THE DUMBNESS OF THE WHALE: The Times inflates the NFL’s case!

THURSDAY, MAY 21, 2015

Part 4—The gang that wouldn’t report straight:
Did an employee of the New England Patriots under-inflate some footballs in violation of NFL rules?

It’s possible! Pretty much everything is.

That said, we can’t say we see much evidence that this offence occurred. We say that because we’ve read the NFL’s official report on this subject, the Wells report.

Did a Patriots’ employee under-inflate some footballs? It’s still a possibility! But the Wells report reveals the NFL as the organization that can’t function straight—and as an organization that can’t seem to tell the truth straight.

It’s astounding to see the way the New York Times has refused to report those matters. Let’s review of the NFL’s serial dysfunction in this high-profile affair.

The gang that can’t measure air pressure straight

First, the Wells report shows the NFL to be the gang that can’t measure air pressure straight. The league had rules about the air pressure of footballs. But it had never developed a standard procedure for measuring that air pressure.

On the day in question, referee Walt Anderson brought two air pressure gauges to the game from his home. As a result, he enacted the old joke known as Goldberg’s Law:

The man with one watch always knows the time. The man with two watches is never quite sure.

As Anderson would learn at halftime, his two gauges produced systematically different air pressure readings. Beyond that, Anderson apparently wasn’t sure which gauge he had used before the game to measure the pressure of both teams’ footballs. But if he used the gauge he said he had used, the air pressure readings of the Patriots’ footballs were pretty much right where they should have been when they were measured at halftime.

To solve this problem, the Wells report decided that Anderson must have been wrong about which gauge he used before the game. They explained this helpful assessment in such murky language that they came close to defining themselves as “the gang that can’t speak English straight.”

The problem of the dueling gauges was only the tip of the iceberg. At halftime, the NFL measured the air pressure of four Colts’ footballs. One of their readings made so little sense that the Wells report basically disregarded it.

After the game, the NFL measured the pressure of four Patriots’ footballs. None of those readings made sense. They too were disregarded by the Wells report.

At this point, an honest organization might consider the possibility that their review should go no further, so thoroughly had they failed to gather reliable data. As the Wells report makes clear, the NFL isn’t that kind of org.

That gang that can’t seem to tell the truth straight

The NFL’s attempt to measure air pressure was clownish beyond belief. From there, the league apparently moved to Step 2 in its operation—the distribution of false information to the national press.

The league’s initial conduit was Chris Mortensen, a gullible and apparently dishonest ESPN star reporter. Three days after the game in question, he reported a set of air pressure readings which made it seem that the Patriots’ footballs were grossly under-inflated. He sourced the incriminating data to “NFL sources.”

When the Wells report presented the actual air pressure readings, it became clear that Mortensen had been given a bogus set of statistics—false statistics which grossly tilted the playing field against the Patriots. To this day, Mortensen hasn’t reported this fact to ESPN viewers and readers, nor has he explained the source of his false information.

The gang that can’t write letters straight

By now, the NFL had thoroughly bungled its attempt at data collection. It seems it had also misinformed the national press about the air pressure readings its procedures had produced.

This took the league to Step 3 in its action. Now, it grossly misinformed the Patriots organization about what it had found.

This piece of apparent disinformation came from David Gardi, an NFL senior vice president. Gardi wrote a letter to the Patriots which included a wildly inaccurate claim about the air pressure reading of one of the Patriots’ footballs.

According to the Wells report, this was “an inadvertent error” on Gardi’s part. He had simply “relied on memory” when he wrote the inaccurate letter, the Wells report ridiculously said.

The gang that won’t correct false information straight

The Patriots weren’t given the accurate air pressure readings for two more months. They finally received the accurate data on the stipulation that they couldn’t correct the false information which had appeared in the press.

As far as we know, the NFL never told Mortensen, or anyone else, that he had published a bunch of false statistics—false statistics which strongly tilted the playing field against the Patriots.

As noted, this fact became clear when the Wells report published the actual air pressure readings. As mentioned, “Mort” hasn’t said a word about this matter in the weeks since the Wells report appeared. Neither have any of the other whales who “spout” and slap their horizontal tails on ESPN, the news org of record for this journalistically disgraceful affair.

In fairness to ESPN, roughly half their analysts left their previous careers after taking too many blows to the head. This doesn’t explain the silence of Mortensen.

Did an employee of the Patriots under-inflate some footballs? It’s possible, although we’d say the evidence for this crime is extremely weak.

If the referee used the gauge he says he used before the game, there doesn’t seem to be any “under-inflation” to explain! In that case, the Patriots’ footballs were pretty much right where they should have been according to the Ideal Gas Law, a part of basic physics.

This is all explained in the Wells report, which hit the press all the way back on May 7. Amazingly, none of this has been explained in the New York Times, which has done two lengthy front-page reports on this matter, plus a lengthy informational column.

In the weeks since the Wells report appeared, the New York Times has established itself as the gang that won’t report even the most basic information. The Times won’t report basic information at all, let alone report it straight!

In a global perspective, nothing much turns on this latest consensus scandal. But it represents a stunning example of the way our American “press corps” works.

The dumbness of the whale is profound. So is the his brute dishonesty.

The gang that won’t report even the most basic information

It isn’t like the New York Times has avoided this topic. On May 7, it published a front-page news report about the Wells report.

On May 12, it published another front-page report. This report described the penalties the NFL had just announced for the Patriots and for Tom Brady, the team’s wonderfully handsome star quarterback.

On May 14, the Patriots published their 20,000-word rebuttal to the Wells report. The Times didn’t do a news report about the Patriots’ rebuttal, but they published a lengthy column by David Waldstein which served as the paper’s account of what the patriots had said.

The Times has not avoided this topic. Let’s summarize its basic coverage:
May 7: “Tom Brady Probably Knew Footballs Were Doctored, N.F.L. Finds”
Front-page news report, John Branch, 1727 words.

May 12: “Brady Receives a 4-Game Ban”
Front-page news report, Bill Pennington, 1394 words

May 15: “Patriots' Rebuttal Is Foray Further Into Farce”
Sports section, informational column, David Waldstein, 1015 words
In those three pieces alone, the Times has devoted more than 4100 words to these recent events. Let’s marvel at the basic things Times readers never been told.

Let’s start with the paper's lesser omissions. Times readers have never been told about the clownish procedures which produced the NFL’s official data.

They’ve never been told about the dueling air pressure gauges. They’ve never been told about the data which had to be thrown out.

They’ve never been told that the NFL produced four different air pressure readings for the intercepted football which supposedly triggered this conflagration. As far as New York Times readers know, the NFL’s fata collection was competent right down the line.

Beyond that, Times readers have never been told that this brouhaha started with false information in the press, attributed to “NFL sources.” They’ve never been told that the NFL also sent false information to the Patriots organization.

If you read the Times, those things never happened. Those matters won’t worry your head. But there’s a massively larger piece of this puzzle Times readers have never been given.

Incredibly, Times readers have never been told about the basic physics of this matter—about the Ideal Gas Law. They’ve never been told that the Patriots’ footballs should have been “underinflated” by halftime, a point which the NFL’s own Wells report makes perfectly clear.

What can we possibly mean by this? Consider Bill Pennington’s front-page news report on May 12.

By now, Pennington and his brutish editors had had a full five days to review the Wells report. That report explains the physics quite clearly—given the cool weather on the day of the game, the Patriots’ footballs should have measured anywhere from 11.32 to 11.52 psi by the time they were measured at halftime.

The Wells report makes it perfectly clear—the Patriots’ footballs should have bene “underinflated” by halftime. But Pennington, like Branch before him, never mentioned this brutally basic fact.

Here’s the account he handed Times readers at the start of his front-page news report—a news report whose clownishness matched that of the NFL’s data collection:
PENNINGTON (5/12/15): New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, a golden boy of American sports and perhaps pro football's biggest star, was suspended Monday for four regular-season games without pay by the N.F.L., which said he had deliberately and secretly violated league rules.

The N.F.L. also fined the Patriots $1 million and took away two prized future draft picks, including a first-round choice in 2016, saying that the team, and Brady, schemed to improperly deflate footballs in the A.F.C. championship game last season on the way to securing New England's fourth Super Bowl victory.

A deflated football is said to be easier to grip, especially in the cold and wet conditions that the Patriots faced at home against the Indianapolis Colts on Jan. 18.

In a statement, N.F.L. Commissioner Roger Goodell said he supported the punishment issued by the league's executive vice president for football operations, Troy Vincent, for what the league called “conduct detrimental to the integrity of the N.F.L.” The team and Brady were also censured for not fully cooperating with a league-commissioned investigation into how a vast majority of footballs used in the first half of the Patriots' victory in the A.F.C. championship game ended up underinflated not long after the game officials had measured and approved the footballs in a pregame inspection.
“A vast majority of [Patriots] footballs...ended up underinflated not long after the game officials had measured and approved the footballs in a pregame inspection?” You could possibly defend that as “technically accurate,” but it doesn’t begin to explain the actual situation.

Later, Pennington tried it again. Here’s what Times readers were told:
PENNINGTON: At the core of the league's investigation was the discovery at halftime that a high percentage of the footballs used by the Patriots in the A.F.C. championship game were underinflated. The footballs had been inspected by game officials before the game and inflated to the permissible pounds-per-square-inch measure established by the N.F.L. Circumstantial but detailed information and accounts provided in the league report last week implicated Jastremski, McNally and Brady as part of an operation to furtively deflate the footballs beyond the permissible threshold sometime between the pregame inspection and the opening kickoff.

Tipped off by a Colts executive, the officials measured the footballs again at halftime and found that a majority of the Patriots footballs—the teams each used their own balls—were underinflated. The footballs were once again inflated as required, and the Patriots then continued to dominate the Colts in a 45-7 rout.
We’d describe that as a second-grader’s account of the basic facts. New York Times readers were never told that the Patriots’ footballs should have been “underinflated” by halftime—should have displayed lower readings than the “permissible pounds-per-square-inch measure established by the N.F.L.”

Pennington wrote a child’s account of the basic facts, and thus of the basic dispute. But this child’s account of the basic facts appeared on the front page of the Times, as was the case with Branch’s news report five days before.

Warning! Avert your gaze from Branch’s use of the clownish term “squishier:”
BRANCH (5/7/15): The head referee for the Patriots-Colts game, Walt Anderson, used a gauge to test the air pressure of each ball. The balls are made of a urethane bladder inside a pebbled leather casing. N.F.L. rules dictate that they be properly inflated during a game, falling into the window of 12.5 to 13.5 pounds per square inch.

McNally told Anderson that Brady liked the balls to be at the low end of the scale. (Brady later confirmed this, to reporters, saying that he liked squishier footballs to help him get a better grip.) Ten of the balls were approved. Two others were underinflated. Anderson instructed another official to pump them up until they reached the 12.5-p.s.i. threshold.


[W]hen 11 balls were tested with two gauges at halftime, after the Colts had raised suspicions following a second-quarter interception of a Brady pass, they were all below 12.5 p.s.i. Most were substantially lower. One was at 10.5.

The game was played in the rain, and deflated balls would have been easier to grip in the wet weather.
Good God! According to Branch, when the Patriots’ footballs were measured at halftime, “they were all below 12.5 p.s.i.” Full stop!

The Wells report on which Branch was reporting said that the Patriots footballs should have measured below 12.5 psi by that time, by at least a full pound! In a front-page New York Times news report, Branch simply skipped that fact.

(“One was at 10.5?” Branch didn't note that this reading came from only one of the two dueling gauges—the gauge the referee said he didn’t use before the start of the game.)

Branch offered a simpleton’s before-and-after account—a simple tale of consensus scandal written for a young child. That said, this Simple Simon account of the facts was amplified nowhere in the Times’ two front-page reports.

The clownishness only got worse when the Times published Waldstein’s account of the Patriots’ rebuttal report.

The rebuttal report highlighted all the problems with the NFL’s bungled attempts at data collection. It strongly complained about the false information the NFL had disbursed.

In his original hard-copy text, Waldstein hinted at some of this misconduct by the NFL. As we noted on Monday, all such suggestions were edited out of the scrubbed account which now appears on-line.

That's bad enough—but good God! Below, you see Waldstein’s account of the Patriots basic explanation of the inflation level of their footballs. In a slightly different world, it would be astounding to think that work like this could appear in the New York Times:
WALDSTEIN (5/17/15): The Wells report asserted that the footballs the Patriots used in the first half of the A.F.C. title game in January were, in general, significantly underinflated, while the four footballs the Colts used that were measured conformed to the guidelines.

The Patriots countered by emphasizing that only four of the Colts’ balls were measured and offered theories about why their own footballs were underinflated at halftime. Perhaps it was because the Colts kept their footballs in garbage bags on the rainy sidelines and the Patriots did not. Perhaps it was because the Patriots’ footballs were measured first, and during those 10 minutes the Colts’ balls reached equilibrium in the warmer confines of the referees’ locker room.

The Patriots also noted how they had the ball for most of the first half, especially at the end. Therefore, their footballs—the N.F.L. lets each team use its own—were subjected to far more physical abuse. Could the underinflation have been caused, the Patriots wondered, by the “different number of times” the balls were “crushed under the weight of players being tackled”?
According to Waldstein’s report, “The Patriots...offered theories about why their own footballs were underinflated at halftime.”

He then fails to mention the Patriots’ number-one “theory,” according to which the inflation levels were exactly where they should have been due to the weather conditions and the Ideal Gas Law.

Good God! Waldstein pretends to report the positions the Patriots adopted in their rebuttal report. But in that remarkable passage, he omits the most significant explanation for the “underinflation”—for the reduced air pressure readings—of the Patriots’ footballs.

He weirdly omits another obvious fact. According to the referee, the Colts’ footballs started the game at 13.0 psi, as compared to 12.5 psi for the Patriots’ footballs. Might that help explain why the Patriots’ footballs were “underinflated” by halftime, while the Colts’ four footballs still “conformed to the [pre-game] guidelines?”

In the New York Times, it cannot! That fundamental fact went unmentioned in Waldstein’s account.

The New York Times has devoted thousands of words to the Wells report and its aftermath. But in all its reporting, and in its additional half dozen columns on the topic, Times readers have never encountered even the most fundamental facts about this ridiculous case.

They’ve never been told about the NFL’s clownish attempt at data collection. They’ve never been told that the NFL gave false information to the Patriots and apparently to the press corps itself.

Most amazingly, Times readers have never been told about the basic physics of the case.

Why were the Patriots’ footballs “underinflated” at halftime? In two lengthy front-page reports, then in Waldstein’s informational column, Times readers were never told about the effect the weather had on the air pressure readings of both teams’ footballs.

It was right there in the Wells report. It didn’t get into the Times!

The dumbness of the whale is both astounding and vast. Tomorrow, we’ll show you where the Times, and the rest of the press, took their focus as they cavorted and played on the surface of their consensus tale.

Tomorrow: Dumbest fish in the sea


  1. 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.

  2. rarely substantive, always sarcastic.

  3. Yes, but one of the Patriots' locker room aides was nicknamed "The Deflator"!!

    1. Without some reliable way to measure the air pressure, even people intending to cheat cannot do it properly. If The Deflator released air such that the ball was still at a legal air pressure, he wouldn't have been doing anything wrong (according to the rules). That's partly why it matters whether they could accurately measure the balls.

    2. Yes, but it's all about intent and what's in your heart. Next season, if a Patriots player tries to interfere with an opponent's receiver, but misses, they will throw a flag anyway. Serves 'em right, those lousy cheaters!

  4. So tell me before I even begin to read another long screed from Bob.

    Does he say anything new in this one that he didn't say on Monday? Or even last January when he first began to tell his readers that this whole thing was much ado about nothing?

    Is it all that heinous yet? Could it still be a legitimate traffic study? Who was and was not Tom Brady's best friend in high school?

    1. He said that the NY Times doesn't correct its mistakes, even on an important topic such as football. In subsequent posts he has provided additional evidence in support of his initial claim.

      If you thought his point last January was that this was much ado about nothing, you have a comprehension problem.

      If you are uninterested in examples and evidence and proof of assertions, you are perhaps visiting the wrong blog. Your stupid reference to previous controversies does nothing but demonstrate your hostility toward Somerby. If your only point is that you dislike the guy -- say so and then feel free to go away.

    2. "Feel free to go away"

      Nothing like the whine of a Somerby fanboy in the morning. Smells like . . . Victory!

    3. It's been Bob's narrative for years that the press corps -- which to him means the NY Times and MSNBC -- never corrects its errors.

      And he will glom onto any reed in the wind -- including Deflategate -- to advance that narrative.

      It has also been Bob's practice never to correct his own. After all, deliberatly altering a passage from a great literary work to insert a word never there to fit his narrative was just "a little joke."

    4. Nothing like the stupidity of vacuous boobs like you, Anon @ 1:41. Smells like ...anus!

    5. Troll blather

    6. I'm sure you're quite familiar with the smell of anus, 1:51.

    7. So very childish @3:42. Just go away.

  5. Bob's bad at math and also science.

    If Bob's going to continue to discuss the Ideal Gas Law (and i suspect he will for the next few weeks) it would be nice if he could get it right.

    The Ideal Gas Law is PV= nRT. The T is temperature, the P is pressure, V is volume, n is number of moles of gas inside the ball and R is a constant.

    Despite what Bob seems to think, you cannot use farenheit (well you can use it, but your result will be wrong). Rather you need to use Kelvin starting at absolute zero. And yes it makes a freakin' difference.

    I don't give a crap about this silly story, so i won't check if the drop of pressure was feasible based on the ideal gas law (i.e., using K rather than F) someone else can do it.

    1. You can use Rankine scale instead of Fahrenheit.

    2. I haven't seen any calculations Somerby performed, any equations or any evidence he was using Fahrenheit as opposed to some other scale in such calculations. He simply said temperature could account for the difference. Did I miss something?

    3. Nope. You missed nothing. What 1:56 is doing is called trolling, for a reason.

      When this blog a couple days ago did venture into the calculations of pressure difference, it quoted the Wells report on the matter. Trolls gotta troll though.

    4. "He simply said temperature could account for the difference. Did I miss something?"

      Yeah. Both the fact that it wasn't unusually cold that day, and the fact that the temperature seemed to affect only one team's football.

      But hey, bringing up Ideal Gas Law that none of his fans know a damned thing about sure sounds smart. So they just gotta take Somerby at his word. Never led them wrong before!

    5. And don't forget. The equipment guy who took the footballs into the head with him, out of the view of security cameras, could have been taking a legitimate piss.

    6. 8:14 - Classic! While calling most of your audience dumb, you show that you are unaware of the facts in evidence. Both teams footballs' pressure did decrease, and in accordance with normal physics. Normal physics applies even if "it wasn't unusually cold."
      You taunt people for taking Bob's word, but you are the most gullible one around. You have swallowed that media narrative on this subject hook, line, and sinker. You know the media who thought that this was so big a story that all three majors had it lead the nightly newscasts.
      Actually, is this your overriding joke here? That one should be massively cynical about this blog, but lap up the crap in the mainstream media?

  6. The Trolls We're Stuck WithMay 21, 2015 at 1:59 PM

    "...Bob's practice never to correct his own. After all, deliberatly altering a passage from a great literary work to insert a word never there..."

    I know, right??!!!!??

    And yet he keeps on maligning poor Melville, day after awful day pounding on the "dumbness" of the whale we all know was actually just white. And -- hello -- FICTIONAL!!

    Who does Somerby think he's fooling with this???

    1. Troll blather

    2. If The Joke Needs Explaining...May 21, 2015 at 6:23 PM

      And, given the poster's 'name," probably parody troll blather at that!

    3. I think it is just as annoying when it is "parody" as when it is hostile. I'm sure some of the trolls think they are cleverly parodying Somerby (or each other) and providing entertainment. It is annoying to at least some people here who would prefer to be discussing stuff. The signal to noise ratio is just too discouraging of conversation.

    4. Which is why @ 6:37 is repeatedly engaging in discussing non-stuff like trolls. It is a shame Bob Somerby attracts nothing but trolls and a few brave readers who defy them by pointing out what a drag they are to meaningful conversations about PSI all this week.

  7. I think it is wonderful that Bob Somerby is teaching pro football fans a little about physics and introducing them to Melville while instilling within yet another group of possible converts to the progressive cause
    a healthy skepticism about reporters who are almost as overpaid as the wife beaters they bet on every Sunday.

    The trolls who complain he is beating a dead horse by repeating this
    topic in mulitple posts don't acknowledge how lazy and dumb liberals are. Obviously they are unlikey to see the need to repeat the message
    over and over until the equally dumb sports fans get it.

  8. This is why we can't have nice things.

    1. That said, nice things are not all that they are cracked up to be.

      Look what greed has done to Rachel Maddow.

  9. Deflategate reveals quite a lot about current American culture and its press corps. You have an authority figure, Goodell, who presents judgments. Unusually, he also presents all the factual evidence he has used to make his decision. The public can either judge the evidence for themselves or rely on the notably erratic authority figure.

    While it could be argued that most fans don't have the time to read the evidence, it would be more accurate to say that they don't want to read the report and wouldn't understand it anyway. Sadly, the same is true of the press. Most people follow and support the authority figure.

    So we have a perfect model for the public debates about everything from health care to foreign policy. Reasonable, intelligent analysis of the facts will not enter into the discussion until long after huge mistakes have been made. Eventually there may be some recognition there was a problem, but who-coulda-node will be the new order of the day.

  10. The scary thing about the media's failure to read and explain the evidence is that it's so easy to do. It's all laid out. Consider, by comparison, how difficult it is to understand the thousands of pages of the ACA or to understand what's going on now in the Middle East. Since the media doesn't even get the east stuff right, what hope is there that they'll get the difficult stuff right?

    1. Or even the west stuff right.

  11. I understand Bob is using this story as a parable about the media, but enough! Can we move on to...actual substantial news stories now? Good Lord.

    1. A substantial news story will often include a great amount of uncertainty over the facts and it may be difficult to fit the facts into a definite context. This is a wonderful story because it demonstrates precisely how the media function.

      It's not a parable, it's a sad reality.

  12. "You could possibly defend that as “technically accurate,” "

    "It’s possible! Pretty much everything is."

    Bob Somerby