First, I know. This isn’t a Red Sox related post. But, I assume that most of my readers also follow the Patriots. Besides, if David Ortiz and John Farrell can comment on things, why can’t I?
Let’s start off like this is an opening statement, which it is. Let me lay out a story for you, and then show you where that can be backed up.
Walt Anderson never set the balls to 12.5 psi. No, I don’t think he acted in some super-secret plan to catch the Pats. I just think that halftime of the AFC Championship game is the first time that the NFL really cared about the psi in the footballs. They certainly didn’t seem to care when the Colts alerted them to their concerns. They definitely never cared before that. So, Walt Anderson didn’t really care when the balls were a bit low. 12.25. Even 12.0. It just wasn’t worth the time to go inflate them again. Besides, Brady told him he liked the balls as low as he can get them. So, he won’t mind if they’re only 12.0 psi. Then, when everything went crazy at halftime, he had to tell everyone that they were at 12.5 psi. Otherwise, his job and the credibility of the NFL would be at stake.
Why don’t I think the NFL cared about the psi? Well, first because they did nothing with the Colts letter. They didn’t set up a sting, apparently. They just let things go. They simply told Anderson to be more aware about the psi, since there was the complaint. Anderson himself said he didn’t even really listen to the instructions. Since he knew he would be testing the balls, he was just going to go on doing what he always did. Then there are the gauges. Walt Anderson supplied his own gauges. Two of them. They were all beat up, bent, and broken. But, he used those to test the inflation. One of them was actually reading the wrong psi. He didn’t know. If he knew, he would have known which gauge he used, because he would have to know what he was reading. He didn’t. So, they were beaten, busted, and not calibrated! These are the gauges that the NFL used to ensure the integrity of the game that they suddenly care so much about. Ones that weren’t even reading the correct values. Then, he didn’t record the values. Then, when he lost track of the footballs before game time, he didn’t care. He found them, and just put them into play. No retesting. No using the back-up balls. Simply a “Whatever, The balls are here, let’s go.” The NFL didn’t care. It was only when the Colts complained during the game that a bunch of people on their own decided to test the balls. It never occurred to them that the cold weather would make those test invalid since all the balls would test low. They never thought about it before. Never cared.
Which is why, I assume, that the story was leaked to Bob Kravitz saying that an investigation was underway. Looking at the timeline, when he tweeted out that “scoop” there was no formal investigation. Even if you use the time of the tweet as after the game instead of during the second half as the Wells report states. (Wait, a mistake in the report?) So, the investigation started only after the public thought there was an investigation.
But, Anderson said they were at 12.5 psi. Why shouldn’t we just trust him?
Lots of reasons. Lots and lots of reasons.
First, the Wells report actually proved only two things. Only two things in the report were backed up by actual honest to goodness evidence. Everything else in the report is open to interpretation. One, the Colts tampered with game footballs when they stuck a needle into a Patriots ball after it had been marked by the official. Second, Walt Anderson doesn’t know what he’s talking about. When the process of bringing the balls to the field came up, he stated that the balls would never go to the field without an escort from an official. However eyewitness accounts and video evidence showed that this was not true. Yup. The only time video evidence contradicted a story, and it contradicted Anderson.
What else make Anderson look less than trustworthy? He admitted that he may have let one of the kicking balls into the game without checking the psi on it. Said right in the report. It’s possible that a ball went to the field for use without him checking and marking it first. So, possible for a kicking ball…why not possible for a game ball?
The next reason is my favorite. At halftime, the balls were tested and the reading recorded. There were several people in the room, including two NFL officials. When the Patriots game balls were found to be under 12.5 psi, they inflated them. One official was told to inflate the balls to 13 psi. The second one was told to check that the pressure was at the proper level. Then, after the game the balls were tested. But the Wells Report ignores these test results. Why? Because of uncertainty as to what the psi of the balls was at the start of the half. Yup. One official inflates, the second official checks with at least one witness, while the league is checking the inflation levels of footballs…and the Wells Report admits that it can’t be sure what the psi of the balls was at halftime. So, two officials and a witness are inconclusive. One official is rock solid undisputable evidence. Huh?
So, it looks pretty clear to me that it is highly likely that the balls were never at 12.5 psi. In fact, it’s the only explanation that actually fits within all the evidence that the Wells Report collected.
Now that I’ve shown you the conclusion that the Wells Report should have come to, at the risk of making this post longer than the report itself, let me explain why the report should not have come to the conclusions it did.
Most obvious, this was not an impartial investigation. Sure lots of people are calling it a witch hunt. And, unlike Goodell, I’m not going to put a lot of weight in the mumblings. But, I will put weight to the fact that the Wells Report itself calls it a witch hunt. When they hired Exponent, they told them that there was no reason to suspect that the Colts balls were tampered with. They made no such statement regarding the Patriots balls. So, they started the scientific research into whether the balls had been tampered with by assuming that the Patriots balls had been tampered with. Not quite so independent. That would have been bad enough. They went further. Exponent then went on to use the Colts balls as the control set for the experiment. What did that mean? It means that the way they decided if an experiment was valid was to set it to the Colts measurements. So, take the wet ball experiment. They needed to simulate rain inside a lab. How do you do that? Put it in the shower? Soak it in a tub? They settled on spraying the balls every 15 minutes, and then toweling them off. Why did they decide this? Because that gave them results that matched the Cots, and not the Patriots. They specifically looked for a simulation that wouldn’t match the Patriots results. Then, they had the gall to point this out as evidence! After running the tests, the Colts balls fell within the expected rage, while the Patriots balls did not. Of course not! The entire test was literally created so that this would be the case. They didn’t take a “control” simulation and see how it applied to each set of balls. They altered the control to get the result they wanted. Said so right in the report. Several times.
That would almost (A very long shot almost) be OK if each set of balls was exposed to the same elements during the game. But, as the tests showed, one of the HUGE factors in determining pressure loss during the half was how wet the balls got. The experiment assumed that the Pats balls were as wet as the Colts balls. So, when they skewed the experiment to the Colts, they pretended that the Pats should have come along for the ride. But, that wouldn’t be the case if the Pats spent more time with their balls in the cold rain. I’m trying to remember…which team spent more time on offense during the first half? So, even if we pretend that skewing an experiment to match one set of data is ok, they still shouldn’t have concluded what they concluded because the variables weren’t the same. Which, of course, is exactly what Exponent said. They couldn’t conclude that any tampering had even take place.
That’s before the report went around equating signing an autograph with giving a bribe, or twisting the meaning of random text messages to suit their needs.
So, the Wells Report decided that Brady probably knew about a probable tampering that science couldn’t confirm actually happened.
The fact that the Patriots and Brady were punished because of that should absolutely terrify every player, coach, owner, or anyone else in the NFL. If that’s all it takes to ruin you, it could happen to any of them.
After all Eli Manning, there’s as much evidence in the report that you knew about a plan to deflate footballs as there is that Tom Brady did.