Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Putting the Patriots' "Cheating" Into Perspective

Seriously, would this man (who doubles as the Emperor from Star Wars) do something dishonest like deflate footballs?
By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

I was shocked, SHOCKED I tell you, to read last night that the NFL discovered the New England Patriots had deflated 11 of the 12 footballs used in the team's AFC Championship demolition of the Indianapolis Colts.

So far this morning, I have found people to be in three camps.

1. Of course the Pats cheated, that's what they do under Beli-cheat. HA!
2. The Pats totally didn't cheat. This is a class organization that does things the right way.
3. Who cares, they beat the Colts by 5,000 points. An extra 2 PSI in the football wouldn't change that.

The first two positions ignore the past history of the Patriots, who have obviously violated league rules before, but are far from the only team to do so. The third is a bit more defensible, but it seems to make the assertion that "if you cheat and blow out a team, we should just assume your cheating didn't affect the outcome because you won by so much."

That seems a bit intellectually dishonest though, because why then would a team cheat in the first place? Clearly they thought it would help them win.

So I think the proper response is to say that New England, given coach Bill Belichick's reputation for winning at all costs and getting creative with rule compliance, probably cheated.


But we should also say that this was a minor offense and should be treated as such. There should be some discipline from the league, but talk of vacating New England's spot in the Super Bowl, and even the ridiculous cries for a rematch, are so far beyond a reasonable punishment for this particular crime.

A late round draft pick or two and a small fine should do the trick.

Now that we've established New England's probable "cheater, cheater pumpkin eater" status, let's tackle the conspiracy theory and chief excuse from Patriots fans: THE BALLS DEFLATED BECAUSE OF THE TEMPERATURE CHANGE FROM INSIDE TO THE COLD OUTSIDE AT GAME TIME!

True, the balls likely deflated a bit due to the drop in temperature. Have you ever had your "check tire pressure" light go on during a cold front, only to see if turn off once things warm up? This is because as temperature decreases, so does the volume of air. Hence, the air takes up less space inside whatever it is inflating, like a tire or football, which means less pressure. It goes the other way too, as the volume of air increases as the temperature rises.

Yeah, colder temperatures will drop the pressure of a tire or a football. Don't blame me, it's science.

That being said, I'm not a scientist, I just married one. Unfortunately, my wife is not a football physicist, so even she couldn't answer how much one could reasonably expect the PSI in a ball to drop simply by going from room temperature to the 49 degree F temperatures of game time.

Luckily, my friend Google gave me a very simple formula for temperature and pressure. Note that P is the pressure in PSI and T is the temperature in Kelvin.

(P1/T1)= (P2/T2)

So, if we assume the balls were inflated to the low end of the NFL's permitted pressure (12.5 PSI) at room temperature (72 degrees F, or 295.4K), our formula would look a little something like this:

(12.5/295.4)= (P2/282.6), or .04=P2/282.6.

After you multiply both sides by 282.6, you get your new expected pressure of 11.3 PSI.

So yeah, if the balls were inflated to the bare minimum in-doors, they likely would have dropped about 1.2 PSI to under the league limit. That being said, the league found that 11 of the 12 the balls were underinflated by 2 PSI or more of the minimum, meaning they checked in at 10.5 PSI or below.

Now, there are atmospheric variables to take into account. The humid conditions would have dropped the PSI in the balls a bit more, but I couldn't find an easy equation for that, so let's just F it and be honest: They cheated. They totally, knowingly and willingly cheated.

What, do we not think that Bill Belichick would do this kind of thing?

To me, the most shocking thing about this whole ordeal has been Patriots fans coming out and saying that this was unintentional. It's like they haven't paid attention to their team the last decade and a half.

What makes Bill Belichick such a great coach is that he is willing to do ANYTHING to gain even the smallest advantage. His pathological hatred of losing causes him to innovate, study every last second of film and, apparently, underinflate some footballs.

If you don't think the Patriots did this knowingly with the hopes of gaining a competitive advantage, I'm sorry, but you're just a delusional fan. There is no other reasonable explanation for this, given everything we know about the Patriots under Belichick.

No, the "Patriot Way" doesn't mean doing things "The Right Way," it means being efficient in pursuit of victory. Belichick doesn't care about morals. Remember when the Bengals kept defensive lineman Devon Still on the team and sold his jersey to raise money for his daughter Leah, who is currently battling Neuroblastoma stage 4 cancer?

Do you know what Belichick would have done? He would've cut Still and signed another mediocre running back who would totally screw over your fantasy team and rush for 150 yards and three touchdowns against the Colts. That's who this guy is. He isn't here to make friends, he's here to win championships, and in his mind it's been far too long since he won one.

As a Patriot fan, you can lie to yourself and say your team does things the right way, and is a model for everything moral, or you could live in reality where they are a perennial contender because they gain every advantage they can. Nothing wrong with that, almost any other fan base would trade places with New England, but let's call it like it is.

So yeah, the Patriots did this on purpose to gain a competitive advantage, but let's also keep some perspective and understand that in the NFL, like in any major sport, if you ain't cheatin, you ain't tryin.

But surely some great teams have done it the right way. I mean, what about those great and honorable Steelers teams of the 70s?

Well, they pretty much brought steroid use to the NFL. Speaking of steroid use, remember that New England's Super Bowl opponent, Seattle, leads the league in PED-related offenses since coach Pete Carroll took over in 2010. Don't worry, the Patriots aren't far behind, and they have since signed Brandon Browner, a corner who served a four-game PED ban while playing in Seattle, followed by a year-long suspension for violating the NFL's Substance Abuse Policy.

See, we're all cheaters and druggies!

Even the great Bill Walsh has been accused of playing fast and loose with the rules. Former Giants coach Bill Parcells claims that Walsh, who was known for scripting out his team's plays, twice shut down the booth-to-field communication system in playoff games against his team. Again, it was just a clever way to gain a competitive advantage: The 49ers claimed their communication systems were malfunctioning, so both teams had to disable their devices. That is the rule the NFL put in, but clearly a team that has scripted out all of its plays would benefit from this.

If you're wondering why you've never heard about this, it's probably because Giants actually went on to win both of those games. I have a feeling Parcells would have been far more vocal back then if this gamesmanship from Walsh cost him a shot at the Super Bowl.

So, what's worse, deflating footballs, stealing signals, tinkering with communication systems or using performance enhancing drugs?

Well, in the grand scheme of cheating, I would rank potential offenses like this:

-Killing/Injuring Opposing Coaches/Players
-Bribery of Officials
-Spying on/tampering with opposing teams' in-game communication systems
-Skirting the Salary Cap (wink, wink deals that ask your sponsors to pay your players with endorsement deals so you don't have to. Then, you take that amount out of what your sponsors owe you. You pay the same amount of money to the player, but it doesn't count against the cap. Oh, it happens. If I've thought of it, I'm sure one of these evil billionaires has)
-Tampering (Teams negotiating with players/coaches currently on other teams)
-Sideline interference
-Illegal use of snowplow
-Having Rob Gronkowski on your team
-Stealing signals
-Taping an opponent's walk through
-Paying defensive players extra to hit offensive players super hard
-Brady pay cuts
-Brett Favre sexts
-Deflating footballs

So, did the Patriots knowingly and willingly cheat? Of course they did. Don't worry, your favorite team probably does too, they just aren't as good at it.

1 comment :

Steve Marcus said...

Thanks for getting it right.