The Times tackles Mark Brunell: In hard copy, the report appears atop the first page of the New York Times sports section.
Accompanied by three large photos, its lay-out consumes two-thirds of that page. On-line, it carries this headline:
“Deflation Experiments Show Patriots May Have a Point After All”
Say what? In our hard-copy Times, the headlines say this:
Upon Scientific Review...Uh-oh! In essence, the New York Times is reporting today that the latest script—the latest “journalistic” Group Story—may be falling apart.
A paper explains how the Patriots’ footballs could have become deflated by atmospheric conditions.
But so what? At ESPN—the “news org” which has embarrassed itself in the brainless way it has pimped this story—the Times report is being ignored. In this age of incessant group howlers, our “journalism” typically works like this.
Does the New York Times report prove that the New England Patriots engaged in no wrong-doing? Does it prove that the Patriots actually didn’t underinflate those footballs?
It’s hard to prove that someone didn’t do something. It’s still possible that someone on the Patriots’ staff deliberately underinflated some footballs to some degree in violation of NFL rules.
That remains possible—after all, everything is! But if the New York Times’ analysis is sound, it’s beginning to look more and more like the childishly-named “Deflategate” scandal may have been our latest Journalistic Clown Show.
Below, you see the way James Glanz’s sprawling report begins. Unless Professor Tegmark is wrong, another ballyhooed “press corps” script may be biting the dust:
GLANZ (1/30/15): Thomas Healy does not have tickets to the Super Bowl, but he plans to fly to Phoenix with something that is even harder to come by than seats at Sunday’s game: the first detailed, experimental data on how atmospheric conditions might have reduced the air pressure in footballs used by the New England Patriots in their victory over the Indianapolis Colts nearly two weeks ago.Warning! There are imperfections in Glanz’s reporting and in Tegmark’s analysis.
Those footballs, which the N.F.L. has said were deflated to pressures below league standards, have created a national meta-bowl whose outcome is seemingly as important as who wins on Sunday. The question driving the public dialogue is whether the Patriots tampered with the balls to make them easier to handle, or whether simply moving them from the warmth of a locker room to the chill and dampness of the field could account for the deflation.
The Patriots have absorbed a beating in that larger contest, with many scientists concluding that only the surreptitious hiss of air being released from the balls could explain the difference. But now the Patriots have started to rally, and in a big way. Healy, who provided The New York Times with an advance copy of his technical paper on the experiments, concluded that most or all of the deflation could be explained by those environmental effects.
“This analysis looks solid to me,” said Max Tegmark, a professor of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who reviewed the paper at The Times’s request. “To me, their measurements mean that there’s no evidence of foul play.”
Other evidence is also turning the Patriots’ way...
To cite one important example, neither fellow seems aware of a very basic fact—we don’t yet know what the air pressure readings actually were for the Patriots’ infamous footballs.
A bit later in his report, Glanz covers himself on this basic point, referring to “the deflation of 2 pounds per square inch that the N.F.L. is believed to have found” (our emphasis).
He could have said “rumored” instead of “believed.” In fact, no one knows how much deflation the NFL found, or says it found, in the twelve footballs under review.
To this point, the NFL has offered no statement of its findings. This whole gang-bang has been fueled by a somewhat murky claim in a single leak from an anonymous NFL “source”—a murky leak which was taken to mean that eleven footballs were found to be inflated to 10.5 pounds per square inch, two pounds below the permitted minimum pressure.
Uh-oh! Last weekend, a second anonymous NFL leak said that isn’t what the NFL found! But as typically happens in clown shows like this, that second leak has been ignored as the chimps and buffoons of our national “press corps” continued to run with their story.
Warning! Once these chimps memorize a tale, they rarely subject it to change.
What air pressure readings did the NFL actually find? Like everyone else, we have no way of knowing. But according to today’s report, atmospheric pressure and rain could explain inflation levels reaching all the way down to the neighborhood of 10.5 pounds per square inch.
Uh-oh! If that analysis is sound, this whole script may be falling apart. And oops! According to Glanz, you haven’t heard such warnings till now in part because our brilliant professors began by f*cking things up:
GLANZ (continuing directly): Other evidence is also turning the Patriots’ way. In a usually obscure profession that has received extraordinary attention during the controversy, some academic and research physicists now concede that they made a crucial error in their initial calculations, using an equation called the ideal gas law.Question: Which “academic and research physicists now concede that they made a crucial error in their initial calculations?”
When that error is corrected, the amount of deflation predicted in moving from room temperature to a 50-degree field is roughly doubled. Healy, a graduate student in mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, went further: He measured the pressure drop in 12 footballs when they were moved from a room at 75 degrees to one at 50 degrees (the approximate temperature on the field in the Colts game).
In the experiment, the deflation of the footballs was close to the larger, correctly calculated value. When Healy moistened the balls to mimic the effects of the rainy weather that day, the pressure dropped even further, close to the deflation of 2 pounds per square inch that the N.F.L. is believed to have found.
Glanz is too polite to say so, but one such expert was PBS super-professor Neil deGrasse Tyson, who seems to be defining himself as a bit of a pompous loudmouth more and more each day.
Later in his report, Glanz drops the hammer on only one of our bungling physicists. Wouldn’t you know it? He drops the hammer on Professor Tegmark himself:
GLANZ: When the football controversy arose, a number of physicists cited the ideal gas law, which many of them taught in introductory courses. But applying the equation to real situations can be surprisingly deceptive. When a gauge indicates that the ball contains 12.5 p.s.i.—the minimum allowed by the N.F.L.—the actual pressure is more than twice that amount because the surrounding pressure of the atmosphere must be considered.Leave it to the New York Times! Professor Tegmark gets cited by name. Perhaps in accord with Hard Pundit Law, the exalted guild member, Tyson, gets to slip away.
This roughly doubles how much a dip in temperature can lower the pressure. During a phone conversation, even Tegmark, the M.I.T. professor, initially used the lower value until recognizing the mistake. “I stand corrected,” he said, adding, “It’s pretty funny that the ideal gas law is making headlines.”
Let’s state our key point again: No one knows what air pressure readings the NFL actually found. (More precisely, no one knows what air pressure readings the NFL says it found.)
That said: If the Times’ analysis is correct, pressure readings down to 10.5 pounds may well have resulted from atmospheric and weather conditions. If true, that suggests that it’s completely normal for colder-weather NFL games to be played with footballs with pressure readings below 12.5 pounds, despite all the screeching you’ve heard from ESPN’s legion of outraged and overwrought former quarterbacks.
In colder-weather games, the footballs might start at 12.5 pounds of pressure. But the air pressure readings would drop from there as the game progresses. Other footballs might start at 13.5 pounds of pressure (the highest permitted level), then descend from that point.
(At one point, Glanz seems a bit murky about this range of permitted readings. The Patriots’ footballs may have started at 12.5 pounds of pressure, the Colts’ at 13.5.)
Has this whole scandal been a scam—the latest version of “Al Gore said he invented the Internet?” Did the press corps adopt A Story It Liked, then start keening and wailing from there?
At this point, we can’t settle that question. But that possibility is strongly implied by this sprawling Times report, which is being ignored by ESPN even as we type.
Has the public been conned by the “press corps” again? To understand the way these gong-shows work, consider the latest exciting leak, the one which appeared on Monday.
Excitement! Jay Glazer of Fox Sports tweeted the latest thrilling news in the latest thrilling scandal:
Breaking news: sources tell @FOXSports the NFL has zeroed in on a locker room attendant w Patriots who allegedly took balls from officials locker room to another area on way to field. Sources say they have interviewed him and additionally have video. Still gauging if any wrong doing occurred with him but he is strong person of interest
Excitement! Presumably, it was Glazer’s “sources” who used the thrilling term “person of interest,” thus employing the language of exciting criminal probes.
At any rate, Glazer pimped this “breaking news.” Everyone else started screeching.
Later, a second anonymous report said “the area” into which the footballs were taken was actually a bathroom. Presumably, Glazer’s “sources” didn’t mention that fact, since it suggests a possible innocent motive for this deeply troubling detour, which seems to have lasted ninety seconds, another point Glazer missed.
That said, do you notice something else that was AWOL from Glazer’s report?
That’s right! His sources told him that the attendant had been interviewed. But Glazer failed to report what the attendant had said!
Just a guess: When he was interviewed, the attendant said he went into the bathroom in order to go to the bathroom. That may or may not be true, of course. But why do you think this thrilling report didn’t include what the attendant said?
We can’t tell you what did or didn’t happen with respect to those footballs. Just for starters, we’ll wait to see what the NFL alleges when it finally issues a report.
We can tell you this: ESPN has disgraced itself as this gong-show has unfolded. But then, so has the broad sweep of the national “press corps,” including the clownish Rachel Maddow, who used a referee shirt and a referee’s whistle to entertain us rubes Wednesday night as she pretended to investigate this matter.
That’s the way our corporate-sponsored Rhodes Scholars now function! In fairness, ESPN’s overwrought former QBs have been quite a few pounds of air pressure worse.
Tom Brady said he invented the Internet! Between Tyson and Maddow and Mark Brunell, what hope is there for our ability, as a people, to stage public discussions?