Deflategate & the Media
so i will preface this by saying that i am a patriots fan. I am not a "diehard" patriots fan. i grew up following montana, rice & young 49ers. they were just the team that my dad liked at the time and, not having grown up in a football town and thereby not having a "home allegiance" i just naturally gravitated towards them to bond with my father.
when i went on to college and as the last starts of that 49er team flickered away, i was "team-less" throughout my 4 years of undergrad. it wasn't until the patriots/eagles superbowl that i started liking the patriots. in fact, and ironically, i went into that super bowl disliking the patriots, especially their smugass head coach and qb. but right around the second half, while mcnabb was puking on the field and andy reid was acting like a retard trying to manage the game clock did i come to really appreciate how great bill belichick & brady patriots were.
of course from thereon they became one of, if not the most hated teams in the nfl. maybe because of that i gravitated towards them even more. i just loved the fiery competitiveness of brady and the unwavering genius of bill belichick.
so needless to say i was super psyched when the patriots were crushing the colts en route to the super bowl. furthermore, i now live in seattle so by monday the good-natured trash-talking of coworkers (i have never seen a more rabid fan base) was in full effect. the whole "deflate gate" was but a minor footnote.
by wednesday it was full blown. in fact, i couldn't believe how quickly it blew up (no pun intended). it seemed like everyone and their mother JUST KNEW that the patriots were dirty-rotten cheaters (and always had been).
i went through the stages of grief. first, i was in utter disbelief and shock. which then turned to anger. how can these assholes do this to me? taint this team again for such a shockingly underwhelming reason too. by wednesday afternoon i had grown sullen and ready to just abdicate any love i ever had for football and the patriots. the sport (which has become increasingly unwatchable) and that team were dead to me.
my coworkers went from the good-natured trash-talking to treating me like i had cancer. they would almost flat out avoid the topic of the super bowl and if it was brought up they would try to CONSOLE me. saying stuff like (and i am not kidding), "i'm sure this will all work itself out, don't worry about it nick". while squeezing my shoulder and looking at me sympathetically.
by friday i finally decided to start reading up on the whole debacle. and the more i read up on it the more i got angry with myself. i felt manipulated. not only had a turned on my team without any real evidence, but i had turned on them with such speed. and when i really looked at it, it was all manufactured by the media.
every sports site, twitter journalist and football pundit pronounced condemnation and i ate it write up without any critical thinking or analysis. i, like most brainless consumers of today's media, just ate up what was fed to me, not once questioning if (a) any real research had been done and (b) if maybe that media i was consuming had a vested interest in feeding me one unwavering storyline: "the evil empire that was so narcissistic that it couldn't help but cheat."
after really reading into it and going through all of the 10th grade science on how PSI is affected by the ambient temperature in the environment, did i really start questioning the narrative. as a quick recap (and this is by no means well though out, but just one guy vaguely recounting what he has read): a football's PSI is affected by the temperature in which that ball finds itself. further background: under NFL "rules' (another thing i found was that i'm not even sure if there is even a rule or if it is more of a guideline) a football must be inflated between 12.5 & 13.5 PSI.
11 of 12 patriots footballs from the colts game measured in at around 11 to 11.5 PSI after the game. and here we have deflate gate. i will just cut right to meat of it. teams are allowed to "work" the 12 footballs they are to use that week in the game. by "work" this means that the QB and his equipment people can "rub" the football or otherwise impose friction on it to wear off the sheen of a new ball. each QB has their own preference on how he likes the footballs to feel.
the argument that has been espoused by the patriots is that tom brady likes a more deflated ball (whereas aaron rodgers, QB of the packers likes an over-inflated ball). so the theory of the patriots is that they "work" they did on the balls prior to handing them over to the refs (who are responsible for inflating the balls before the game to the allowed range) had an effect on the PSI. furthermore, let's posit that the pats asked the refs to inflate the balls to 12.5 PSI (knowing that TB likes under-inflated footballs).
now take that football out of an ambient temperature of 75 degrees and put it on the field of about 40 degrees. naturally, PSI reduces as weather is colder (as you may notice in the winter when your tires seem more deflated when your car has been sitting out in the cold night). so take those two factors (a) pats "work" on the balls and (b) inflating to the minimum of 12.5 PSI it seems very reasonable, from a scientific perspective that they could have dropped 1 to 1.5 PSI over the course of being out in the cold for close to 3 hours.
the obvious argument against this is, "well why didn't the colts footballs also deflate to 11 or 11.5 PSI? again, this is where the disinformation comes. i don't even know IF the colts balls had been checked after the game, but let's assume for the sake of argument that they had been. there is a very plausible reasoning and that is a combination of (a) the colts equipment managers & QB "worked" the balls differently from the pats and TB and (b) the colts may have asked the refs to inflate the balls to 13.5 PSI. therefore, while they could have experienced the same decrease in PSI, their range could have still ended up in the allowable range.
anyhow, all of that is just my fly-by-night interpretation of science that i honestly am too tired to thoroughly research at this point. but seeing belichick's press conference today (one of the greatest moments in NFL history) i just have to believe that the pats didn't intentionally try to cheat here. call it blind faith or just my inability to cope but i am relying on two things: (a) my theory posed above and (b) i just can't believe that an organization like the pats that is worth millions upon millions of dollars with a legacy, reputation and integrity to uphold would ALLOW their figurehead to hold a press conference and basically tell everyone, "y'all are a bunch of fucking idiots. why am i fucking standing here talking about this? this is bullshit. fuck you guys, fuck the NFL and in particular, fuck the commissioner." i work as a company attorney for a company that is worth a hell of a lot less than the pats and i can tell you for DAMN SURE that if we weren't absolutely positive we were in the right, there is no way we would go out there and hang out nuts out like that.
which brings me to the last point. the media. yes i am on my soapbox, but it is only because i feel like a brain-dead moron. i was led by the nose by the media. they spoon-fed me what they wanted me to believe and i did not think to criticize it for the first 3 days. i just let them ram it down my throat. it is really kind of sickening how, with the advent of twitter, blogs and "race to who first reports" almost seems to give journalists the "right" to make outrageous, completely unfounded defamatory statements just for click-bait. think first take. my god those two idiots will say nearly anything. think ESPN. nothing but outright sensationalism with no regard to facts whatsoever.
and why should they feel that they have to maintain the integrity that they assail the patriots for so badly flaunting? if it turns out deflate gate really "ain't shit" they'll just move on. no consequences, just a shrug of the shoulders. hell, maybe they start the other drive and lampoon the NFL and the commissioner for "misleading" them.
either way the NFL has suffered greatly this year from negative publicity. the whole domestic violence thing blew up because a 24 hour sports news cycle desperate for any drama championed it as their flagship.
i am realizing i am sounding like a "get off my lawn" old man right now, but i think sometimes we need to step back and look at the world we live in. a world driven by media entities that have an incentive to keep you thirsting for more 24/7. combine that with the fact that there are little to no consequences for them simply making shit up or completely over-embellishing every little trivial thing and we start to get a world where reality and news are drifting further and further apart.
i don't know how to fix it. make defamation easier to prosecute? it is a notoriously difficult case to win. maybe we lower the standards of defamation for the media as they are unique and different from your average joe saying that a certain restaurant "sucks". but the quick retort to this is, "wow, way to limit free speech asshole". and i, for one, am the biggest proponent of free speech there is (especially after what happened in France).
so really maybe the answer is just that i need to stop just blindly consuming and instead crucially analyzing and thinking for myself. i don't know. either way, i loved belichick's press conference today. i am prepared to talk some shit on monday. and i am once again looking forward to this super bowl. win or lose, and as horribly pathetic as it may sound that i am taking life lessons from football, but...in stan's immortal words from south park: "i think we learned something today guys."