Tag 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.

“Deflategate” and the Invasion of Iraq

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.”

 

 

Is “Deflategate” Just a Lot of Hot Air?

Is “Deflategate” Just a Lot of Hot Air?

The more this “deflategate” issue proceeds, the more it looks like another examplee of ideological thinking at work — where a person becomes committed to a set of beliefs for essential emotional reasons, and then will not let it go no matter what the facts are. Rather, the committed ideologue will twist the facts to conform to his/her pre-conceived belief system. It’s just like the Bush Administration and the commitment to remove Saddam Hussein and “liberate” Iraq.

As information trickles out that increasingly places in doubt the initial conclusion of Patriot deception about the under inflated footballs, many of those who were certain of their “guilt” from day one, are now developing a protective rationale — with the WFAN’s “football guru” Mike Francesa in the lead. His current position is: 1) it’s beyond doubt that the Patriots broke the rules; but 2) the NFL has no intention to adequately investigate the issue, and simply wants the issue to go away; therefore, 3) they will produce a vague report with no finding of guilt, some minor procedural modifications for the future, and that will be the end of that. Thus, by Francesa’s reasoning, the Patriots reman convicted of cheating, the NFL of covering it up, and “case closed.”

Francesca’s reasoning — as well as that of the many others following the same path — reminds me of the Medieval approach to trying witches. If someone was accused of being a witch, the trial might involve tying a heavy weight to the person, throwing them in the water, and then seeing if they floated or drowned. If they floated, they were obviously guilty of being a witch, in line with the devil, and were then put to death, often by burning at the stake. If, on the other hand, they drowned, that would attest to their probable innocence. But in either case, they would be dead.

Similarly with Mike Francesa and those who think like him. Convinced of Patriot guilt they have it set up as follows: If the NFL finds the Patriots gulty, then Francesa is vindicated; If the NFL finds that there is no proof of guilt on the Patriots’ part, then the NFL is itself guilty of a coverup. In either case, the Patriots remain condemned and Francesa vindicated. Heads I win, tails you lose. That’s a nice deal if you can get — but there is no honesty and nor any room for an impartial evaluation of the facts. Just a self-justifying rush to judgement and a public lynching.

Deflategate, or the anatomy of a public lynching

Deflategate, or the anatomy of a public lynching

The story of the purported deflation of footballs by the New England Patriots is increasingly looking like an ambiguous fact turned into a fabricated major scandal. Fueled by many who begrudge the Patriots their success, and by a media ever in search of an audience-making scandal, fans across the country have “piled on”, feasting upon unauthorized leaks, ambiguous information, and personal venom to convict the Patriots of systematic cheating, often gloating over the ability to therefore devalue their historical successes.

None have been more egregious in their unqualified promotion of deflategate and in excoriating the Patriots for once again proving to be the cheaters he knows them to be, than the popular sports commentator at WFAN, Mike Francesa. A man who is clearly quite intelligent, and superbly well-informed about professional football, he obviously was convinced of the Patriots guilt from day one. He showed no evident concern about clarifying the facts before reaching a conclusion, making continual reference to unnamed ex-Patriots who attest to the Patriots continual violation of the rules, regular mention of their having been found guilty of Spygate as supporting evidence, arrogant dismissal of all who offered alternative interpretations, including disparaging, and even ridiculing all remarks made by Brady, Belicheck, and Kraft.

An impartial observer might have interpreting Brady’s initial light-hearted dismissal of charges of playing with deflated footballs as an honest surprise at the issue even being raised. And then, one might have interpreted his hesitant performance several days later, after the issue had become a focus of national attention, as an honest expression of his inability to explain what might have happened. And similarly with Belicheck’s press conference. And then, one might have taken seriously the claims presented by Belicheck in his report of the Patriots’s internal investigation. And, even more, such an observer might have reflected that Belicheck would be opening himself to a far more serious attack on his credibility with this press conference if he did not honestly believe that they were not guilty of intentionally deflating the footballs. But, having already convicted the Patriots of cheating, Francesa read each of these events as proof of their obvious guilt, and did not even seriously entertain an alternative interpretation. No thoughtful questions about the effects of weather on air pressure, nor on the effects of differential prior treatment of footballs, nor documentation of the actual condition of the footballs before the game, of their air pressure when “tested” by the referee, nor questions as to whether the referee actually used a guage to measure the pre-game air pressure on all 24 footballs, among other facts that he might reasonably have considered. None need be considered by him, since he already “knew” the truth.

Of course, Mike Francesa was not the only one who seemed more than happy to jump to the conclusion of Patriot guilt. Such people were rampant, among fans and experts, such as Chris Mortenson and Peter King. But as Tom Brady noted, this is not about ISIS, and nobody has been killed, so this, in an important sense, is a tempest in a teapot. Football is after all just a game, not a life and death affair. And the related issue of air pressure is probably not that big a deal, either. And further, scientific. evidence now shows that the weather can have such an effect on air pressure. (As chance would have it, my wife and I just bought a Super Bowl balloon a couple of hours ago for our little Super Bowl party. As soon as we left the store and went out doors and into our car we noticed that the balloon was severely under inflated, and considered returning it. But we were too lazy, and drove away. But as soon as the car warmed up, we saw the balloon re-inflate, and we were even concerned that it might burst.) The really interesting and important aspect of this whole affair, however, is the ease with which the media itself can inflate a controversy, and be used to, and promote, a rush to judgement in the service of often nefarious interests. This is simply a most recent example of the way that a media orchestrated popular stampede can override common sense and a concern for the facts, and rational judgement, as, for example, was the case when the Bush Administration orchestrated its campaign to invade Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein. We are continuing to pay for that disastrous use of the media — of which the creation of ISIS is only the most obvious result — and will no doubt continue to be paying for that imperial manipulation for years to come. As for those in the media who propelled this latest fiasco, such as Mike Francesa, will we see any public acknowledgement of his malfeasance, or will he seek to justify himself by blaming a league cover-up, which, of course, the NFL is quite capable of engaging in.