibrium states” and “atmospheric conditions,” to explain the deflation. This wasn’t a surprising stance; he’s the coach. But it didn’t take long for real scientists — and non-Patriots fans — to weigh in. While Bill Nye (mechanical engineering degree, Seattle Seahawks fan) declared that rubbing the footballs to break them in couldn’t account for pressure changes, others took a measured approach. If the initial pressure of a football measured in a warm locker room during pre-game inspection was 12.5 psi, could the roughly 25-degree-Fahrenheit drop in temperature between the locker room and the rainy field that day account for the lower air pressure of a ball measured at halftime?

Scientist Michael Naughton (expert in condensed matters physics, Buffalo Bills fan) lent his expertise to the matter when the controversy initially blew up. Naughton’s lab at Boston College inflated a football to 13.5 psi at 72° F. Then they stuck it in a fridge and measured the pressure at 42° F (slightly cooler than the low on game night of 47.7° F, the average of measurements from two weather stations near Gillette Stadium). The pressure dropped to 10.5 psi.

HeadSmart labs, a Pittsburgh-based engineering firm that ordinarily conducts research related to helmets and concussions, also turned its attention to the matter. Experiments done by CEO Tom Healy (mechanical engineering Ph.D. student, Patriots fan) and others in the lab (not Patriots fans) simulated field conditions by placing 12 balls inflated to 12.5 psi in a cold room for 2.5 hours. Measurements revealed an average drop of 1.07 psi, well within the range of the halftime measurements. Saturating the balls with water to mimic field conditions bumped the measurements down another 0.75 psi, they conclude in a technical paper. (HeadSmart has launched a crowd-funding campaign to raise research funds to further investigate the matter.)

The kerfuffle provided a teachable moment for physics teachers everywhere, and despite Deflategate fatigue, homework problems featuring the ideal gas law — which relates temperature, pressure and volume to an amount of a gas (in moles) — will likely be assigned for years to come. This science matters well beyond the football field: Understanding the gas law means knowing whether a scuba diver will experience potentially fatal bends when returning to surface waters, why life-saving contraptions like fire extinguishers and airbags work, and how hot air balloons and combustion engines do their stuff.

But instead of acknowledging that game day conditions could have accounted for the psi changes, an acknowledgement that wouldn’t preclude other evidence of foul play, the NFL’s Wells Report concludes that there’s an “absence of a credible scientific explanation for the Patriots halftime measurements.”

It would be one thing if the Wells Report (which consulted Daniel Marlow, experimental high energy physics expert at Princeton) just said that additional evidence (bathroom breaks and text messages, among other things) was more compelling than the pressure data. Or if it noted that the pressure data are ambiguous, collected so haphazardly that they wouldn’t be allowed in a high school science fair: Two different gauges that differed by approximately 0.4 psi were used in taking measurements, and it isn’t clear which one was used in the pre-game measurements because those data were not recorded. At halftime, 11 Patriots’ balls and four Colts’ balls were measured, and while all of the Patriots’ balls measured below 12.5 psi, three of the four Colts’ balls also did, according to one of the gauges.

Post-game psi measurements of four Patriots balls ranged from 12.95 to 13.65. These data, the Wells Report acknowledges (in a footnote), “did not provide a scientifically reasonable basis on which to conduct a comparative analysis.” If the report can acknowledge poor methodology for the post-game data, why not acknowledge that for the pre-game and halftime data as well?

Roderick MacKinnon of Rockefeller University specifically addressed the scientific methodology in a letter posted to The Wells Report in Context, the Patriots’ rebuttal to the report’s conclusions (MacKinnon, professor of molecular neurobiology and biophysics, and chemistry Nobel laureate, was conducting experiments in a basement microscope facility and couldn’t immediately respond to my requests for his team allegiance):

“The scientific analysis in the Wells Report was a good attempt to seek the truth, however, it was based on data that are simply insufficient. In experimental science to reach a meaningful conclusion we make measurements multiple times under well-defined physical conditions. This is how we deal with the error or ‘spread’ of measured values,” MacKinnon notes.

Football fans are a loyal bunch. (Let it be said that I live in Boston and while I appreciate a quarterback who can make fun of himself, I do not have a favorite football team). But it’s refreshing to see some put aside team loyalty in favor of Team Science.