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Hurley: Patriots Set To Play Yet Another AFC Championship Game With Deflated Footballs

By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) -- Call the police. Call the National Guard. Call Ted Wells.

The Patriots will be playing for a Super Bowl berth on Sunday, and they'll be doing it with deflated footballs.

Someone get the president on the line.

We can't let this happen.

The integrity of the game is at stake.

As you've surely heard by now, the temperatures expected for kickoff on Sunday night in Kansas City for the AFC Championship Game are expected to be low. As in, Flo Rida/T-Pain/Apple Bottom jeans/boots with the furrrr low. Arctic Blast-level low. The meteorological folks are saying temperatures at kickoff could sit between 0 and 10 degrees.

Tie up your mittens, kiddos. That's some cold air.

And -- unless the fine city of Kansas City exists outside of the physical realm of the rest of the world -- that means that the air pressure levels inside them there footballs? Woo doggy, they'll be going down. Down, down, down. We're talking early-to-mid-2000s pop punk, Blink-182 (2003) and Fall Out Boy (2005) levels of down. So far down, it'll make your head spin.

(Insert Travis Barker drum fill.)

This is of course because the physical world in which we all live is governed by laws of physics. It's what keeps our bodies firmly planted to the ground, among other things. I don't really know for certain, personally. Never was much one for book learnin'. But that's what the smart folks say.

Those smart folks also say that, when you fill a football with air, and then you take that football outside, lo and behold, that air pressure is going to drop. It's science.


In fact, once upon a time, 21 of these smart people -- professors 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 -- all got together and decided to teach the NFL some basic science, as a public service, really, a brief filed to the courts. And among the many things that group of educated, intelligent people expressed was this: Somewhere between 38 percent and 82 percent of all NFL games since 1960 have been played with footballs that were below the allowable limit for PSI.

Those smart people stated in words even Roger Goodell can understand: "For any game where the field temperature is 20 or more degrees lower than the locker room where the footballs were tested, footballs will naturally 'deflate' below the league minimum of 12.5 PSI."

If words and numbers aren't necessarily your thing (don't worry, we're in a judgment free zone, bub), here is that information in graph form. Who doesn't love a good graph?

PSI data
(Graph from 2016 amici brief from 21 professors)

Each dot in that chart represents an NFL game. Only the dots within the shaded red area would have been games where, if the footballs were inflated to 12.5 PSI pregame in a 70 degree locker room, the footballs would have been between 12.5 and 13.5 PSI during the game.

Every single dot outside of that red shaded area represents a game where the footballs did not remain within the "allowable" limit.


That's the high estimate, though, the one that suggests as many as 82 percent of all NFL games were played with these dubious, illegal, CHEATING footballs. But even with the lower estimate, with a pregame inflation level of 13.5 PSI, the number of games full of DIRTY ROTTEN CHEATERS remains very high:

PSI data
(Graph from 2016 amici brief from 21 professors)

As you can see, with the higher pregame inflation levels (The Aaron Rodgers Range, we'll call it, or the Bill Leavy-In-Foxboro Range, for the real DeflateGate diehards), the footballs tend to end up overinflated, especially in those early-season games, when it's toasty outside. But just as clearly, even when balls are pumped up to the max you can still see how many games involved footballs below the allowable PSI range, especially as the temperatures dipped later in seasons.

(This is all assuming that the officials and referees actually tested the footballs with precision prior to the start of games, which prrrrrrrrobably didn't really happen. Because nobody in the world cared deeply about the PSI levels of footballs until January 2015, when it suddenly became the most important matter in the universe.)

While the exact number depends on the pregame inflation levels (the rules allow teams to inflate them between 12.5 and 13.5 PSI, in case you somehow forgot) which were never ever recorded in the history of football, the scientists stated with certainty that at least 38 percent of NFL games have been played with footballs under that 12.5 PSI limit. And that's the low estimate.

I'll give you a moment to collect yourself after hearing that scandalous news.


You good now?

Well hopefully you're at least sitting down, because I'm going to hit you with some more facts and information. I know that type of stuff never really entered into many conversations about deflated footballs over the past several years, but I do feel as though facts still have a place (however small) in today's society.

The reason that so many games have been played with underinflated footballs is because many games have been played outdoors, where -- again, as a reminder, the laws of physics dictate the physical world -- temperatures have occasionally been cold. It's truly a wild concept, one that those in charge of the NFL couldn't have ever possibly understood or fathomed prior to January 2015. But it's nevertheless true.

In fact, those same folks in charge of the NFL likely learned that this phenomenon -- known as the Ideal Gas Law -- does indeed exist when the league ventured to record PSI data throughout the 2015 season. Incredibly, the bozos suits in charge of the multi-billion dollar corporation somehow believed that their middle school-level testing procedures with referees sticking gauges into footballs at halftime of "randomly" selected games would somehow prove the laws of science to be untrue. (Imagine the arrogance and gall to believe that? Incredible, really.)

Those clowns executives who pushed forth such a protocol were bolstered, though, by the public's general willingness to believe in this imaginary land where science and physics have no validity. The world was eager to believe in this world, because it meant that The Golden Boy and The Evil Coach and that wretched sports team that always wins were all caught red-handed. Busted. Big time. Brand them with the scarlet letter: C for CHEATERS.

It's a fun narrative, admittedly, one that will make for a terrible Lifetime movie one day. But it's one that, again, overlooked basic rules and laws of science.

As such, once the league compiled all of that PSI data during the 2015 season, the league promptly destroyed all of that PSI data, claiming that it was never even collected, even though the initiative began with clear language that stated the data would be collected.

The NFL caught itself in a massively embarrassing spot, having overlooked simple scientific principles, having put non-intelligentsias like Troy Vincent and Mike Kensil (not to mention Roger Goodell) in positions they had no business being in, and having launched a multi-million dollar, multi-year worldwide controversy over something that could have been resolved in minutes, if not seconds.

You or I or most people, really, would have felt tremendous shame. We'd have raised a hand, stated plainly that we goofed, and said we'd try to be better moving forward.

The league? Pfft. The league lied about everything, destroyed the data (which needlessly proved that science is actually real), and then shifted the goalposts in its crusade to bag the Patriots by any means necessary. The entire matter became a fight about the commissioner's right to act in any way he chooses, based on the collective bargaining agreement. The actual PSI of the footballs that started the whole thing? It never played a role in the Second Circuit's ultimate decision. It no longer mattered at that point in what had became a union-management CBA dispute.

Anyhoo, all of that was said in order to get to this: On Sunday night, the footballs used in the game that will determine the AFC's Super Bowl representative will not be at the required PSI level. This will be just the latest in a long line of championship games involving BOTH the Patriots AND deflated footballs.

Temperature at kickoff on Jan. 18, 2015 -- aka The Night DeflateGate Was Born -- was 51 degrees. The past three AFC title games -- two of which were played in Foxboro, one of which took place in Denver -- had lower temperatures at kickoff. Deflated footballs were running RAMPANT those years. While perhaps the effect was negligible in the 2013 AFC title game in Denver (which was played on an unseasonably warm 63 degree day), the previous two AFC title games in New England -- both against Baltimore -- certainly had some deflated footballs. Those games were played in 41 degrees on a 6:40 p.m. kickoff and on a chilly 29 degrees for a mid-afternoon start.

When the Patriots lost to the Jets in Foxboro during the 2010 playoffs? Deflated footballs. It was 30 degrees at kickoff.

When Ray Rice and the Ravens ran all over the Patriots in the 2009 wild card round? Deflated footballs abounded. It was 20 degrees for that one. Brr.

When the Chargers visited Gillette for the 2007 AFC title game, you can bet those balls were deflated. That one came on a frigid 23-degree day -- hence, LaDainian Tomlinson's desire to wear a jacket all afternoon long. And when the Chargers came last weekend? It was 26 degrees outside. Deflated footballs all over the place.

An '07 playoff win over the Jaguars? Deflated footballs. Ditto for the Jags' visit in the '05 playoffs. (Walt Anderson was coincidentally the referee for that game on a 24-degree evening in Foxboro. It remains unclear whether he brought the Non-Logo Gauge or the Logo Gauge to that one. He likely misremembers, though.)

An '06 playoff win over the Jets? Deflation.

Forget about any Tuck Rule controversy, can we check the PSI on those Snow Bowl footballs, please? And it's not just home games; the AFC title games in '01 and '04 in Pittsburgh -- the latter of which kicked off in 11-degree temperature? Well, clearly, it's not just Foxboro employees who can magically deflate footballs, because those pigskins were definitely soft on those days.

And it's not just the Patriots. Remember the Blair Walsh game in Minnesota during the 2015 playoffs? That was likewise a frigid day in the Midwest, with temperatures at negative-6 for kickoff! So cold! Prior to that game, it was reported that the NFL was "very concerned" that the PSI levels in the footballs would drop during the game because of the cold.


Despite the fact that this phenomenon affected roughly half of all games in the history of the NFL, the league suddenly cared deeply about this matter in January of 2016.

In doing so, the league was also announcing that yes, cold weather makes PSI levels in footballs drop.


Funny how that works.

Getting back to the Patriots, a snowy beatdown of Peyton Manning in the '04 divisional round? For that matter, complete domination of co-MVPs Steve McNair and Peyton Manning in the 2003 playoffs? You might have to scrape those ones off the record books, folks, because they were played with deflated footballs.

And we can't. Have. That.

Good luck explaining this all to your kids. We know it can be a sensitive subject.

(Though, just thinking out loud here, it sure seems like the opponents in all of those Patriots games were also playing with deflated footballs. So ... we might have to just delete the record books and start from scratch. It's the Right Thing To Do™.)

Certainly, you get the idea. I would hope. If it's not clear, here's a nice and tidy bow to wrap up this fairy tale: If you believe all of the lies and denials of science from the doofuses people in charge of the NFL during the years-long drama over deflated footballs, well, you might want to venture to seek out more information over the course of your life. You'll be amazed at what you find.

You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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