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Sports Authority

Klonsinski: Let the air out of Deflate-gate

| Wednesday, January 21, 2015

One storyline did finally emerge, it turns out, from New England’s 45-7 drubbing of Indianapolis on Sunday in the AFC championship game. The resulting “scandal” has even already spawned its own all-too-clichéd nickname: Deflate-gate.

According to NFL sources, 11 of the 12 game balls used by New England were underinflated by almost two pounds per square inch (psi). For a ball that is mandated by the NFL to be between only 12.5 and 13.5 pounds per square inch, a couple of pounds of pressure is a significant difference that could only have been caused by deliberate action on the part of New England. Or so some claim.

Of course, this is an easy conclusion to reach. In 2007, the Patriots and their coach, Bill Belichick, were punished by the league for having taped opposing teams’ signals after the NFL outlawed the practice, a scandal referred to as “Spygate.”

So we have a confirmed report of possible misdoings by an already convicted cheater. Seems pretty black and white, right?

In the words of Lee Corso, “Not so fast, my friends.”

There are a few points I feel deserve consideration before we go on a Belichick witch hunt. One may exonerate the Patriots if correct while the others may implicate others who share the blame.

The first is this: when the NFL tests these game balls, they do so inside, where the temperature is above 70 degrees. Outside during the game, the temperature was in the 40s by the time any of the “deflated” balls were noticed. That difference of almost 30 degrees is significant enough to noticeably drop the pressure in something like a football. So if, inside, the Patriots’ balls measured at the minimum acceptable threshold before the game, by the time of re-measurement, they certainly dropped below the threshold. Would it have been enough to cause an almost two psi difference that reports cite?

This is where having a physics major for a roommate finally comes in handy. Using simplified calculations, he approximated that a drop of more than one psi could be expected. Combined with Rob Gronkowski’s observation that the Patriots were spiking the ball after scoring so many touchdowns (or actual potential factors such as humidity), perhaps this is enough account for the drop in pressure. If this is the case, the Patriots did nothing wrong other than cleverly play the elements.

Of course, this would also assume that the balls were measured for the second time outside which, if is the case, is an egregious error on the NFL’s part. If they were let to warm up again and measured inside at two psi lower, then that whole argument is obviously null and void.

Therefore, let’s assume the Patriots did in fact deflate their footballs. There are still a couple other things to consider. The Baltimore Ravens have helped shed light on the first of these, since they claimed today the Patriots were using deflated balls against them last weekend. Perhaps the Patriots have gotten away with this sort of thing before, who knows how many times. If this is true, then the NFL failed in enforcement.

That would not of course mean Belichick and the Patriots did not cheat. They still broke the rules, if that is in fact what the NFL finds. The team and coach’s previous history have proven they do not shy away from trying to gain an advantage. Yet here is where the NFL failed again. After “Spy-gate,” a much worse offense in my opinion, Belichick was fined $500,000, and the Patriots lost their first-round pick in the next draft. Seems pretty harsh, right?

Let’s imagine the league finds this offense did occur, and the NFL hands out the same punishments this time around. New England is in the Super Bowl already, so their first-round pick is going to basically be a second-rounder anyway, which is not losing much for a team that drafts and develops elite quarterbacks from the sixth round. Belichick’s bonus in his contract for winning a Super Bowl would certainly help offset a potential fine levied against him.

Therefore, if Deflate-gate is real, the league needs to crack down hard on the Patriots and Belichick. Otherwise, a dangerous precedent will be set.

Because let’s face it: what team wouldn’t risk its first-round pick for a Super Bowl ring?

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Zach Klonsinski

A senior History major, Zach resides in Knott Hall. Hailing from Belgrade, Montana, he has covered a wide variety of sports in his time at Notre Dame, including Football, Men's Basketball, Men's Soccer, Women's Tennis, Fencing, Rowing, Women's Lacrosse and other events around campus.

Contact Zach