ENABLING THE SCANDALOUS TIMES: Ruth Marcus agrees with the NFL!

MONDAY, MAY 11, 2015

Part 1—A comical point of reference:
Ruth Marcus is fully on board with the latest consensus scandal.

Marcus is a columnist at the Washington Post. Some Fridays, she substitutes for Mark Shields on the PBS NewsHour, serving as the liberal voice on the weekly political round-up.

As such, Marcus virtually defines a major wing of our journalistic elite. Needless to say, she’s fully on board with the latest consensus scandal.

In this instance, elite consensus involves a field Marcus knows little about. As she made clear in yesterday’s Post, she’s on board concerning the latest consensus scandal involving the NFL.

Did someone who works for the New England Patriots under-inflate some footballs? Has this been going on for years? Did a certain handsome quarterback actually know about it?

It’s the latest consensus scandal! As is common within our scandal culture, Marcus believes every word the NFL says. She has even embellished a few:
MARCUS (5/10/15): I don’t care much about football in general or Deflategate in particular. At least I hadn’t until Wednesday’s report concluding that two New England Patriots employees were involved in deflating game balls and that it was “more probable than not” that Brady, the Patriots quarterback, was “at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities.”

But the more I think about the episode, the more I listen to Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Brady’s entourage sputter indignantly about the, well, witch trial to which they have been subjected, the more I am convinced that (a) the transgression matters and (b) the punishment should be severe.

Actually, enough mincing words. This was cheating.
Enough mincing words, Marcus says, as she embellishes several.

Actually, the NFL didn’t conclude that the two employees in question were involved in deflating game balls. In its official report, the NFL concluded it was “more probable than not” that the employees did that.

Marcus erased that distinction with respect to the two employees. When a consensus scandal takes shape, this is the way our elite pundits tend to roll.

At any rate, Marcus declared that “the transgression matters” in this case. She called for severe punishment.

She never explained how she knows that the transgression in question actually occurred. You can search her entire column without finding that explanation.

Did the alleged transgressions occur? For ourselves, we can’t say we’re fully sure, although it’s certainly possible.

We can be certain of several things. The report which Marcus has overstated describes an investigation which was comical and buffoonish in several major respects. Marcus completely ignores these problems, a courtesy which defines the work of her guild in the case of consensus scandals.

Did someone with the New England Patriots mess with the air pressure of some game balls? It’s certainly possible!

Did the team’s handsome quarterback know this sort of thing was occurring? We’d say that’s possible too!

That said, the NFL report in question is comically awful in several respects. But how odd! Despite the high entertainment factor, we’ll guess you’ve seen no major pundit mention any of this.

In what way does the NFL report describe a clownish probe? We’ll list some examples below—partly for entertainment value, partly as an introduction to this week’s basic topic.

To peruse the report, click here.

That NFL report is clownish in several major ways. This may or may not mean that the NFL’s conclusions are wrong.

That said, the journalism in the New York Times’ recent “bombshell report” was also clownish in major respects. That report produced our latest consensus political scandal—a scandal involving questions which are substantially more important than the pressure in NFL footballs.

The New York Times did some terrible work in creating its latest consensus scandal. But how odd! To this day, ranking pundits like Marcus have made no mention of such flaws in the Times’ high-profile work.

Over the past three weeks, liberal and mainstream pundits alike have reported seeing no evil in the Times’ “bombshell report.” In their silence, they’ve enabled the Times’ pseudo-journalistic conduct again.

This has long been a key component of our press corps’ destructive and selective scandal culture. For today, let us entertain you with that NFL report!

What’s wrong with that NFL report? Marcus saw no evil in the NFL probe. In what ways was the NFL’s investigation a “Keystone cops” endeavor?

Let’s restrict ourselves to just a few such elements. There’s more where this comes from:

The lack of standard league-wide procedures: Part of what follows is irrelevant to the basic questions at hand. But just for the record, the NFL seems to have established no standard procedure concerning the air pressure of footballs in NFL games.

Before each game, NFL referees check the air pressure of the footballs which will be used in the game. Each team provides the dozen footballs it will use on offense.

According to NFL regulations, air pressure of 12.5-13.5 pounds per square inch is acceptable. But the league's now-famous report describes inconsistent practices, some of which are highly relevant to the questions at hand:
NFL REPORT (page 36): The details of each officiating crew’s pre-game inspection process nevertheless may vary....Many game officials bring their own air gauge with them to each game. Others may rely on a gauge provided by the home team. Most officials reported that they use digital gauges supplied by Wilson to the NFL. Others have used gauges that they have purchased or otherwise obtained on their own. In addition, some officiating crews adjust the air pressure in a ball only if they determine that it has been set outside of the permissible range, while others may set the pressure of each football to 13.0 psi, regardless of where the balls are initially set by the team, to provide consistency.
Really? Some officiating crews inflate all the footballs to 13.0 pounds per square inch? Other crews allow the footballs to range from 12.5 psi to 13.5 psi, as desired by the teams?

That’s a strangely inconsistent procedure. Beyond that, it seems that the air pressure gauges the officials use can come from pretty much anywhere.

That will turn out to be a key point. Warning! Keystone cops conduct ahead!

A tale of two air gauges: According to the NFL report, Walt Anderson “is one of the most respected referees in the NFL. It is obvious that he conducts his responsibilities with a high level of professionalism and integrity.”

Anderson was head referee for the game in question. But uh-oh! As part of his vast professionalism, he arrived at the game that day with two different air pressure gauges—two different pressure gauges of two different types.

Despite his vast professionalism, Anderson was apparently unaware of an awkward fact which emerged at halftime—his two air gauges produce substantially different air pressure readings! Beyond that, Anderson isn’t sure which of the gauges he used before the start of the game, when he says he determined that all the footballs were within the acceptable range.

It seems these facts could matter a lot. Just continue reading.

Data collection at halftime: According to Anderson, the Patriots’ footballs measured 12.5 psi before the game began. The Colts’ footballs measured 13.0 psi, he said—but he says he doesn’t recall which air pressure gauge he used to obtain these readings.

Uh-oh! During the first half, the Colts intercepted a Patriots’ pass; they apparently believed the ball in question felt soft. Acting with an authority the report doesn’t describe, the Colts measured the ball with their own air pressure gauge, obtaining a reading which was below 12.5 psi.

Alas! By now, a ball which measured 12.5 in the referees’ room should have measured below 12.5, given weather conditions. But despite the vast professionalism which was on display this day, there is no sign in the report that the Colts, or the game officials, understood that elementary fact.

This helped produce the excitement at halftime, in which the pressure of all the Patriots’ footballs was re-measured by two referees. Each referee was given one of Anderson’s two different air pressure gauges to use.

This attempt at data collection contains a Keystone cops element. Uh-oh! According to the NFL report, readings for the Patriots’ footballs consistently differed by 0.3-0.45 psi depending on which gauge was used. And uh-oh! Since Anderson can’t say which gauge he used before the game, there’s no way to make a direct comparison between the pre-game readings and the two sets of readings obtained at halftime.

Meanwhile, due to a shortage of time, the referees only re-measured four of the Colts’ dozen footballs, producing a problematically small “N” for what the report describes as its “control group.” But wait! In the process of measuring those four footballs, another problem surfaced, as was explained in a footnote to page 69 in the NFL report.

Uh-oh! The recorded measurements for one of the Colts’ four footballs were so anomalous that the NFL’s experts decided that the readings for that football had probably been recorded incorrectly! Now, we’re pretty much reduced to an “N” of 3!

Data collection after the game: According to the NFL report, a senior official supervised the data collection at halftime. For reasons which go unexplained in the report, he directed that the Patriots’ footballs should all be re-inflated to 13.0 psi (see page 69).

After the game, this same official decided that four footballs from each team (not all twelve) should be measured yet again. And uh-oh! On one of Anderson’s two gauges, the four Patriots footballs produced these improbable readings (see page 73):

13.50 psi; 13.35 psi; 13.35 psi; 13.65 psi.

The absurdity of this state of affairs should be obvious. In a footnote to page 73, the NFL reports that “our experts” decided to disregard these peculiar post-game readings. At least, we think that's what the NFL said. The league provides this awkward information in tiny type and in confusing language.

At this point, let’s be fair! The NFL hadn’t planned to engage in data collection this day. In some respects, the “Keystone cops” aspect of this operation is therefore understandable.

On the other hand, the NFL can fairly be described as “the gang who couldn’t measure air pressure straight” on this particular day. Consider:

Anderson didn’t record precise psi’s for the footballs he checked before the game. Beyond that, he didn’t know which of his two air pressure gauges he used.

When the referees tried to gather data at halftime, they discovered that the two gauges produced systematically different readings. They only tested four footballs from the Colts, and this meager “N” was reduced to 3 when the NFL judged that one of the readings had been recorded incorrectly.

The readings obtained after the game were so absurd that they were disregarded altogether. Aside from all that, the data collection was perfect!

Did an employee of the Patriots reduce the air pressure in the game balls? It’s certainly possible, based on a range of evidence.

On the other hand, we’re going to make a guess. We’re going to guess that you’ve seen no one mention the “Keystone cops” aspects of this report and investigation. This strikes us as an interesting, unfortunate part of our journalistic scandal culture.

In many ways, the NFL established itself this day as the gang that can’t measure straight. In various ways, its officials seemed completely clueless about the way this whole topic works.

In many ways, this cluelessness produced comical results. But we’ve seen no pundit mention this fact, certainly not Marcus, who began by overstating the degree of certainty the NFL has stated concerning two people’s guilt.

Can we talk? So-called “Deflategate” doesn’t matter a giant amount. Our next presidential election matters gigantically more.

Several weeks back, the New York Times engaged in some journalistic clowning about that election, creating a consensus political scandal. But how odd! The Keystone cops conduct of the Times has gone almost wholly unremarked, just like the Keystone cops work of the NFL.

Ruth Marcus hasn’t mentioned the unprofessional behavior of the glorious Times. Neither have other pundits we’ll name, including some liberals.

Ranking pundits, including liberals, have been enabling the scandal-drenched Times. All week long, we’ll be asking this question:

Why do they constantly do this?

Tomorrow: Tomasky’s errors—and his peculiar solution


  1. Even if you come up with standardized ball pressure testing, won't the handsome quarterbacks, like teachers, still find a way to cheat?

    In our view Bob Somerby should be made Deputy NFL Commissioner for Spousal/Pigskin/Press Abuse.

    Allowances should be made in all of his pronouncements for previously demonstrated Pac-12 bias.

    1. And...the troll misses the point. The point is how confidently Marcus announces that Brady must be severely punished, on the basis of far from definite proof he did anything wrong. The point is that Clinton was convicted on similarly specious evidence through collusion of the NY Times with the author of a conservative hit piece -- and none of the so-called liberals said anything about the NY Times behavior.

    2. Even if journalists exaggerate conclusions, conduct of athletes and politicians accused of corruption is not evaluated under a standard of reasonable doubt. In the case of a presidential candidate, the presumption for politicians should probably be something like the standard libs believe should be applied in the criminal justice system to a white person who shoot a black person in self-defense. A nearly insurmountable presumption of guilt.

    3. Your suggestion makes it awfully easy to damage honest politicians with false accusations.

    4. But hard to elect false politicians with honest accusations.

    5. @ 11:17 when will Clinton be sentenced?

    6. Convicted in the minds and hearts of NY Times readers.

      Keep forgetting that trolls don't understand figurative language. It is concrete literalism all the way down for you guys.

    7. Guess the Times shouldn't have shown its readers this:


    8. I hope all these attacks on her backfire big time.

  2. Warning to casual readers of this blog: These comments are unmoderated. They are infested by one or more trolls who routinely attack the blog author in a variety of ways, rarely substantive. Such attacks are not an indicator of the level of interest of other readers, the validity of the content posted nor of the esteem in which the blog author is held by others.

    1. Casual Urdu ReaderMay 11, 2015 at 12:21 PM

      اس بلاگ کے قارئین کے لئے آرام دہ اور پرسکون انتباہ: یہ تبصرے unmoderated ہیں . وہ معمول کے مطابق کبھی کبھار ہی اہم طریقوں ، کی ایک قسم میں بلاگ مصنف حملہ کرنے والے ایک یا زائد trolls کو متاثر کر رہے ہیں . اس طرح کے حملے دوسرے قارئین کی دلچسپی کی سطح کے ایک اشارے نہیں ہیں ، مواد کی درست بلاگ مصنف دوسروں کی طرف سے منعقد کی جاتی ہے جس میں عزت کی اور نہ ہی پوسٹ کیا .

    2. C.U.R. I am not sure your response would be the same if this was the fall and not the spring semester.

      But you may be right. The standard of proof is suspiciously the same.

    3. Google translate thinks this is just a straight across translation of the disclaimer. What do you think it says @2:52?

    4. I think it first passed through the Norwegian. How about you?

    5. I haven't passed through any Norwegians lately.

  3. The various conservative trolls here have convinced me that rather than arguing with them in the comments of a blog, I should take an active part in the upcoming campaign by working for Hillary Clinton.

    On Bill Maher's show, Lincoln Chafee said he was going to enter the race as a Democrat. That struck me as ridiculous, but it also made me realize that members of her own party apparently consider her fair game. That means she is going to need some help. I was upset about that, which made it obvious to me that I care strongly about what happens in this next election, so I am going to do something about it.

    So thanks, trolls, your efforts have not been for nothing. Hopefully you will strengthen the resolve of other liberals here and they too will come to the aid of our most viable candidate.

    1. Well, this convinced me to stop commenting here in a manner that might provoke the sleeping giant Anonymous 11:22 into winning the election for Hillary Clinton. I'm still shaken up.

    2. That is one problem with attacking Clinton. It creates sympathy for her among regular voters.

    3. Anon @ 11:22 I have no was of knowing, but I suspect that during Somerby's recent fundraiser you were the one who pledged extra money each time a troll commented.

      I just want to thank you (if it was you) for your service to the Howler. All of us who agree with you and love Bob know how much such donations helped make the completion of Chapter 7 possible.

      As an aside, I must add you should welcome, rather than ridicule, efforts to reach out to former Republicans like Lincoln Chaffee. I know he probably represents a threat to Hillary since he voted correctly on the Iraq war resolution.
      Plus he represents the best of the "keeping public office in the family" tradition which has carried down since the days of the Adams family.

    4. Clinton and Obama voted identically on all Iraq-war votes (except the ones Obama skipped). Obama claims he gave a speech opposing the war but there is no record of it. We all saw how quickly (or slowly depending on your perspective) he ended both wars. Clinton said she would have stopped them sooner than Obama did, but we'll never know if she would have done that. It is hard to argue that Chaffee's vote was "correct" when so many Democrats voted differently (and together with Clinton) to give the President freedom to negotiate (which he chose not to do).

      Personally, I've been finding all of Somerby's book interesting. Whether it gets finished or not is beside the point, except for people who like to mock him (that shoe seems to fit you). I did donate to Somerby and I plan to donate a lot more to Clinton. But I would have done that regardless of troll behavior.

      I hope you guys are getting paid for your work here because it isn't accomplishing anything beyond that.

    5. Yes, Obama "skipped" the vote to authorize the invasion, and offered an incredibly weak reason for his absence.

      He hadn't been elected to the U.S. Senate yet. How lame can you get?

    6. "Obama claims he gave a speech opposing the war but there is no record of it."

      You mean the one he gave on Oct. 2, 2002, the transcript I found in about two nanoseconds?


      The one in which he said: "What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne."

      You have heard of this thing called "Google"? If not, familiarize yourself with it, and you won't wind up looking like a jackass.

    7. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XbO-kgB-ZI4

    8. Anon 12:07 perfectly illustrates the problem. He believes nonsense, and makes no effort to check facts.
      That is why morons get elected to the Presidency, Congress, and state legislatures nationwide.
      As Pogo Possum said, "We have met the enemy and he is us."

    9. @ 11:52 what are some of the other problems? In your view.

    10. Of course I didn't hold Obama accountable for a vote before he was elected, but he skipped a couple after being elected too, as was his wont. There is no existing video of that speech he claims he made, just a transcript. Anyone can create (or alter) a transcript when there is no audio to compare it to.

      Given Obama's reluctance to take strong principled stands on anything, I very much doubt he would have voted any differently than the rest of the Democrats on authorizing Bush. When I hear people claim that the vote was to "authorize the war" I know they have ulterior motives, since that was not what the vote was for.

    11. @2:56, here are a few other problems with attacking Clinton, besides creating sympathy for her:

      1. Regardless of how they feel about Clinton, female voters may perceive attacks on her as motivated by sexism and perhaps aimed at discouraging women from participating as candidates. Many liberal women felt that way about the attacks on Sarah Palin.

      2. The attacks against Clinton tend to be disrespectful of her service as First Lady and as Secretary of State. There is a feeling that a man who had held such positions would be treated more respectfully of the office and service, if not the man. The overboard personal remarks about her voice for example generate this kind of backlash.

      3. The criticisms being raised are so arcane and technical that people don't want to invest the energy to follow them so they don't stick. There is a kind of attack-weariness (as opposed to Clinton-fatigue) developing because it seems like the smallest things are being magnified into large empty complaints, so people are ignoring them. Someone serious about attacking her should wait for a truly credible complaint, not this shotgun scattershot approach where every little thing becomes an issue.

      4. Every time Clinton weathers another attack, she is stronger as a candidate because people reason that if she is still being appointed Sec of State and still winning polls and elections despite the noise, she must be basically OK. The fact that they like her then sways opinion.

      5. Every attack lends credence to the existence of that global conservative conspiracy that is out to get her.

      6. It energizes her supporters. Fear that the nomination might be stolen this time will make those 18 million people who voted for her last time more determined to help her win.

    12. The idiocy of some of the complaints is off-putting too. Why do conservatives think anyone will blame the Clintons for earning money by giving speeches or not being middle class? When people come from humble roots but succeed, people tend to like that, not despise them for it. So this is a supremely silly line of attack. Who thinks this stuff up?

      The more out-of-touch conservatives are with average people, the less able they are to think up criticisms that will impress the Democratic constituency. I have the feeling their arguments are the kinds of things that conservative voters care about, not Democrats. Maybe they are actually worried about defectors within their own party. That is an interesting idea.

    13. @3:38, I think we just have to admit that that was a bad vote on Hillary's part. It was proven foolish to have trusted Bush and his neocon pals.

    14. What do you think Hillary has said about her vote recently? What did she say about it in 2008?

      When people raise that vote as an issue, they pretend she never addressed it. That's how you recognize where they're coming from. They pretend time stopped with Obama's first unrecorded speech -- that he never made an Iraq-related vote in the Senate, that he never said anything about how and when he would end that war. How else to pretend there was any shred of difference between him and Clinton.

      We've all seen what he did in office. We haven't seen what Clinton would have done. We have seen how few new wars and similar entanglements occurred during her time as Sec of State, which I think is the best evidence of her ability to prevent global conflict. If you think it was because of Obama, compare her tenure with what has happened under Kerry. It's the closest to a controlled study we're going to get.

    15. Obama doesn't get credit for a vote he didn't make in the Senate. He didn't face that decision.

    16. By the same token, Hillary doesn't get a pass because Obama wasn't in the Senate when the vote was taken.

    17. She didn't start the war either. She just said she'd end it quicker than Obama.

  4. While Somerby's work here is good, I think he is missing the forest for the tree. There are, after all bigger fish in the sea than footballs.

    He tires hard, but should take a lesson from the master.


  5. Indeed. Ruth Marcus clucking her tongue over football on the tote bag network hardly compares to a big corporate news network trying to simultaneously silence and discredit a voice warning about a military takeover. This is what Bob Somerby should be comparing to what happened to Hillary at the New York Times.

    1. These good tribesmen didn't care about what happened to Romney when Somerby pointed out the Gail Collins smears. They didn't care about what happened to Christie when Rachel Maddow smeared him along with the NY Times, the WS Journal and the NJ Star Ledger.

      Who can blame Somerby for not defending Alex Jones against ABC or Marco Rubio against the New York Times. Like Krugman he can only write the same post a hundred times in the face of his reader's not noticing or caring.

    2. Bob ignoring what the Times did to Marco Rubio comes as no surprise to those of who have noticed how little he seems to care about Hispanic test scores.

    3. Ohhhh, did poor little Marco do poorly on his NAEP test? Too late now for remediation, but thank you for the warning -- won't vote for someone who can't do math or read good.

  6. So a whole week on Deflategate? Thanks for the heads-up, Bob.

    But I do wonder if he will ever get around to admitting that his "the weather did it" theory was as silly as his "legitmate traffic study" theory.

    1. And now trolls think they can invent their own laws of physics? Air pressure doesn't change with temperature? It's a very short step to climate change denial.

    2. I know my car tires and my cheeks puff up when the thermometer creeps above 80 F.

    3. Yes, 11:55, temperature can change air pressure, but it never seems to change the pressure in footballs for just one team, does it?

    4. If you actually read the Wells report, 12:49, you don't read for compression very well. Did you see the obvious flaw with the pressure comparisons? Here's a good question : when did they realize that the two gauges measured differently?

    5. " . . . you don't read for compression very well."

      What a delicious malapropism!

    6. Yes, I left it in 'cause I thought it was funny, indeed.

    7. Is it ironic that the troll that loves to talk about a group, Bobfans, that cannot think for themselves, is so gullible to accept the "just one team's balls" narrative without thinking for him/herself?

    8. This whole subject is ripe for such humor at all levels, but given the chastisement Bob directed at Rachel Maddow for teabag jokes I will save my strokes for something other than ball preferences of quarterbacks being satisfied by boys earning tips in the men's room.

  7. This is not the first time Ruth Marcus has demonstrated this kind of tribal liberalism and rush to judgement nonsense when it comes to America's game.

    In fact it is the third time is less than three years. And by his silence the first two times she smeared football or football related personalities, Bob Somerby enabled this latest atrocity.



    1. What would you do without cut-and-paste?

  8. The post, as I read it, was about Brady and the Pats.
    Here come the assholes. According to you all the post is about what Obama said (before he was elected). Hit me with your bigot stick.
    You all may not be dumb, but you all sure are stupid.
    Who pays for your trolling and misdirection?

    Belicheck is an established cheat. Brady? Seems likely he also is a cheat.
    Get used to it.


    1. No, the post is not about Brady and the Pats. It is about Marcus and critical thinking and rushing to judgment with scant evidence. If you think it is about the Pats and football, you are all about surface. It must be nice, but you are going to miss a lot in life unless you dig a little deeper.

    2. Brady, Bielicek & the Pats are documented cheats.
      Go ahead; lie to yourself.


  9. Plus a murderer. THE model franchise.

    1. "Certain people (read: a certain husband) have suggested that I’d therefore be foolish to weigh in. It’s impossible to comprehend this story, this argument goes, without understanding something about raunchy locker room culture in general and the revved-up aggression of professional football in particular.

      To which my answer is: precisely. This behavior is incomprehensible. And the notion that it is some inherent, essential aspect of the ethos of sports or football to have people treating (or mistreating) one another this way is repulsive to fans and insulting to athletes.

      Yes, football is a violent sport. It involves astonishingly large men deliberately inflicting pain on one another — authorized, highly compensated barbarism. It must be hard to flick an on-off switch to modulate that brutality."

      Ruth Marcus. Writing about the NFL in 2013

  10. I say put Seymour Hersh on the story.

    1. I could be wrong but my memory sez Hersh is still dead.


    2. No Osama is still dead. Sy says Obama lied about it.

    3. The Seal team sez Osama is no longer with us.
      I will go with their conclusions.
      Kraft (and his buddy Rush) can say whatever. Bin Laden is dead. Sleeps with the fishes (so to speak). Enjoy yourself. It's later than you think.


  11. Well I'm enjoying Deflategate's aftermath. Tom Brady, a guy who whines to the refs for every petty, bullshit defensive infraction, get's slammed by a linebacker for a petty, bullshit infraction.
    It's enough to make this Raven's fan smile through OTAs.

  12. Apparently the NFL agrees with Marcus.

    1. Not so much. A 4 game suspension isn't much considering what they did to Pete Rose.