“Deflate-Gate”: A Controversy That’s Full of Hot Air

SportsThe NFL is investigating the New England Patriots regarding underinflated footballs that were allegedly used during their crucial AFC championship game.

Within hours of the New England Patriots’ 45-7 win over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Game on Sunday night, stories began to surface that the NFL was looking into irregularities with the footballs that were used during the game.

Eleven of the 12 game balls the Patriots provided were under-inflated by about 2 pounds per square inch each, ESPN reported. Regulation pressure is 12.5-13.5 psi. A ball with lower inflation is supposedly easier to grip and may give the passer a competitive advantage. Under the best of circumstances, a violation of such rules could result in heavy fines and the loss of future draft picks. In a game that decides which team plays in the Super Bowl, it’s a big deal!

Shortly after the NFL released their statement on Friday, Patriots owner Robert Kraft released his own, saying: ‘On Monday, I received a letter from the league office informing me that they would be conducting an investigation into the air pressure of the game balls. Immediately after receiving the letter, I instructed our staff to be completely cooperative and transparent with the league’s investigators.” During the days following, the Patriots provided access to every full- and part-time employee the league’s representatives requested to speak with and produced every communication device that they requested to search.

Earlier this week, both Brady and his coach, Bill Belichick, provided only claims of ignorance as to why this might have been. They were largely disbelieved, with some former players treating this alleged innocence with something that bordered on contempt.

During a press conference on Jan. 22, quarterback Tom Brady addressed the rumors and accusations of their team deflating balls for the AFC Championship game on Jan. 18

“I didn’t alter the ball in any way,” Tom said to the press. “I have a process that I go through where before the game I go through and pick the balls that I want to use. When I pick those balls out, at that point, to me they’re perfect. I don’t want anyone touching the balls after that, I don’t want anyone rubbing them.”

The Patriots coach addressed the issue during an unscheduled availability Saturday afternoon, one day after the NFL announced that it has not drawn any conclusions.

After detailing the organization’s preparation process and suggesting that weather conditions may have affected the air pressure in the footballs, the long-time Patriots coach emotionally defended his team, saying, “We did everything as right as we can do it.” “I believe now 100 percent that I have personally and we as an organization have absolutely followed every rule to the letter,” Belichick said, while acknowledging that he felt compelled to speak up and address the questions raised by the controversy in the past week.

What they found was that the way the Patriots prepare the outside surface of their footballs – scrubbing, rubbing, etc. – actually raises the pound per inch levels inside the ball. Once that process ends and the ball reaches an equilibrium, the ball that was once legally measured to be 12.5 psi naturally drops to the illegal level of 11.5. Throw in the climatic differences between a room temperature locker room and a cold playing surface, and it’s 1.5 psi or enough to cause this whole kerfuffle.

The debate on this is going to go on forever, at least unless the NFL’s investigation uncovers video footage of an assistant equipment manager taking a tire needle to a game ball. And based on how bold Belichick brought it in an unprecedented and previously unscheduled media session Saturday afternoon, the czar of the Patriots is confident no such video exists.