Inflategate and Measurement Standards

InflategateAs 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.

7 thoughts on “Inflategate and Measurement Standards

  1. You are right about Rugby. I worked in Africa for two years and was introduced via a South African cable company to Rugby and something called “Australian Rules Football”. I could not discern any pads on the players. Lots of hard hitting and pile-ups but I don’t remember the cheap shots you see in American football. Putting someone out of the game and into the hospital with a blind-side hit is a big thrill over here.

    • The craziest thing in the world has to be Gaelic football. It’s like rugby, except with a soccer net, which has NFL-style field-goal posts on top of it . . . and you have to dribble the ball at times like in basketball. God bless the Irish.

      • Then the Scots have to have gone one step further. Perhaps the ball is black pudding into a sheep’s stomach?

    • Yeah, I have little use for “real man” culture. But if that’s you’re thing, be a real man! However, all I really know about rugby I learned from Monty Python and Ripping Yarns.

    • @ Norm: God in heaven, I don’t understand it. But Gaelic football is actually more popular than soccer in Ireland. They’ve been shit (or shat?) on a lot and are very proud of anything that’s unique to Ireland. I love ’em. They’re kinda crazy, but I love ’em.

      @ Frank: the sport was in the second or third episode of “Ballykissangel,” which one of these days I’ll get back to watching. (It’s a neat show, it’s just something I can get from the library anytime, so stuff that’s being requested by a zillion other people is what I watch first.) I thought it must have been made up for the show, it’s so lunatic a sport. Nope! It’s real!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *