Part 2—The facts you still haven’t heard: How vast is the dumbness of the whale?
(Editor’s note: The “whale” to which this post refers is the mammoth, appalling cetacean known as “the national press corps.”)
How vast is the dumbness of the whale? Today, let’s consider the way Melville’s “spouting fish” has buried basic information as it pretends to discuss its current consensus scandal.
For years, we’ve stated a basic point—facts and information play almost no role in our public discourse.
As the whale descends to the deep to compose a standard group tale, it’s narrative all the way down! Inconvenient facts will always be sent to the bottom!
Our current consensus scandal displays this aspect of press culture in an especially straightforward way. Let’s review three sets of facts about the “Deflategate” matter.
These basic facts have been disappeared by the spouting fish of the national press. Almost surely, you’ve heard none of these facts before.
The intercepted football which touched off the conflagration
In Homer’s glorious tale, Paris’ seduction of Helen triggers a vast conflagration. In the press corps’ current tale, D’Qwell Jackson’s interception of a pass by Tom Brady touches off the thrilling Deflategate brouhaha.
Within the first week of this mess, Jackson said that he’d noticed nothing unusual about the football in question. But on the sidelines, officials of the Indianapolis Colts had been scandalized by what they said was the softness of the ball!
In the NFL’s official report, the story proceeds from there. This passage describes the NFL found when its glorious functionaries measured the air pressure of the triggering football:
WELLS REPORT (page 70): The pressure of the Patriots ball that had been intercepted by the Colts was separately tested three times and the measurements—11.45, 11.35 and 11.75 psi, respectively—were written on athletic tape that had been placed on the ball for identification. League personnel retained possession of the intercepted ball and it was not reintroduced to the game after halftime. The football intercepted by Jackson was provided to Paul, Weiss for examination in connection with the investigation.Good lord! According to NFL regulations, footballs are supposed to be inflated within a range of permitted air pressure—anywhere from 12.5 psi to 13.5 psi. On all three measures, the intercepted football measured below that standard!
On its face, that looks like a problem. But uh-oh! Some 43 pages later, the Wells report gets around to presenting some key information:
WELLS REPORT (page 113): As a result of exposure to the colder temperature on the field during the first half, the air pressure of all of the game balls tested at halftime decreased from the levels measured prior to the game. This result is consistent with basic scientific principles, including the Ideal Gas Law, which predicts the proportional change in pressure that is caused by a change in temperature of the gas inside a pressure vessel of fixed volume (such as a football). According to Exponent, based on the most likely pressure and temperature values for the Patriots game balls on the day of the AFC Championship Game (i.e., a starting pressure of 12.5 psi, a starting temperature of between 67 and 71 degrees and a final temperature of 48 degrees), the Ideal Gas Law predicts that the Patriots balls should have measured between 11.52 and 11.32 psi at the end of the first half, just before they were brought back into the Officials Locker Room.Oops! According to that passage, the intercepted football—the Helen of this conflagration—seemed to measure exactly where it should have!
According to the Wells report, all the Patriots’ footballs were measured at 12.5 psi before the game began. According to the Ideal Gas Law, weather conditions would have reduced their psi readings to a range of 11.32-11.52 psi by halftime of the game.
On two of the measurements, the intercepted football fell within that range. (The pass was intercepted midway through the second quarter.) On the third measurement, its inflation level was above that predicted range.
Based on those readings, there seems to be little reason to think that air was surreptitiously released from this football after it was approved for use by referee Walt Anderson. Presumably, this explains why Jackson said he found nothing strange about the football he intercepted.
Presumably, NFL games are played with such footballs all the time! Presumably, this happens almost every week as weather conditions lower the air pressure that existed before the game began.
Why then did Colts’ officials say they thought this football was strange? We’ve seen no one in the national press corps attempt to address this obvious question. In fact, the press has disappeared these facts almost completely. They’ve dragged this information into the deep, where it was drowned.
The Patriots’ other footballs
On its face, the intercepted football provides no reason to think that air was surreptitiously released from Patriots’ footballs.
What about the Patriots’ other footballs? As the brutish monsters of the deep thrashed about in a frenzy, the other eleven footballs were measured at halftime. What did those readings suggest?
In typical fashion, the process was clownish and chaotic. Two different air gauges produced systematically different sets of readings.
That said, these are the readings that emerged on the so-called "Logo gauge," the gauge which referee Walt Anderson said he thought he used before the game. We number the footballs as it’s done in the Wells report (page 8, page 68):
1) 11.80 psi
2) 11.20 psi
3) 11.50 psi
4) 11.00 psi
5) 11.45 psi
6) 11.95 psi
7) 12.30 psi
8) 11.55 psi
9) 11.35 psi
10) 10.90 psi
11) 11.35 psi
According to referee Anderson, he measured all these footballs at 12.5 psi before the game, then approved them for use. But how strange!
Three of these footballs measured above the range predicted by the Ideal Gas Law. Two were substantially higher (footballs 1 and 7). If we assume that those halftime measurements were accurate (a large assumption), that suggests the possibility that Anderson inflated those footballs to a level above 12.5 psi before the game.
Five of the footballs measured within the range predicted by the Ideal Gas Law. Only three of the footballs measured below that predicted range. One of the three (football 2) was just a tick below the predicted range.
On face, those measurements provide little reason to think that air was surreptitiously released from those footballs after they were approved for use by Anderson. Perhaps for that reason, we've seen no one mention these readings as the whale has pretended to discuss its latest consensus scandal.
Two points should be noted:
To keep its waterlogged tale afloat, the NFL has judged that Anderson was probably wrong in one of his contentions. Despite his personal recollection, they have judged that he probably used the other air pressure gauge before the game.
In the Wells report, they “explain” their reasoning in the murkiest English ever formed this side of Queequeg. Before the week is done, we’ll look at that presentation.
Final point—there is absolutely no reason to regard any of those measurements as precise or accurate. As noted above, the NFL measured the intercepted football three times, coming up with three different readings.
Was that 10.90 psi for football 10 a precise and accurate reading? There is no apparent reason to think so. The same is true of all the readings presented by Wells as he married the dumbness of the whale to a type of kangaroo court.
Let the bad information roll
Admit it! You’ve seen no one report or explain the facts about the intercepted football, whose air pressure seems to have been where it should have been.
You’ve seen no one report or explain the air pressure readings which were recorded for the other eleven balls.
Crackers! When the whale concocts a tale, he drowns all facts in the deep!
In their place, he will often start inventing false facts. Or he will accept false facts from the party whose point of view he prefers in the thrilling new scandal about which he is spouting.
In this case, the preferred party was the deeply aggrieved NFL. And so, in line with standard practice, false information quickly appeared in the press, attributed to “NFL sources.”
We discussed that false information in two prior reports. First, click here; after that, click this.
On May 7, the Wells report finally released the air pressure readings for the Patriots’ footballs. When it did, it became clear that false information had quickly appeared in the press, attributed to “NFL sources.”
Admit it! In the twelve days since the Wells report appeared, you’ve seen no one report this awkward fact. You’ve seen no one ask the NFL to explain this awkward fact.
In their widely-derided rebuttal report, the Patriots have also alleged that the NFL wouldn’t show them the actual air pressure readings for the first two months of the consensus scandal. The Patriots also allege that they were only given the accurate data on the condition that they not release it to the press and the public.
Those are astonishing claims. Admit it! You’ve seen no one report those claims. You’ve seen no one ask the NFL if those claims are accurate. And you’ve seen no one mention an additional fact which the Wells report mentions on page 100:
In the first days of the scandal, the NFL sent a letter to the Patriots which falsely stated that the intercepted football measured 10.1 psi. In this way, the Patriots were grievously misinformed about the actual state of the facts.
The Wells report describes this remarkable matter as “an inadvertent error.” Admit it! In the days since the Wells report appeared, you've seen no one mention this awkward, embarrassing, kangaroo court-style fact.
As Melville suggested but never quite said, the dumbness of the whale is matched only by its brutal dishonesty. As we’ve fruitlessly told you for years, disappearance of basic facts is a key part of this pattern.
In this morning’s New York Times, Adam Nossiter offers an appalling report about the horrific sexual conduct of men in Boko Haram.
They’re behaving in the ways their broken social contract permits. So are the many reporters and pundits who toy with your world over here.
The behavior of ESPN’s reporters and pundits has been an embarrassing, rolling disgrace in this ongoing matter. Then again, have you seen anyone report, discuss or attempt to explain the basic facts we've presented above?
This is the way our “press corps” works, even with topics which massively matter, unlike this latest exciting topic.
We’ve been telling you this for years. But the dumbness of the whale is extensive:
It’s quite plain that nobody cares.
Tomorrow: Instantly, with lightning speed, the world’s dumbest talking point