Atlanta Journal Constitution Disregards Basic Science, Advises Parents How To Talk To Kids About DeflateGate
By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- DeflateGate? Really? That's all that the nitwits can come up with this week? DeflateGate? The Patriots are in their seventh Super Bowl since 2001, their coach is historically great, their quarterback is probably the best ever, and all the boneheads want to focus on is the PSI of footballs?
I guess so. On Tuesday, it was Dan Le Batard spewing uninformed nonsense. But he's a radio yakker. That's par for the course. But now on Wednesday, we've got the Atlanta Journal Constitution -- the newspaper of record! -- propagating blatant misinformation that ignores some basic fundamentals of science. And the AJC -- again, the newspaper of record! -- is doing so without even putting a writer's byline on the story.
Presumably with a straight face, some sports editor in Atlanta ran a story with this headline:
"Super Bowl 2017: What to tell your kids about 'Deflategate'"
We've officially reverted back to the "What's Up With Our Hero?" days. We're moving backward, folks.
Anyway, you don't care about DeflateGate anymore, of course, so the gist boils down to this: the Patriots cheated, Tom Brady cheated, and they were punished for it.
For the sake of brevity, the following will not include verbose quotes from the Wells Report or anything of the sort. I will just address the factual inaccuracies as quickly as possible.
--The story says that this tweet is a troll job from Wilson:
I don't know. The company makes footballs. Was this a troll tweet? Was this one? How about this one? It's not trolling for a football manufacturer to share a photo of the manufacturing process. Alas.
OFFICIAL TRUTH RULING: Questionable.
--The story claims that only the Patriots' footballs -- and not the Colts footballs -- were impacted by the atmosphere in the 2014 AFC Championship Game.
This is day one stuff. Every radio caller every day for two straight years has been saying, "Yah, why is nobody talking about the Colts footballs being underinflated?!" as if they had just discovered the cure for cancer. Literally everyone knows this, except for the mystery writer of this bad article.
So here, some evidence. As a reminder, the NFL allows for footballs between 12.5 PSI and 13.5 PSI:
As you can see, three of the Colts balls were measured under the 12.5 PSI threshold. The officials pumped them up to 13.0 PSI before the game. So how could they have dropped as low as 12.15 PSI? Did they have a ball boy deflating them, too?
No. They didn't. Everyone knows this. It's basic stuff. The Patriots footballs were inflated to 12.5 PSI before the game. The Colts' footballs were inflated to 13 PSI. They all went down. The Colts' readings were slightly higher because they were measured at halftime after the Patriots' footballs, giving them more time in the warm officials locker room after being out in the cold. And the gauges, which are inexact, were consistently off from each other.
(You can read it here, in The New York Times, if you'd prefer them over me.)
Additionally, 21 professors of physics and engineering from around the country gathered weather data from 10,000 outdoor NFL games since 1960 and determined that anywhere between 38 percent and 82 percent of NFL games featured footballs outside of the 12.5-13.5 PSI threshold. Here's a visual representation of what that looks like:
Those professors came from MIT, Stanford, Penn, the University of Michigan, Boston College, Purdue University, the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Delaware, the University of Minnesota, and the University of Southern California.
Here is why they got involved: "These professors have an interest in ensuring that laws of physics are applied with scientific integrity in legal proceedings. They have not sought or received any compensation in connection with the proposed brief. They submit it out of professional conviction that scientific principles be explained and put to fair use."
This isn't fantasy; it's reality. And it's basic. But the AJC couldn't figure it out. Too bad.
OFFICIAL TRUTH RULING: Undeniably false, easily disproved with 11 seconds of research.
--The story can't differentiate the difference between footballs having a lower PSI and being a different "size."
Seriously. Ryan Grigson (not the world's brightest fellow) barged into the NFL's booth during the game and shouted at executives, "We are playing with a small ball."
A small ball!
The story literally advises people to say this to their precious children: "NFL footballs have to be a certain size. The Patriots won a game (and maybe more) with footballs that weren't regulation size and that is not fair."
No, the ball was not small. Footballs are physical objects. They are made of cowhide. You can put air in them, but the physical space they occupy in this universe does not change. And while a completely flat football obviously takes a different form than a fully inflated football, there certainly is no discernible difference between a football at 12.5 PSI and a football at 12 PSI or even 11 PSI. In those instances, the football is a size of a football.
OFFICIAL TRUTH RULING: False.
--The story suggests the Patriots history of deflating footballs goes back an incalculable amount of time, and thus the extent of their cheating cannot be known.
This came from the earlier quote, which said, "The Patriots won a game (and maybe more) with footballs that weren't regulation size and that is not fair."
(And maybe more?)
For one thing, people point to Tom Brady's communications with John Jastremski as proof that an elaborate "scheme" existed. But there's this: Brady had zero cell phone communications with Jastremski for "more than six months" prior to the allegations. It was only after the story broke and made national headlines that Brady talked to Jastremski.
There's also this: the genesis of the Patriots' interest in PSI came earlier in the 2014 season, when the footballs after a Jets-Patriots game were measured at 16 PSI the day after a game. This was revealed in a text message from Jastremski to his fiancee, in which he said, "[The PSI of the footballs is] supposed to be 13 lbs."
Check it once more: "Supposed to be 13 lbs."
This was a text from Jastremski to his fiancee in October 2014, long before any allegations of anything. This is an equipment manager having a private conversation with his fiancee. There would be no reason on earth for him to say anything to her at the time except for the truth. And the truth, according to the man in charge, was that the footballs were "supposed to be 13 lbs."
(The source of this information was page 86 of the Wells Report. There is a less than zero chance that the anonymous author of this story for the Atlanta Journal Constitution made it past page 4.)
So, the Atlanta Journal Constitution is suggesting you lie to your children. That's not nice.
OFFICIAL TRUTH RULING: Can't be necessarily proven wrong, per se, but there is no evidence to support the claim.
--The story includes an unsightly typo.
It says, "The league ... striped the team of a first-round draft pick."
Zebra stripe? Tony the Tiger stripe?
A typo is not a huge deal, on its own. I myself have been known to get a little careless on the keyboard with the thumb from time to time. But when it's included in a story that overlooks basic facts, well, it doesn't help the cause.
OFFICIAL TRUTH RULING: We all make typographical errors, but the newspaper of record should be better.
--The story claims that the NFL found Jim McNally and John Jastremski to be "directly responsible" for the deflation.
In fact, the Wells report concluded that it was "more probable than not" that they participated in the deflation of footballs. Considering one sentence before their indictment of the employees, they noted that Brady was found to be "at least generally aware," it is an important distinction to have overlooked.
OFFICIAL TRUTH RULING: True enough, but not entirely.
--The story refutes any of the aforementioned explanations as "conspiracy theories."
The story says, "The man wearing No. 12 for the Patriots was told to he couldn't play for four games as punishment. Or you could explain conspiracy theories."
In fact, the only basis upon which to place guilt on the Patriots is by way of conspiracy theory. The public has largely condemned the Patriots based on text messages from May of 2014 between McNally and Jastremski
--The story jumps to a sweeping conclusion.
It says, "The general conclusion is the team cheated and won, and they can't escape the label. This is why two years later we're still talking about Deflategate."
No, not really. People are still talking about DeflateGate two years later because they never invested any time to learning anything about the situation beyond what the NFL spoon-fed them.
So, if I may, I have some advice on what the DeflateGate saga can teach your kids, and what you should tell them. Here goes.
What To Tell Your Kids About DeflateGate
by Michael Hurley
Tell your kids to do their homework.
You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.
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