31 July 2015

Despite New Allegations, is Deflategate a Bunch of Hot Air?

New England Patriot Tom Brady remains in the hot seat, as the National Football League (NFL) this week upheld its original decision to suspend the Superbowl winning quarterback for the first four games of this season due to his apparent role in the “Deflategate” scandal. Brady has vowed to fight the suspension and team owner Robert Kraft is pledging his full support, calling the NFL’s actions unfair and unjust. The NFL Players Association is also decrying the suspension, and has filed an injunction in court to prevent the NFL from enforcing the suspension.

th-3Deflategate arose on January 18th of this year during the American Football Conference Championship Game between New England and the Indianapolis Colts, during which the Colts accused New England of using under inflated balls. During halftime NFL officials examined all game balls and found 11 of the 12 Patriots’ balls below the permissible 12.5 to 13.5 pounds per square inch range, but also found some of the Colts’ balls below the limit as well. All game balls were inflated to the correct PSI and the Patriots went on to down the Colts 45 to 7.

According to some sources within the NFL, the organization was already investigating accusations that the Patriots were known to use under inflated balls during their home games. However, the NFL limited its subsequent investigation to determining the willful under inflation of game balls during the Conference Championship.

That investigation concluded in May with the release of a report that determined it was “more probable than not” that Patriots equipment managers had deliberately under inflated the balls and that Tom Brady was “generally aware” of the deflation. The crux of the report’s findings reportedly relied in part on actions and text messages taken by a Patriot equipment handler nicknamed “The Deflator.” The findings also relied on a consultant’s scientific investigation that determined that no natural phenomena at that game could account for the loss of air in properly inflated footballs; however, other studies have shown that temperature variances can cause deflation.

Along with the release of the report, the NFL announced the Brady suspension and fined the Patriots $1 million and docked the team a pair of draft picks. The team, which fired two equipment managers, did not appeal its penalty, but Brady did.

And now, the NFL has upheld that penalty based in large part on the newly-come-to-light allegation that Tom Brady destroyed his cell phone shortly before he was to meet with the independent investigators, who had requested access to the 10,000-plus text messages stored on that phone.

Of course, Brady is defending the destruction of his phone by asserting that his attorneys informed him that his “device would not be subject to investigation under ANY circumstances.” And, that as a member of a union, he was never going to set a new precedent by handing the requested phone over. He further stated that the phone would not have been a smoking gun and implied that the NFL is using the phone’s destruction to deflect from the “fact that they have zero evidence of wrongdoing.”

Well, despite this new cell phone destruction allegation and the apparently apropos equipment manager nickname,  we’re not going to pass judgement on Tom or the Patriots. In fact, without “The Deflator” and new allegation the whole Deflategate scandal would pretty much amount to a bunch of pressurized hot air.

There is no universal agreement on whether an under inflated football serves as an advantage or disadvantage, and few people who follow football believe the result of the Championship Game would have been any different had the footballs been correctly inflated the whole game. In fact, analysts tend to agree that an under inflated ball as used by the Patriots would likely have an imperceptibly minimal affect on the outcome of any play.

Given this thought, is the whole scandal a case of “Nothing to talk about there,” as posited by New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick this week when asked to comment on the latest Deflategate developments?



M.J. Moye