What is Deflategate? A Definitive Guide.

Do you think Framegate (aka Deflategate) was about the New England Patriots definitely deflating 11 of their 12 game footballs to gain an advantage over the Indianapolis Colts? You know that cold weather has no impact on the air pressure of a football? You're wrong and this page is for you.

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DAYS TO REACH AN "I DON'T KNOW...MAYBE?" VERDICT

START: @bkravitz: The NFL is investigating...blah blah blah (19 Jan 2015 @ 12:55 AM)

timer

END: @AdamSchefter: Ted Wells transmitted his report to Commissioner Goodell and the New England Patriots earlier today. (6 May 2015 @ 1:03 PM)

YOUR ELI5 SUMMARY OF DEFLATEGATE

WHO: The New England Patriots (forever unclear if the Victim or the Perp), the Indianapolis Colts (forever unclear if the Victim or the Perp), and the Baltimore Ravens (the alleged bitter accomplice.)

WHAT: A couple hours after the Patriots rolled over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Game, Colts reporter Bob Kravitz broke a story that the NFL was investigating the Patriots for using underinflated footballs in the game.

Soon afterwards, Chris Mortensen inaccurately reported, based upon a now-discredited leak from the league, that 11 of the Patriots' 12 game footballs were deflated 2 PSI below the 12.5 PSI minimum legal requirement (Mortensen finally removed his inaccurate tweet on August 4, 2015 -- 195 days after he posted it.)

At the time, it was also reported that the Ravens, fresh off their own humiliating defeat to the eventual 2015 Champions, may have tipped off the Colts about the issue. Documents from Tom Brady's appeal hearing, released on August 4, indicated that the Ravens did indeed warn the Colts about their suspicion that the Patriots might be deflating footballs.

START: ANTI-GOODELL RANT - #FireGoodell

Upon hearing the news, NFL commissioner and former Jets public relations intern Roger Goodell, struggling to look busy enough to justify his ridiculous $44 million per year salary, giddily took the hand-off from Kravitz and ran full speed with the story, maniacally shouting "Ready! FIRE!!! Aim!" to anyone who made eye-contact as he bolted out his blast-proof office door and down the padded corridors of his dark and damp subterranean lair. Along the way, the commissioner invested countless seconds contemplating his next move.

Ultimately, and in a perfect display of the exceptional leadership and creative vision that landed him the job in the first place, Goodell concluded that the absolute best way to promote the NFL's marquee sporting event in two weeks would be to aggressively smear the reputation of the one participant who he had already crafted as the league's scapegoat for cheating.

Goodell's winged minions immediately began flying out windows and executing their master's plan. Through a series of contradictory leaks and vague public announcements, the league-leakers accused the Patriots of the intentional and systematic deflation of game balls to gain an advantage in this and umpteen other games. Goodell, as expected, handled the investigation just as professionally and as competently as every other one he has tackled (the Ray Rice knock-out video, the Adrian Peterson child-abuse case, Greg Hardy's domestic violence, Spygate, Bountygate and countless other domestic assault cases...)

END: ANTI-GOODELL RANT - #FireGoodell

Why was the "Deflategate" story such big news in the weeks leading up to Super Bowl XLIX? Dallas Cowboys Pro Bowl quarterback Tony Romo had a pretty clear NFL insider view saying: "I also feel like we're really going to another level because it's this team [the Patriots] that has been so successful and they're trying to just bring 'em down."

Months later, after all of the facts had been revealed, the league office leaks discredited and the not-really-independent Wells Report fully debunked by truly independent third party research organizations, ESPN's Skip Bayless had this to say:

WHEN: After the January 18, 2015 AFC Championship Game

THE AFTERMATH: DEFLATEGATE PENALTIES

Although NFL independent investigator special prosecutor Ted Wells said he would wrap up his investigation within weeks, he was somehow able to trick the 31 non-Kraft owners into paying him for over 100 days of work to try to build the league's case against the Patriots. Ultimately, however, the best he could do was arrive at the conclusion that there was no direct evidence pointing to the intentional or illegal deflation of the Patriots footballs.

Instead, he fell back on a subjective "more probable than not" accusation that there was some dastardly devious deflations and loosely tied Brady to this with the thin tether that he was "at least generally aware" of this deflation. Interestingly enough, he was only able to do this by selectively ignoring the "best recollection" of head referee Walt Anderson about a key detail of the "case."

On September 3, 2015, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Berman issuing a ruling that smashed holes in -- what he called -- the "heralded Pash/Wells 'independent' investigation". Yeah, he really did use quotes around "independent" and he really did list the NFL's attorney as a co-author. Berman's decision overturned the NFL’s four game suspension of quarterback Tom Brady and was premised upon several significant legal deficiencies in the NFL's case, including (A) inadequate notice to Brady of both his potential discipline (four-game suspension) and his alleged misconduct; (B) denial of the opportunity for Brady to examine one of two lead investigators, namely NFL Executive Vice President and General Counsel Jeff Pash; and (C) denial of equal access to investigative files, including witness interview notes.

For a little perspective, a few things that took less time than the Wells/NFL "more probable than not" kangaroo court verdict:

  1. The complete Boston Marathon Bomber trial, including jury selection (93 days)
  2. The complete Aaron Hernandez murder trial (77 days)
  3. Christopher Columbus' first voyage across the Atlantic in 1492 (70 days)
  4. Germany's invasion of the Netherlands, Belgium and France in 1940 (36 days)
  5. William Henry Harrison's presidency in 1841 (31 days)
  6. Apollo 11's trip to and from the moon in 1969 (8 days)

To be fair, NFL commissioner and former Jets public relations intern Roger Goodell and his wholly professional and "completely unbiased" investigative team had a lot to look into before handing down their "maybe guilty" verdict, such as:

  • Could the weather have been responsible for the 10 of 11 balls that were only 1 PSI to "just ticks under?" [SPOILER ALERT] A renowned sports physicist, the independent think tank American Enterprise Institute, and the head of the Boston College Physics Department, along with others, all said yes.
  • Did the NFL setup a sting operation in an attempt to catch and embarrass the Patriots (NFL head of officiating Dean Blandino said that "to his knowledge this was not a 'sting' operation by the Colts and the NFL.")?
  • How did the league officials handle the pre-game football approval process: did they measure every ball, did they use a pressure gauge on each ball or did they use the less precise "squeeze test?"
  • Did these officials log the results of their initial measurements to determine how much they changed throughout the game? [SPOILER ALERT] They didn't.
  • Did the Colts have anything to do with the illegal manipulation of the only ball -- the one that they had on their sideline after the D'Qwell Jackson interception -- that was 2 PSI under the minimum?

The Deflategate Team

Sheriff Wells and his trusted deputies during a recent team bonding activity

COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT DEFLATEGATE

YOU'RE WRONG IF YOU THINK: The NFL disciplined the Patriots the same way they would have discipline any team suspected of tampering with game balls.

REALITY: In 2009, the NFL suspended a member of the New York Jets equipment staff for attempting to use "unapproved equipment to prep the K[icking] Balls" before a game against the New England Patriots. The infraction was revealed in the petition filed by the NFLPA in the Tom Brady Deflategate suspension (see page 37).

The NFL suspended the equipment staff member, but did not investigate or discipline the Jets kicker for “general awareness” or specific involvement, even though the Jets kicker (like Tom Brady in Deflategate) was the player most likely to benefit from the behavior and, in turn, the player most likely to be aware of the conduct.

This faux scandal was created, inflated and perpetuated by Mike Kensil, Roger Goodell and the league office to take the Patriots down a notch and solidly establish the supreme power of the commissioner.

Oh, and also:

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YOU'RE WRONG IF YOU THINK: The weather couldn't have been the cause of the deflation because none of the Colts' game footballs were below the 12.5 PSI minimum.

REALITY: First, on June 14, 2015 The New York Times published a story titled "Deflating 'Deflategate'" which summarized an analysis of the Wells Report done by an independent think tank called the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

The AEI "On the Wells report" concluded:

"When we analyzed the data provided in the Wells report, we found that the Patriots balls declined by about the expected amount [ed. note: based on the Ideal Gas Law], while the Colts balls declined by less. In fact, the pressure of the Colts balls was statistically significantly higher than expected."
"This implies that the Colts balls sat in the warm room where they were to be measured — and thus increased in pressure — for almost the entirety of halftime before being measured."
"Logistically, the greater change in pressure in the Patriots footballs can be explained by the fact that sufficient time may have passed between halftime testing of the two teams’ balls for the Colts balls to warm significantly, effectively inflating them."

Second, the game officials admitted that they did not log the starting pressure of any of the 24 game footballs so we'll never know for sure the starting pressure of the Patriots and Colts footballs. This is important because if the Patriots started at the low-end of legal (12.5 PSI) and the Colts started at the high-end of legal (13.5 PSI) then weather-based deflation could easily push one set of footballs into the illegal zone while dropping the other to the low-end legal zone.

Third, both cold and moisture affect the pressure of a football. A Carnegie Mellon team simulated the temperature and moisture environment of the game and found that the average amount of temperature and moisture deflation was more than 1 PSI, with a maximum drop of nearly 2 PSI. When leather gets wet, it is easier to stretch, which would lower the bladder pressure.

Fourth, because of the Colts inept AFC Championship game offensive, they (and their balls) were on the field much less of the first half than the Patriots were. Each team had five first-half possessions, but the Colts offense was in the cold and rain for only 12:30 game-minutes while the Patriots were on for 17:30 game-minutes. Because of clock stoppages, commercials and such, the difference of 5 game minutes equates to about 15 more real-time minutes and is 40% more in-the-elements time.

Follow along and let me know if I'm going too fast, I'm here to help: if the Patriots' footballs were initially inflated to 12.5 PSI (the legal minimum) and the Colts' balls were inflated to 13.5 PSI (the legal maximum) and the cold weather and rain was responsible for a 1 PSI drop, whose footballs would all be illegal and whose would all be still legal? Let me help you out with the more complicated math, the Pats' would be at 11.5 PSI (which 10 out of 12 were, or higher) and the Colts' would be at 12.5 PSI. Get it? No? You're a hater. Why are you even here? Go look at funny pictures instead.

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YOU'RE WRONG IF YOU THINK: The Wells report was an independent investigation with no trace of an agenda.

REALITY: Ted Wells and his team acted as a special prosecutor for the league, working with the NFL's executive vice president and general counsel Jeff Pash to build a case (poorly) to support a pre-determined conclusion. As the months rolled on, it became clear that he did not act as an independent investigator as the league wanted us all to believe.

In his ruling vacating Tom Brady's suspension, Judge Richard Berman assigned the NFL unambiguous co-authorship of the report, calling it the "Pash/Wells" report. He even used quotes around the term "independent."

Many steps along the way, Wells twisted the story to paint a picture that he (and clearly the NFL) wanted. One of the most significant was his coaxing of referee Walt Anderson into correcting which pressure gauge he used for his pre-game football PSI measurements.

The one Anderson thought he used based upon his "best recollection" showed no unexplained non-environmental deflation. The one Wells talked him into -- getting Anderson to admit was "possible" that he used -- showed a deflation beyond what could be explained by the ideal gas law. Later in his report, Wells morphs Anderson "possible" into a "more probable". This is the only time, by the way, that Wells report rejects any of Anderson's recollections.

The entire "deflategate" charge rides on which gauge was used for the pre-game measurements. If it was the logo gauge, then the PSI drops are completely explained by the ideal gas law. If it was the non-logo gauge, then they are not. Considering the critical importance of which gauge Anderson used in his pre-game measurements, this is one of the most curious parts of the Wells report and one of the biggest tells that there was a more probable than not directive from Goodell and the league office to find evidence to support their pre-determined verdict.

Said Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, "Anderson recalls using the gauge before the game that, based on the halftime measurements, leads to a finding of no tampering. So how did Ted Wells get around the 'best recollection' of Walt Anderson? Wells persuaded Anderson to admit that it’s 'certainly possible' he used the other gauge." Florio concluded, "That’s how investigations that start with a predetermined outcome and work backward unfold."

To summarize:

  • WHAT ANDERSON SAID: "Although Anderson's best recollection is that he used the Logo Gauge, he said that it is certainly possible [ed. note: when pressed by Wells] that he used the Non-Logo Gauge." (p 52)
  • WHAT WELLS REPORTED: "We believe it is more probable that Anderson used the Non-Logo Gauge for his pre-game measurements." (p 52, footnote 30)

cavlin-and-hobbes

Calvin and Hobbes perfectly summarizing the Pash/Wells "independent" report

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YOU'RE WRONG IF YOU THINK: The NFL doesn't have some undercurrent of anti-Patriots bias.

REALITY: A few good-natured, but telling, rapid-fire social media posts from the NFL's official Instagram and Twitter accounts:

And topped off with this hand-tipper (which the league eventually took down):

You don't generally find this level of social media trolling for the other 31 teams.

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YOU'RE WRONG IF YOU THINK: The Patriots shouldn't get the benefit of the doubt because they are the one and only NFL team with a serious history of cheating.

REALITY: Yeah, that's the narrative the media has lazily, but persistently, crafted since 2007. The other 31 NFL teams and their fans love it because it takes any focus off their own, sometimes significant, cheating. To see all of the NFL teams with a serious history of cheating, you really need to visit this page.

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YOU'RE WRONG IF YOU THINK: 11 of the Patriots' 12 game footballs were definitely underinflated by more than 2 PSI.

REALITY: Ian Rapoport reported on the morning of Super Bowl XLIX that only one Patriots' game ball was 2 PSI below the minimum and the others were close to or "just ticks under the minimum." True morons need no proof or understanding of the NFL cheating landscape before raising their pitchforks (see the crowded Moron Hall of Fame below.)

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YOU'RE WRONG IF YOU THINK: Cold, hate-less, historical data clearly shows that the Patriots fumbled at a rate well out of range with other NFL teams, indicating they were tampering with footballs for a long time.

REALITY: There are three types of lies -- lies, damn lies, and statistics.

A hater with a spreadsheet and an agenda can be very convincing, and can even fool old-guard institutions like the Wall Street Journal. It is unclear if Warren Sharps' statistical failures were intentional, accidental or the result of incompetence but it is clear that the data he use was wrong. A statistics professor from Loyola University Chicago and one from Skidmore College corrected Sharps' work and found that, although the Patriots had a league-best fumble rate, it was within the normal distribution of results.

Harvard and Princeton guy, Daryl Sng piled on further, clearly illustrating all of the ways that Sharps' data and analysis were flawed. Where Sharp constructed his data, graphs and conclusions to support his belief that the Patriots were clearly cheating, Sng's analysis show that the Patriots' care in avoiding fumbles was actually low enough to be explained by a coaching staff who preached and punished (ask new Jet Stephen Ridley) ball security. The conclusion on Sharp: "Analysis is only as good as the data on which it is based. Unfortunately, in this case, bad data led to bad conclusions."

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YOU'RE WRONG IF YOU THINK: Patriots locker room attendant Jim McNally tried to introduce an unapproved football during the AFC Championship game.

REALITY: That ball was actually given to McNally by a league official who, it was later discovered, was illegally stealing and selling game balls for personal profit. Beautiful.

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YOU'RE WRONG IF YOU THINK: The Patriots were guilty and should have been punished, or even disqualified from the Super Bowl, before any real facts were released.

REALITY: Actually, this is an indication that you are both wrong and a Hater. The Deflategate Wing of the Hater Hall of Fame is a crowded, drool-filled place. Recent inductees:

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Colts reporters Doyel -- "Everybody lost DeflateGate, including Colts, me" -- and Kravitz -- "A (sort of) mea culpa on DeflateGate" -- later offered their nonpologies for their rabid and unprofessional Deflategate overreactions. Fortunately for them, these did not invalidate their inductions into the Hater Hall of Fame as they were both sniveling attempts to deflect attention away from their comically poor judgement and sensationalist, homer reporting.

Think something should be added to this summary of Deflategate? Is there a broken link? A fact that need clarification? Email The Commish (with supporting links) and he'll take care of it just as quickly and professionally as Roger Goodell would.

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