Deflategate: NFL Reportedly Finds 11 Out Of 12 Patriots Balls To Be Underinflated [Updated]

200px-NFLgameball511px-Tom_Brady_2011For many NFL fans, the Patriots are like the “Cobra Kai” team from Karate Kid and coach Bill Belichick could well be sensei, John Kreese, screaming “sweep the leg” at NFL games to Tom Brady. That image was reaffirmed this week with the reported finding that the Patriots, again, cheated in the game against the Indianapolis Colts to secure a position in the Superbowl. The NFL has reportedly claimed that the Patriots under inflated 11 out of 12 balls in clear violation of NFL rules to give Brady and his receivers an edge. If there was intentional deflation, it warrants punishment since the team is responsible under the rules. However, there is an even more serious question of intentional deception, particularly after the deflation was noticed in the course of the game. The question is whether Belichick and Brady were aware of the violations, particularly after Brady called the accusations “ridiculous.” If the Colts and the refs immediately could tell the difference, it is hard to believe that Brady could not. After all, it was Brady who once said that he preferred under-inflated balls.

The Patriots have reportedly received a letter with the initial findings that 11 of 12 games used by the Patriots were under-inflated. Since the balls are checked at the beginning of the game and virtually all of the balls showed under inflation (it is intriguing to think whether the last ball was kept fully inflated in case of an inspection), it is hard to argue that this is a weird coincidence. All balls must be inflated to a range of 12½ to 13½ pounds. Each team provides game officials with 12 footballs before the game and the inspecting ref places a special marking on each ball that passes inspection. The respective team is then given back the balls.

What appears clear is that such deflation is not accidental. The New York Times includes a quote from Kevin Murphy, who runs the American football division at Wilson that such deflation could not be the result of colder weather or spiking the ball. Of course, when 11 out of 12 balls show the deflation you are even less likely to believe such defenses. Belichick is viewed by many as something of a recidivist on rule violations with what has been described (charitably) as a “checkered” history. Likewise, if Brady was aware of the deflation, I believe that he should also be suspended as much for his later denials of knowledge (and calling the allegations ridiculous). There has been be some sanction for dishonesty not only in such acts but their aftermath if we are to deter such conduct and assure fans that these games are played fairly. As often discussed in criminal law and torts, deterrence is accomplished through the relative adjustments between detection rates and sanctions. The lower the detection rate, the higher sanctions must be to achieve deterrence.

646px-Bill_Belichick_8-28-09_Patriots-vs-RedskinsThe question is what to do about “deflategate.” No one is seriously thinking of negating the win since the Patriots crushed the Colts and it was not due to under-inflation unless that is a reference to the Colts offensive line. Indeed, even a Colts Cornerback appears to agree with that assessment. However, the Patriots have been regularly accused of wrongdoing and there is a serious question about a culture of dishonesty under Belichick. In 2007, Belichick was fined $500,000 and his team lost a first-round draft pick after determining the team had spied on an opponent’s signals. It was amazing that he was not suspended for the violation, but many will now argue that the team did not get the message (or that it got the message that it could treat violations of a cost of doing business). One possible sanction is to suspend Belichick or other coaches from the Superbowl if they knew or should have known about the deflation.

Under the rules, the organization could be fined $25,000. Even if you multiply that by the balls, it would still only be $275,000 — a small fine for giving Brady his preferred under-inflated balls. The most serious penalty could be the loss again of a draft pick, which would seem more than justified in this circumstance. However, since the team denied any knowledge of under-inflation with players like Brady mocking the notion, there is a serious question of dishonesty and unsportsmanship conduct in the aftermath as well as the game. In the real world, lying to investigators is treated as itself a separate crime as under 18 U.S.C. 10001. This is obviously not a criminal investigation but the NFL at least claims to hold players and coaches to higher standards than just avoiding criminal acts.

The under-inflation of the balls would have been tempting in the rainy game and the obvious difference was immediately noted by Colts linebacker D’Qwell Jackson when he intercepted Tom Brady late in the second quarter.

The Patriots were already under fire by the Ravens coach and others for what John Harbaugh called “deceptive practices” in its game with his team (notably, the Ravens also raised concerns in the game over what they thought were under-inflated balls). I was less convinced of the merits of that allegation. This however is different.

To me, this is a serious violation of the code that governs all sporting events. As many on this blog know, I am an avid football fan. I enjoy the game even when the Bears are not playing, which for the playoffs has meant most of the time in the last ten years. However, this type of conduct degrades the entire game and creates a suspicion that teams like the Patriots are using shady means to gain an advantage, even when they have no real need to do so against an inferior team. It undermines the integrity of the game and, for a team that was made infamous by past violations, it suggests a culture of indifference at best and dishonesty at worst. The question in my view is not the under inflation but the knowledge of the coaches and players. If there was knowledge, there should be serious consideration given to suspension and certainly a draft pick loss.

What do you think?

114 thoughts on “Deflategate: NFL Reportedly Finds 11 Out Of 12 Patriots Balls To Be Underinflated [Updated]”

  1. Two things

    1. Don’t strip the Pats of the win. Let them feel the sting of the Seahawks …yep ..bluster is evident here.

    2. Doubt the trick will happen at that game. Glad they caught it before the contest.

    1. Canon for Veterans Ministry – there is some question on whether they are going to open the roof of the stadium for the game. That would make a difference in the drop in temperature during the game causing a drop in psi in the footballs.

        1. Canon for Veterans Ministry – I think what happened is that they inflated the balls for Brady at the minimum allowed and as the game went on the cold air deflated the balls slightly, plus whatever use they got. My understanding is that each side uses its own balls inflated to the psi it likes within a set range. Brady likes the lower range because he has smaller hands.

          Thus, when the game is over, (because of cold and use) the balls are under flalted for league standards, but started at league standard. I am hard pressed to see how the NFL is going to prove they tampered with the balls.

          1. I’m sure the league tested the other team’s balls for comparsion before releasing their claim. If not, they surely impounded them and kept in the same environment they would deflate proportionally. End result- $20k X 11= $220K fine. End of story.

          2. ” I think what happened is that they inflated the balls for Brady at the minimum allowed and as the game went on the cold air deflated the balls slightly,”

            Does anyone remember enough physics to actually calculate the likely drop in pressure for a temperature change from inside a locker room to game time outside temperature?

  2. Geezes!!! The morals of the NFL. Cheat anyway you can to win. ADD to that the NFL is a 501 charity (the NBL is also)… no taxes even though they make millions of dollars.

  3. All I know is that when Gomer played the Fudge Packers in the NFL championship game he beat them. That is why Nick hates them.

    1. Trooper and Nick – if you children cannot play nice I am going to send you outside.

  4. Interesting. In baseball don’t the refs prepare the balls? They just rub them awhile.

    Officials in football should be responsible for inflation. Five big guys laying on top must force some air out. And bouncing by kicks and passing. The media need something dicey to make their jobs fun. Why are simple solutions so hard?

  5. I don’t know enough about this to tell the strength of the information suggesting cheating. However, if there is a finding of actual cheating (rather than honest mistake or other explanation) then the win should go away whether the cheating facilitated the win or not. If a team cheats during a game, it should be treated as if it had not played the game. At least that’s what I want my kids to understand.

  6. if any wrongdoing occurred at any time before or during the game, the on-field officials bear a major responsibility.

    if you ever watch an nfl game, the one official you see more than any other is the umpire (yes, even more than the referee!). that’s because, under nfl rules (rule 15, section 3, articles 1 – 4), the umpire is responsible for game equipment. the umpire is the last official to touch the ball before each play, for it is the umpire who places the ball on the line of scrimmage. the umpire also has the responsibility to wipe down a wet ball.

    the umpire is stationed behind the offensive team, on the opposite side from the referee (the referee stands to the left of a left-handed quarterback, and to the right of a right-handed quarterback).

    the umpire handles the ball immediately before each and every play. if the footballs were so improper, why didn’t the umpire ever notice anything?

  7. Let’s be fair about this. No fine, no lost of game, no loss of draft pick, no loss of home games, all of which have been suggested in this blog. Instead, make the Pats play with over-inflated balls in SuperBowl and see how that fits Tom Brady’s undersized hand.

  8. Trooper is a retarded NY Giant fan who loves their QB, Gomer Pyle.. We give him a cookie and tickle him once in awhile. He’s harmless, just like the team. They were getting tee times for the winter starting in September.

  9. Jim22, The Harbaugh’s are whining babies. The play in question was perfectly legal. I saw both guys on Pardon The Interruption[Kornheiser and Wilbon], who hate Belichick, support him on the legitimacy of the play. Jim Harbaugh is a bigger whiner than John. I watch little Big Ten football so thankfully, I won’t have to watch that sissy, whiner, prancing around the sideline like a 12 year old girl anymore. I’m not a fan of Belichick, but I don’t hate him. He is not histrionic, I love his garb on the sideline, and he is w/o question, the best coach in football. He has a dark side, but @ least he’s not a whiney little girl!! And, let he w/o a dark side step forward. Thanks, you’re a liar! We all have a dark side.

  10. The Patriots are just happy they don’t have to play the Giants. We have their number.

  11. There is no evidence at all to support the claim that the balls were deflated, merely that they were probably underinflated. The balls are (supposed to be) checked by the officiating crew immediately prior to the game, when they’re given to the teams. Unless there’s video of the Patriots’ ball boy deflating balls on the sidelines after getting possession of them from the refs, this is an overinflated issue.

    We now know that diff. QBs have diff. preferences over psi. They’re allowed to optimize the surface of the balls–which is presumably why they’re provided by the teams in the first place. They’re also given some latitude over psi. Getting as close to your QB’s ideal psi w/o getting caught by the refs seems very similar to practicing pass defense techniques that involve as much contact w/ receivers as is likely to go unflagged in a game.

    If each team is using its own balls on offense, I don’t even see why the league gives a sh!t about psi.

  12. Nick Spinelli – If this is “gamesmanship,” remind me never to play Monopoly with you, much less poker.

  13. “The Patriots were already under fire by the Ravens coach and others for what John Harbaugh called “deceptive practices” in its game with his team”

    This one cracks me up too. Really? Oh, no! Not deceptive practices! The whole game is based on deception.

    I play in an senior baseball league and we had an ump this year warn our pitcher that he was not allowed to change his windup when a runner was on base because it would be deceptive to the guys running the bases. The whole idea of picking off a guy is making him think you are throwing to home. Sports is just getting stupid.

  14. I just don’t get the outrage here. Didn’t the Colts play with the same balls? so where is the advantage? I was officially done with football when the God comish. went after Peterson. It’s hard to imagine football existing in 10-20 years.

    1. I think each team brings their own ball. There might be a common ball with a change of procession but on the next ball exchange they come in from the sideline. And during rain, etc, the ball get wiped down on the sidelines and exchanged every play. I may be wrong just my observation looking at a replay of the game.

  15. Knock knock
    Who’s there?
    The world’s biggest cheater.
    The world’s biggest cheater who?
    Bill Belichick!

  16. In baseball, the umpires are in charge of the balls, They rub down several dozen balls w/ a special mud to take the sheen off of them, making it easier to throw. The remedy for this is simple. The league either put the officials in charge of the balls, or the league spends a few bucks and hire independent ball sheriffs who provide the balls from the league, and supervise their use during the game.

    This does not reach the threshold of damaging the integrity of the game. This is gamesmanship, part of all sports. There should be stiff penalties. But, as stated previously, there is an easy solution that could put this cheating to an end.

  17. Upon hearing this news, Bill Belichik promptly fired the equipment manager for not deflating the 12th ball.






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