As Roger Goodell prepares to hear the appeal of Tom Brady, it is perhaps appropriate to reflect on the parody that is so-called deflategate, and to ask ourselves how and why this happened. And what I mean is not how and why the Patriots deflated some footballs, but why and how this manufactured reality was brought about. And it is also to reflect on the lessons to be gleaned from a fabrication of evidence and the media’s rush to judgement that characterized both the football world’s condemnation of the New England Patriots for its purported inflation of footballs and the Bush Administration’s orchestration of the invasion of Iraq due to its supposed possession of weapons of mass destruction. In both cases, I believe, vested interests were able to play on public biases to manipulate a gullible and biased media to create a fabricated reality with significant policy and personal consequences. Of course, so-called “Deflategate” pales in comparison with the significance of the Iraq invasion. That fiasco was probably the worst foreign policy disaster in U.S. history, the destructive consequences of which will almost certainly be with us for the indefinite future. And that, without even considering the human cost in lives killed or mangled, whether American or Iraqi, and civilizations and cultures across the Middle East deranged and devastated. But we can better appreciate the way in which the media can be used to create such a manufactured “reality” by seeing how it was able to manufacture the reality of “Deflategate”.
Let me make clear that my beliefs are based on the facts as so far revealed. A full and independent investigations — should we ever have such, which I doubt — may bring forth new facts that would show that I am in error. Further, I confess to not being a completely impartial observer, since I am a Patriots fan, and would like the evidence to support their innocence. But I have been outraged from the very inception of this situation, by the pervasive bias that led to the Patriots being convicted and almost universally condemned before any investigation even began. And the “evidence” was regularly constructed and presented in such a way as to reinforce that pervasively desired conclusion. We can speculate why that was the case. It is my suspicion that it results from a combination of resentment at their years of success and an orchestrated pre-existent public belief that they are cheaters, as expressed by those who have renamed their coach Bellacheat. But the evidence that is so far available not only does not support that conclusion of their guilt. Far more astounding still is the fact that it suggests that actually NOTHING at all unusual really happened. That the entire “crisis” was fabricated. So let’s look at the facts.
The 12 footballs prepared before the game by the Patriots were measured by the Referee to be at 12.5 PSI, while the Colts footballs were found to be between 13 and 13.1 PSI. (By regulation, they are required to be between 12.5 & 13.5 PSI at game time.) At halftime, the Patriots footballs were measured again, by two different gauges. One found 11 out of 12 to be excessively deflated, being up to 2 PSI below the 12.5 legal limit, while another gauge found 3 out of the 12 to be significantly under-inflated. And then 4 of the Colts footballs were measured, and all were found to be within acceptable limits.
BUT, there were two gauges used, and there was a significant difference in the measurements by the two gauges, with one clearly giving a reading approximately .4 PSI less than the other. The referee who did the initial measurement believes (but is not certain) that he used the gauge that gave the higher reading before the game.
In addition, physics tells us that for every 10 degrees cooler the ambient temperature there is a reduction of air pressure about .4 to .5 PSI. These two facts on their own are quite sufficient to account for the purported “under-inflation” of the Patriots footballs, particularly if you take seriously the Referee’s statement (which the Wells Report discounted) that he used the gauge that gave the higher reading before the game. (Since combining the use of the higher reading gauge before the game with the expected pressure drop due to the outside temperature would be expected to have given a reading at half-time of between 1.5 and 2 PSI below the legal limit.)
But many people claim that the “smoking gun” of Patriot malfeasance is the fact that none of the Colts footballs tested at half-time were found to be under-inflated. But only four of the Colts footballs were in fact tested, and that was because the second-half of the game was about to begin, and the balls were needed for the game. But that fact makes clear that the Colts footballs were only tested toward the very end of the half-time, which means they were sitting inside for almost 15 minutes — far more than enough time for them to regain their original internal pressure, which is only what should have been expected. While the Patriots footballs were obviously tested right at the beginning of half-time, when they would have still been much colder.
In fact, if there’s a real smoking gun, it points in the reverse direction. For a Colt player did intercept a Brady pass in the first half. He then brought the ball to the sidelines and said that he thought it was under-inflated. That ball, taken directly from the cold playing field, was immediately tested, and it was found to have a PSI clearly within an acceptable range. If any ball should have been excessively under-inflated, it would have been one taken directly out of play. But it was not!!
In sum, there is NO evidence that anything unusual happened!!! Only that a reality was contrived to convict the Patriots of cheating for reasons about which we are all free to speculate. But the ability for a manipulable and/or gullible media to create such a false reality in order to promote vested interests should certainly be an object lesson to us all.
Let my last words be those of the recent and highly credible American Enterprise Institute independent investigation of this situation and their highly critical evaluation of the Wells Report. They write in “the Summary of (their) Findings”: “The evidence we present points to a simple—and innocent—explanation for the change in pressure in the Patriots footballs. The Patriots balls were measured at the start of halftime, whereas the Colts balls were measured at the end of halftime, after sufficient time had passed for the balls to warm up and return to their pregame pressure. There is no need to consider the alternative hypothesis—that the Colts illegally inflated their footballs—because a simple physical explanation is available.
The fact that the average pressure of the Colts balls was significantly above the prediction of the Ideal Gas Law, while that of the Patriots balls was not, is inconsistent with the findings of the Wells report. Our conclusion that the warming of the balls during halftime is the key factor overlooked in the Wells report is supported by the observation that the readings of the intercepted Patriots football, measured separately from the other Patriots balls, came in almost precisely at the prediction of the law. Under the hypothesis asserted by the Wells report, the odds of this Patriots ball matching the Ideal Gas Law prediction were between 1 out of 3 and 1 out of 300. It is therefore unlikely that the Patriots deflated the footballs.”