Performance Enhancing Deflation



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63 Responses

  1. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    I feel like before I can answer your question, I have to have a better idea what treatment we think we gave Bonds, McGwire and Clemens.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Tod Kelly says:


      Being kept out of the Hall, namely… Which I realize is done by the media/voters but to some extent is at the behest of (or their understanding of the behest of) the fans. And MLB seems to have blackballed Bonds and Clemens.

      More generally, a great number of people label them cheaters (whether or not they actually broke any rules) and disregard their accomplishments.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Kazzy says:

        I think we should compare within sports. All of the examples you seek to compare this to are baseball examples. And baseball people are just utterly cracked on the topic of the HOF.

        But to answer you question, no, they should not be treated like those baseball players are wrt to the HOF – because baseball shouldn’t be treating most of them that way. Also because if they did, there would be few football players in the last twenty years who could go in, as HGH use is rampant. But in this specific case, also no because no one in football is even pretending to feel about deflating footballs the way that baseball people feel about PEDs.

        Related: I hate HOF discussions with the fire of a thousand whatever I’m bored already.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Kazzy says:

        Yes, but they have a tendency to only wield those axes once we are all fat and happy enough.

        When I hear your question above, it’s hard not to translate it into reading:

        Once Brady and Belicheck have finished their careers and racked up all the records and Super Bowl rings they possibly can — as well as earn hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts and endorsement deals — will we publicly cal them cheaters and tell them they can’t play anyone, even though they were pretty much done anyway?

        Which, when you read it like that, makes it a less interesting question than it would have been if MLB had banned Bonds in ’03, Clemens in ’05, and McGwire in ’98 — and if two of those three wouldn’t have been giving MLB coaching jobs after they had been “disgraced.”Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:


        Who else got a job besides Mac? Bonds?

        To you and @michael-drew …

        I’m most curious about the uber-sanctimonious folks… Will their pompousness extend to the Pats when it is all said and done with? Will those who claim Aaron is the real HR king also sing of Jake Delhomme’s Super Bowl?Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Kazzy says:


          As I say, I think the people who are uber-sanctimonious wrt to the players you mention are basically either baseball-only types, or else people who hold baseball to a consciously higher standard, regard the NFL as a morass of unsalvageable depravity, and simply don’t regard the NBA.

          Many of them also believe that fighting is essential to safety in the NHL, and believe that you must forfeit your round if a 2 on your scorecard looks a little too much like a Z.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Kazzy says:

        “Will those who claim Aaron is the real HR king also sing of Jake Delhomme’s Super Bowl?”

        Yes, but only if they have access to Google.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Kazzy says:

        Jake Delhomme was in a Super Bowl? I totally forgot that part: I was too entranced by a split-second glimpse of Janet Jackson’s boob.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:


        That is kind of what I suspect as well.

        That is why I went with the “What should happen”/”What will happen” two-parter here. I think we’ll end up seeing a lot of hypocrisy from the loudest of voices. I’m curious if there is a principled argument that could support differing opinions. I think a lot of us here could probably construct it. But I’m wondering if the type of people prone to such thoughtless vociferousness* can/will actually make a principled argument or will just insist “Bonds/Clemens/ARod/McGwire bad, Belichek/Brady/Patriots good”.

        * Can we rename the blog this?Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Kazzy says:

        Bonds was a hitting instructor at one Giants spring training camp. He’s also now giving private lessons to ARod, which the sports media insists on describing as ARod giving a public thumb in the eye to MLB rather than, you know, wanting to up his game.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:


        I remain convinced that Bonds was essentially blackballed out of the game after his final season. That year, he hit 26 HRs, drew 132 walks, and put up a triple slash of 276/480/565 over 126 games. This was pretty consistent with (if not a slight improvement upon) the prior year. He posted bWARs of 4.0 and 3.4 in those two years, with both numbers downplaying his offensive contributions due to him having become a liability in the field at that point. I struggle to believe there wasn’t an AL team that year that couldn’t have used him as a DH. From what I remember, Bonds wanted to play beyond his final year in San Fran and couldn’t even land an offer. This boggles the mind. Sure, he was 42 and might have commanded a high salary (though, again, I’m not even sure if offers were made in order to help us determine this), but his numbers from ’07 would have made him one of the three best DHs in the American League.

        What are your thoughts on the matter? I assume you are/were a bit more tied in to the situation.

        (Note: I’m sure you didn’t need me to really lay out the case but figured I would in case others want to jump into the fray.)Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Kazzy says:

        My only comment is that the case could be made even more strongly. Bonds publicly offered to play for the minimum salary, and still not a single team bit.Report

    • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      I was going to say:

      Provided them tens of millions of dollars, but denied them annual vacations to a place in rural New York they ordinarily wouldn’t frequent anyway.

      But I suppose Kazzy’s answer is ok too.Report

  2. Avatar Stillwater says:

    This is interesting. Statistically speaking, the Patriots have more to explain than a one-off.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Stillwater says:

      I can’t imagine a pound per square inch in pressure would produce results like that (and if it did, everyone would have their balls at the lowest PSI the rules allow, if they weren’t cheating), which immediately makes me wonder what other factors might influence those numbers. For example, a large plurality of fumbles in the NFL are committed by quarterbacks, usually when they’re bumped or hit while unexpectedly or when preparing to throw. What about the Pats quarterback, offensive line, running game, etc., might have resulted in fewer fumbles from that position? What else might explain it?

      This is what statistical analysis not driven by hypotheses looks like. We don’t even know the relevant comparison. “The Patriots fumble the ball like a dome team, but play their home games on grass” just isn’t very informative by itself.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Chris says:

        Isn’t everyone doing it at the lowest legal PSI?
        I had just assumed they were.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:


      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Chris says:

        who’s using higher psi balls?Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Chris says:

        supposedly that’s how Aaron Rogers likes them – he wants his team to pump *clap* them up.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Chris says:

        On what “everyone” does: the weirdest or dumbest or most dismissible statements on this controversy that I’ve seen come from my own quarterback.

        Rodgers says that there’s no advantage to using overinflated footballs – but it’s what he likes to do anyway. But he says that there is an advantage to throwing under inflated footballs – but it’s one that he’s apparently not interested in securing for his team.

        Ohbytheway, he doesn’t think there should be a rule against having the ball the way he wants it, but he does think there should be a rule against having it the way some other quarterbacks want it. Ohbytheway.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Chris says:

        (btw ballghazi is a superior portmanteau to deflategate but one must defer to 26 million google hits versus 2 million)Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Chris says:

        I dunno, Chris. Assuming the data is reported by the writer correctly, the pre vs. post Patriot numbers are radically different. Before 2006, about the league average; post-2006 about half of league average.

        My own guess is that part of the investigation (which I won’t speak about since it’s ongoing) will be to determine whether the Pats have a history here. ANd apparently, the Raven’s filed a complaint, or at least tipped off the NFL, about underinflated balls after that game.

        If we’re gonna go down the rabbit hole on the dark side, then I think the Pat’s have probably been doing this for quite a while. If we stay on the most generous side of things, there is simply no way Tom Brady would play with his balls below a pressure level he stipulated to the equipment guys. Bellichic can talk about how rubbing one’s balls in a game situation can effect the final pressure etc. and subsequent “feel”, but by his own lights the drop in pressure will cap at about .5 psi, which is less than what was measured by the refs at halftime. Alsotoo, the smart dudes I’ve heard comment on that disagree with in any event. Brady likes his balls soft. There are advantages – commonsensical but also apparently statistically demonstrated ones – to playing with soft balls.

        Am I guilty of throwing a softball in that comment? Maybe. Maybe.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chris says:

        I’m torn on “ghazi” replacing “gate” as the suffix denoting scandals.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:

        If the referees would just squeeze all of the Patriots’ balls throughout the game, this would not be a problem.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Chris says:

        Marisa Tomei called it “ballsgate” on Rich Eisen yesterday and thereby won the week.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Chris says:


        The problem is that they’re not squeezing them tightly enough.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Chris says:

        @jaybird “-ghazi” should replace “-gate” on scandals which really aren’t about anything at all. Hence, @kolohe is correct: “ballghazi” is the superior taxonomy.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Chris says:

        Just for future reference, I’m fine with either GlyphGate or GlyphGhazi.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Chris says:

        If God were just, this scandal would have revolved around the Steelers and Roethlisberger, so that we could refer to it as… well, you know.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Chris says:

        How about GlyphDome?Report

  3. Avatar Jaybird says:

    What I want to know is if whether Tebow would have beaten the Patriots in the playoffs if they hadn’t been cheating cheaters.Report

  4. Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    I’m sorry, who are we talking about & why do we care?Report

    • The Bill Belichick Project, which I believe is some sort of hovercraft.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Glyph says:

        Oooooh, a hovercraft! You have been paying attention to what I like!Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Glyph says:

        @mad-rocket-scientist you might like this very much; my younger sprout’s homemade rc verson; a winter project. I’m sure it will be out flying tomorrow.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Glyph says:


        Nice! I can’t wait for Bug to be old enough to do fun stuff like that. I’m sure by then we’ll be able to print most of the craft.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Glyph says:

        The big advance here was a the heated wire cutter to make the shroud, and a much-improved skirt design. That’s always the tricky part; or I should probably say triggy part, since it requires some amount of trig to design.

        Controlling hovercrafts well is a dark art.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Glyph says:


        A hot wire cutter is a godsend when working with extruded polyurethane.

        And does the skirt have fingers? Fingers are very important.

        As for control, there is a reason the big ones have rudders port & starboard, as well as bow thrusters that can spin 360 degrees. They are slippery devils.Report

  5. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    The rulebook suggests a $25,000 fine as the appropriate kind of punishment. It’s a suggested minimum, so you could certainly go over that. But to me that suggestion does have to be read as a general characterization of the gravity of the offense as it was conceived when the rule was made.

    So if we went with a monetary punishment against the organization, but upped the minimum by a factor of 100 because it’s the Patriots, do you think everyone could call it good and move on?

    …Yeah I didn’t think so.Report

  6. Avatar Kolohe says:

    Do you think that fans, the media, and the football establishment will give the Patriots the same treatment that the Patriots who were found to be using performance enhancing videotapes are getting?Report

  7. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    IIRC, the Pats were found with 11 out of 12 balls deflated below regulation levels. I predict Belichick will see to it that the equipment manager ultimately loses his job.

    The guy missed one.Report

  8. Avatar zic says:

    I don’t comprehend how this also wasn’t an advantage for the opposing teams; wouldn’t their fumbles have declined (supposing that declining fumbles is a result of less-inflated footballs?)Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to zic says:

      The Colts got properly-inflated balls.Report

    • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to zic says:

      The teams use two different sets of balls. Each team curates their own balls.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe in reply to zic says:

      Everyone just learned (and a lot of people including me may still be messing this up) that there are two entirely different sets of footballs in play, each used alternately when the respective team that supplies those footballs are on offense. (and yet a different set of footballs used by the kickers which are maintained by a neutral league official).

      So if I’m understanding things right, whatever footballs the Patriots have been using on offense, are only handled by the Patriots themselves unless a turnover does occur.

      (and apparently, this particular quirk of football distribution goes back to Peyton Manning).Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to zic says:

      Until recently the home team provided (and prepared) all the footballs for each game (subject to official review, of course). Visiting teams found that sometimes they would be presented with brand-new-out-of-the-box footballs for important drives, and those are much harder to play with than a broken-in ball.

      So a group of QBs led by Brady and Peyton Manning undertook a successful effort to have it arranged so that each team would use its own footballs on offense, home or away. The balls are still subject to official okay before the game, but, supervision of the game balls after the official okay and during the game is apparently much more lax than people understood, meaning that there is ample opportunity to continue to fine-tune the preparation after the officials give the okay.

      The upshot being that for a few years now, offenses have pretty much been playing with their own team footballs – essentially the balls they practice with, at least that’s an option – prepared the way they like them (theoretically within the rules).

      So the suggestion regarding the fumbling stat is that only the Pats have manipulated their footballs (illegally) to the extent that they have – everyone else has stayed at least closer to what the rules dictate – which is what explains the radically lower fumbling rate. I’m skeptical.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Michael Drew says:

        So a group of QBs led by Brady and Peyton Manning undertook a successful effort to have it arranged so that each team would use its own footballs on offense, home or away.

        That is, quite possibly, the stupidest solution to that problem I can think of.

        How about home team (or, anyone, really, but home team is easiest) maintains the balls between games, and writes numbers on them. Then, when a game starts, they’re tested, put in a basket where no one can touch them, and *balls are selected randomly* via drawing numbers from a hat?(1)

        Thus there’s no way to cheat, because the teams can’t determine who gets what ball, and can’t touch them during the play, so couldn’t even rig the game by trying to alter them all in the same direction. Like if they were never getting hold of the ball, it might make sense to alter them all with so they get fumbled more often, which is…more air in them? But they can’t even do that, at least, not during the game. (They could, in theory, tilt all the balls *in advance* a little, based on the other team’s play style vs. theirs, but that’s basic home-field advantage stuff that’s just part of the game.)

        Seriously, I have *literally never heard of this issue in my entire life*, and I just solved it in like thirty seconds.

        1) Or, for fun, build one of those lottery ping-pong machines, but for footballs.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Michael Drew says:

        1) Or, for fun, build one of those lottery ping-pong machines, but for footballs.

        Oh! Oh! Oh! And then put the machine at the 50 yard line, hand out bingo cards to the crowd, and have the announcer read off the number of the ball every time for a free beer or hot dog to whoever gets Bingo!Report

  9. I don’t think anyone has brought this up, but I haven’t read the comments since last night, so here’s an observation. Bonds, McGwire, Clemens, et al., are individuals, and although their success helped their teams, it also helped their individual legacy and reputation a lot. I think that makes them lightning rods in a way that an entire team wouldn’t be (lightning rods). Perhaps a better analogy would be the Black Sox scandal, or what the Black Sox scandal would have been if it had happened in one of the rounds leading up to the World Series?Report