As regular readers know, I don’t like football. I’m not that keen on professional sports, anyway; but football really does operate at a whole different level of boringness. If it weren’t for the fact that it is so explicitly violent, it never would have become America’s game. (Although I have noticed that Americans haven’t gotten into rugby — a game that makes American football players look like the masculine pretenders they are.) As a result, I’ve met the whole “deflategate” controversy with nothing but derision.
One thing about it is that it is like the whole steroid hysteria. How is it that people can live in a world where people are born into poverty, lead joyless lives, and die young, and yet they get upset because a form of entertainment isn’t “fair”? It makes no sense. And these sports have had rules handcrafted for specific kinds of bodies. In the 1960s, NFL linemen were smaller than most quarterbacks today. What’s more, “Of the 170 players that have started at least one game as an offensive lineman this season, only 28 weigh less than 300 pounds.” Today, Fran Tarkenton would be a baseball player.
But I found an interesting article on the “deflategate” controversy, Pressure Gauge Discrepancies Undermine Wells Report. It doesn’t directly deal with the question, but it answered something I wondered about: just how under inflated where these footballs? Well, not much: less than 3%. Is this a big deal? I don’t know. It might give a player a slight advantage. But I do know this: no normal person would be able to tell the difference between a ball filled to 12.5 PSI and 12.2 PSI. But okay, if true, it is something — it is an advantage. You have to wonder why anyone would cheat to get such a small advantage. But okay: an advantage.
The most important issue is that it isn’t at all clear that any of the balls were deflated. The officials had two pressure gauges at the game. One of them read 0.3 to 0.45 PSI higher than the other gauge. The alleged deflation was — What a surprise! — between 0.3 and 0.45 PSI. And the official who measured the balls cannot remember which gauge he used for the first measurements. This really should be the end of it. But of course it won’t be. There are too many people who think this is very very important. Above all, it is an opportunity for the NFL to make a big deal about the fact that it takes the sanctity of the game very seriously.
But clearly, the NFL does not take the sanctity of the game seriously. For many hundreds of years, the accuracy of weights and measures have been critically important to people all over the world. People understand that if you are buying a hundred pounds of tomatoes, you want it to be a hundred pounds — not a hundred ounces. But the NFL apparently doesn’t care about the pressure of the footballs in their games. If there is such variability with pressure games at one game, imagine what it is across the league.
Again, I don’t care from a sports standpoint — except that the people who get worked up about this stuff are fools. And I don’t feel bad for the players. Just the same, what we are seeing here is something I’m very familiar with from politics. A particular team, and player, and assistant are being used as a way for a bigger, more powerful, group to make itself look good. It’s pathetic. On the other hand, if everyone decided that football is corrupt and stopped watching it, I’d be on board.