hincandenza's profile

Name: Hal Incandenza
Gender: Manly-man
Member since: January 29, 2002
Last visit: February 01, 2015

hincandenza has posted 46 links and 1706 comments to SportsFilter and 4 links and 51 comments to the Locker Room.

Sports Bio

My name? Same reasoning as at my Metafilter page... from the book "Infinite Jest".

Grew up as a long time New Hampshire-ite, and thus a New England sports fan: die-hard passion about the Red Sox, enjoy the Celtics and Patriots, but honestly couldn't care less about the Bruins.

I still recall being 11 years old, leaping up and down in the living room with my dad standing up as the Red Sox were one strike away in 1986. I hollered for my mom to come in and witness history, and she called from the other room "Ah, they're just going to blow it." Mere moments later, Schiraldi's passed ball, etc. etc. Forget the Bambino- my mom is the reason the Sox lost that year.

Currently live in Seattle, big into the Mariners. I root for them as much as the Red Sox these days, and would love to see them win the championship. However: while last year, during that magical 116-win season I realized would have actually rooted for the M's over the Sox had they met in the ALCS (only because of the 116 wins, you understand, and because it didn't "feel" like the Sox year that year- fortunately the Sox imploded and that dilemma was avoided for a season), as a general rule I root for the Sox first and foremost. And since the Sox and M's both have exceptionally good chances to make the playoffs, I hope they don't go directly head to head because then I'd have to root against the M's.

This year, with the Sox playing historically well, I'm hoping they can finally make all us long-suffering Red Sox fans complete.

But my mom's right- they'll probably just blow it anyway.

Recent Links

Ichiro reaches 4,000 hit milestone between Japan (1,278) and MLB (2,722 and counting).: While his production is a shadow of those early Mariners years when he was a 200+ hit machine for more than a decade (just LOOK at that rookie spike of 242 hits, or the record-setting 262 hit season), the 39-year-old Yankee outfielder continues to produce at a decent if unremarkable level.

Questions arise over how long Ichiro will continue to suit up (he's signed with the Yankees through the 2014 season), but even at his reduced performance level, if he can stay an every day player into the 2015 season he'll almost surely eclipse the 3,000 hit mark in MLB.

posted by hincandenza to baseball at 10:08 PM on August 22 - 17 comments

Comment Editing: Wow, I'm not really not cool with the comment editing- chide me if you must, but if you're going to rewrite comments (and without clear indication, to boot), this site just became a whole lot less friendly.

posted by hincandenza to editorial policy at 05:57 PM on September 05 - 33 comments

NFL Pick 'Em, SUPERBOWL and final results: The final standings are in after all four founds of the Sportsfilter 2010-2011 NFL Playoffs Pick 'Em... and we have a winner!

posted by hincandenza to fantasy at 02:33 PM on February 08 - 6 comments

NFL Pick 'em, SUPERBOWL Round: : It's finally here: the last Sportsfilter Pick 'Em of the 2010-2011 NFL Season. A veritable smorgasbord of picks are to be found inside!

posted by hincandenza to fantasy at 12:17 AM on February 03 - 16 comments

NFL Pick 'em and Confidence Pool, Conference Round RESULTS: Results are in for the NFL Pick 'em and Confidence pool after the Conference Round. A pair of exciting games today, and some interesting results in our two pools!

posted by hincandenza to fantasy at 10:01 PM on January 23 - 9 comments

Recent Comments

NFL Playoff Pick 'Em Contest, Super Bowl 0x31 Round

I considered it, but decided to pretty much just roll the dice with the Patriots in real life and here. I think the Patriots winning would be much nicer to see, as it's been a decade since they won (and those last two appearances/losses were so bitter to swallow) while Seattle won last year. I'd be quite content if Brady and Belichick win this year, and Wilson & Co. rattle off a SB win next year, in similar fashion to the start of Brady's career...

Here's my prediction:
New England by 5
Most Passing Yards: Brady
Most Rushing Yards: Blount
First Touchdown: Gronkowski
Sack: Ninkovich
Interception: Revis
1st Quarter: 10 (NE 7 - SEA 3)
2nd Quarter: 27 (NE 14 - SEA 13)
3rd Quarter: 43 (NE 28 - SEA 16)
Total score: 57 (NE 31- SEA 26)

I'm a touch concerned the points-per-quarter as you have it is going to be lopsided in scoring, since each quarter pick depends on not being too far off in the previous quarter(s)- and the 3rd quarter and Total pick are so large as to cover nearly all reasonable scores we'd see during the game.

Just a late suggestion, but if we turned the existing picks into four separate quarterly values, then people wouldn't have to repick but you could have smaller spreads for each quarter, scored independently. For example, current leader NerfballPro picked 17, 31, 45, 52; from this we could derive his quarterly picks as 17, +14, +14, +7, and treat them like four separate spread picks, with more narrow spreads by game's end.

I personally think this wouldn't be too much of an imposition on existing picks, and might play a little fairer in the scoring. Like I said, just a suggestion.

posted by hincandenza at 04:00 AM on February 01

SportsFilter: The Friday Huddle

rcade: New York Times: "[T]he NFL confirmed Friday that game balls used by the New England Patriots during the first half of Sunday's AFC championship game against the Indianapolis Colts were underinflated ..."
Oh come on, man. I apologize for being cruelly blunt, but you should be embarrassed for yourself at this point. I mean, that article is from January 23rd, a whole week ago! It only states that the NFL claimed they were investigating these allegations. No PSI values are listed, nor any other factual evidence; just speculation from random football personalities, such as Tim Hasselback and his prognostications on what ball boys would do.

I mean, how much clearer can I state it? There is at this time no actual evidence any wrong doing occurred. We don't know the starting PSI, we don't know the PSI at half time, just some vague assurance it's "two pounds" or maybe "nearly two pounds" or some other unsubstantiated guess work by a couple of refs or officials days later.

And without actual facts, logs, documentation, or anything, all the science supports that a 1+ PSI can easily be lost just from the 20 degree temperature difference from indoor to outdoor. We've seen both theoretical calculations and actual experiments- you know, the bedrock of science- that show these effects.

So before you go taking away draft picks... I repeat, do you have ANY evidence that the balls were underinflated before the game, or tampered with in game that I and others haven't debunked repeatedly already? Because it seems to me that you want to say that because you've read about this story, you need there to be punishment so that you feel good. Why? If they didn't do anything wrong, why should they get any punishment, no matter how slight?

cixelsyd: Here's an interesting read for those who have drank Bill's potion
How was that interesting? The mental giant who wrote that basically says "Well, we can easily account for 1 psi, but not 2 psi!"... even though we've never been told the actual recorded measurements at any time before or during the game, so we don't even know if the 2 psi is accurate, a rounded up value, or what. Not to mention the 1.0-1.6 PSI drop in physical experiments done recently have consistently shown up, easily allowing for the "nearly 2 PSI" drop to be anything but "fishy".

Lacking any actual number, only fanatical zealots would still cling to this idea there is or ever was some "proof". Hey, if you show me the log books that the NFL refs use every game to record the PSI, and then show me the one from the Colts game which shows a measurement before the game and then at the half that cannot even charitably be accounted for by PV = nRT... then I'll change my tune. I mean, if a decent gauge recorded a 2.4PSI drop that was rounded down to "two pounds", even I'd say that was "fishy".

But you can't offer that up. None of you can. Because it doesn't exist. But because you've let yourself be convinced initially there was some great cheating conspiracy by the Patriots, you will never ever be convinced otherwise. To you, they will always have gotten away with it. Until Bill and Tom and Bob and Co. somehow prove a negative, you will never not believe this was just a dumb story the media got wrong. That's surely something that has never happened before....

posted by hincandenza at 06:54 PM on January 30

SportsFilter: The Friday Huddle

rcade: Playing with improperly inflated footballs is breaking a rule and the NFL has confirmed the Patriots did that
This is news to me, do you have a source for this? It is my understanding that the NFL claims when they measured the balls at halftime, they were lower than 12.5 PSI; that this is about all we can state factually. We can't say what they were at before the game although the ref OK'ed them, and we can't say the actual measurements at half time or when and where they were taken. It has been amply demonstrated that a legally inflated football will be below 12.5 PSI- by significant amounts numerically, even if it's not detectable by most people in a blind test.

So unless I'm missing some new wrinkle, I still don't think the Patriots did anything wrong whatsoever. Not in the abstract sense of "Of course it's against the rules, but everyone does it", but in the sense that I don't think they did literally anything in violation of the rules, and scant evidence they even gamed the system in some egregious way. I've yet to hear (although I'm not exactly following this story too closely at this point) a shred of evidence of any malfeasance. We went from "Patriots letting air out of the balls, almost 2 pounds lighter, what cheaters!" to nothing of substance. It was all smoke, and no fire; if anything, shouldn't the NFL be paying the Patriots for their trouble?!

No proof of leaking of any kind. No specific measurements to be reviewed, nor specific times and methods. An inflation drop entirely explainable- even expected- by temperature (and Colts balls that were either overinflated, or simply never measured at halftime but only an hour or more after the game after they'd been sitting inside warming back up). No one on field ever noticed, because it turns out you can't, not really. So all we get is one locker room guy taking a 90 second piss break on security camera as our "smoking gun".

And for this media circus, a team deserves a fine or loss of draft pick? Why, because a week ago the media and many fans were personally convinced they had done something wrong, and now they gotta pay... just because?

What I think really happened is that no one ever cared too much about that rule, it was never strictly enforced because 12.5-13.5 is not some divine ratio derived by alchemists, but an arbitrary range made up decades ago. Further, no one in the NFL apparently ever did the numbers and realize how much the PSI changed with temperature and adjust their rulebook or process accordingly- as beaverboard notes they did with the kicking balls- so they probably assumed that if it was 12.5 coming out of the locker room, it'd stay that way through the game. Refs do a squeeze test, say good enough because it "feels" right, mark the ball and the game goes on. It's not only possible but likely that people have been unintentionally playing with balls inflated to anywhere from 10 to 15 PSI for decades, without anyone really noticing week over week.

The Colts "tattled" on the Patriots possibly based on a rumor from the Ravens, and the lack of understanding of the Ideal Gas Law among the NFL, media, and fans led to the nation proving its collective stupidity for almost two straight weeks. The NFL and Goodell are in a position that they have nothing- no evidence of anything but their own ref's lax enforcement and a rulebook and process that was clearly ignorant of how the temperature affects the ball. Goodell is for some intrinsic reason afraid to simply say this and exonerate the Patriots, so they're digging in their heels. It's some immutable law of PR, that no one can just act like an adult about anything in the public eye.

If it's a ticky-tacky fine like $25K, then Bob Kraft probably pays it, takes his pound of flesh from Goodell in private, and we see the sports fandom continue to believe the Patriots are a corrupt organization or a "bunch of cheaters". Meanwhile, the NFL has a wisp of a chance of implementing better rules to address this now that we've all become aware of it, such as climate controlled container on field and/or balls filled (and re-filled at half time) to a fixed pressure by machine, running at the same temperature as that on the field.

posted by hincandenza at 04:54 PM on January 30

SportsFilter: The Wednesday Huddle

Since it's just the one game, we should add more questions and fun gimmicks (like the weather one you had for GB) that expand the questions, especially in ways that don't rely on a specific winner.

I'm assuming we'll have winner and spread, and some "most" categories for players and team, eg Most rushing yards and amount, Most recieving etc. The reason for the non-team-specific points is with one game, I'm either doing a straight NE or SEA pick, or watering down my score by splitting my choice since if a team wins overall they probably led in several areas as well.

Here's one: in addition to the usual winner and spread, pick the total points scored by quarter. 2 points for each quarter you get exactly right, 1 point for each quarter you're within that 30% range (or maybe lower, since you aren't specifying a team). It's like a modified over/under spread pick, by quarter.

Here's another: time of possession. Pick the team that will have the highest TOP for regulation (1 point), and the margin either way (1 point within 3 minutes, 2 points within 1 minute) preferably without needing to also have specified the team.

Those sorts of things- fun, and varied enough that simply betting everything on a blowout either way isn't a guaranteed victory or loss.

posted by hincandenza at 08:23 PM on January 28

Stats Guru: Patriots Hold Onto Ball Far Better Than Any Other Team

Bill Nye is a media personality, who lives in Seattle. He either chose- or was edited- to misrepresent Belichick's statement, by conflating BB's claim that the PSI drop was due to temperature change (which we've discussed here) with his statement that part of the football handling process was to rub them up as well for the benefit of Brady's preference.

These are all legal behaviors in the NFL mind you, and I continue to think the story will eventually come out that the refs only did a spot/hand check before the game, because no one has ever cared or more likely known about the pressure drop; after all, a 13.5PSI ball in San Diego and a 12.5PSI ball in Green Bay could be 3PSI different on their respective fields... yet no one has ever noticed. That we'll have different and more specific rules going into 2015 is certain; that the Patriots violated any rules whatsoever is completely uncertain.

rcade: You use the Patriots passing a lot as a possible reason to explain this stat, but dismiss the Saints passing a lot as meaningless.

It seems to me you're trying to have it both ways. You're calling his statistical finding meaningless misleading junk while also coming up with reasons why the Patriots are so good at not losing fumbles.

Because those aren't mutually exclusive. His presentation, analysis, and thus his findings are suspect due to sloppy methodologies and assumptions; that's what I'm calling junk. The choice of axis, including passing plays, etc.- for a "professional" analyst, it's suspiciously sloppy to me.

I further suggested that part of the reason it's junk is because when you average over a period of time, you can exaggerate a consistently high performer when other performers have mixed results- often due to changing personnel or simple lack of organizational success from one year to the next.

I asked that someone do actual leg work of a more meaningful kind, and at least one person did in that previous comment you quoted: when looking at the fumbles / (rushing plays + completed passes ) even averaged over 5 years, you get the Patriots #2, behind the Ravens and about the same distance in front of the Saints. So why, as beaverboard jokes, are we not talking about the Ravens' cheating ways?

posted by hincandenza at 02:54 PM on January 25

Stats Guru: Patriots Hold Onto Ball Far Better Than Any Other Team

Which means, honestly, precisely nothing. Again, if the Texans fumbled one fewer time a year, they'd have NE's numbers. Do you dispute this ratio, or the idea that so small a change would negate the entire story?

This guy is a charlatan, trying to drum up business with a viral story that plays to people's pre-existing biases. The premise itself is threadbare: it's 100% statistical cherry picking, making up some random stat no one's ever heard of before- seriously, "plays/fumble"?- and then find a way to produce an outlier by using all sorts of trickery and conflation, such as I mentioned above.

There are so many conceptual mistakes in this whole process. If you suspected the Patriots of some ball-related mischief, you'd do year-by-year comparisons to find when they implemented this supposed deflation technique of lowering numbers. I mean, unless you somehow know for a fact that the "tampering" not only gives them an edge in fumbling but has also been going on all 5 years, averaging the stats would actually hide or diminish any recent outliers.

But then, we know that's not why he chose a 5-year average: he did it because most teams can't even boast the same coach and QB over the past 5 years, much less winning the division 5 years in a row. If you wanted to manufacture a controversy, you'd find some way to magnify even the slightest difference.

Heck, his updated "Fumbles" and "Fumbles Lost" chart shows the Atlanta Falcons having an even more dominating rate than the Patriots, and the Saints not far off. While he was savvy enough to put the y-axis at 80 out of 150- almost as if to exaggerate the graph- he somehow wasn't clever enough to split the numbers between home and way, given how concerned he was with dismissing those Falcons/Saints numbers as irrelevant to his "Patriot cheating" narrative since they played in a dome. Well, they played their only half the year of course, but still... odd, don't you think?

There are countless other explanations for a junk stat made up this week showing some kind of "trend". The current top comment on the article is from some guy, Glenn Brown, who points out that BenJarvus Green-Ellis had 510 carries in his 4 years with the Patriots... and ZERO fumbles. Just in 2010 and 2011, he had 410 carries for 0 fumbles. 205 plays a year without a single fumble- and with about 1,200 total plays a year passing and rushing for the Patriots, that means this single player running 200 times a year without fumbling would probably show up as an extreme statistical outlier in team fumbling rates.

By the way, while he's not in the league now, BJGE left NE in 2012, and spent the next two years in Cincinnati. On his modified Total Fumbles and Plays/Fumble chart spanning 2010-2014, guess which outdoor team is now fourth in highest Plays/Fumble rate? Go on, make a wild guess.

This whole thing is a joke, and I wish Howard_T or grum could jump in to debunk this further.

posted by hincandenza at 12:05 AM on January 25

Ernie Banks, legendary 'Mr. Cub,' dead at 83

One of the truly greats, not just on the field but as an ambassador for his sport.

posted by hincandenza at 08:24 PM on January 24

Stats Guru: Patriots Hold Onto Ball Far Better Than Any Other Team

The link isn't working for me (gives an error message about missing content) although I've seen this making the rounds, especially here in Seattle. Hey, maybe he took it down in embarrassment! :)

The article is innumeracy at its finest, but I'm too exhausted from #DeflateGate to keep running numbers. I've quickly copy/pasted a FB post I made a couple of days ago about this article. As always, I reserve the right to be wrong, gracefully. :)


This has been making the rounds today. Seattle is quickly proving that its sports fans are not only fair-weather... they aren't exactly aces at math. ;) Even assuming these numbers are accurate:

FIRST, this "damning" graph is conveniently y-axis shifted so the trends *look* more exaggerated, in particular those fumble numbers. We should see the same thing without the deceptive framing. What are these supposed to be, national unemployment figures, ha ha? :(

SECOND, the far right of the graph shows 33 NE fumbles compared to Houston 40... over a span of five seasons. Wow, a whopping 1.4 fewer total fumbles per season. Surely, some kind of Belichickean dark sorcery is afoot here.

THIRD, since the 2010 season of this graph, the Patriots have 5 straight division wins averaging 12.6 wins per season (and never less than 12). The Texans in that same period have two division wins of 10 and 12 win seasons... but missed the playoffs the other years with win totals of 9, 6, and *2*. Again, it's really suspicious that New England has fumbled 7 whole times *less* than the Houston Texans in that same period.

FOURTH, this y-axis shifted graph is showing two values per team: fumbles per season, and plays per fumble. It doesn't, however, appear to distinguish between running plays and passing plays. How convenient. Unsurprisingly, a team led by a no-doubt Hall of Fame quarterback runs more passing plays than normal. Less running plays means less chances to fumble, means a greater ratio between overall offensive plays and fumbles.

FIFTH, the ratio of fumbles over this span between Houston and NE is .825 (33/40). If the Patriots otherwise executed the same number of plays over that time span- ha ha, that's surely the case- then inverting the ratio to get plays/fumble would turn 140 into... 170. Oh, but the perennial contender Patriots with their future HoF quarterback have a modestly higher ratio than that! Quelle surprise.

SIXTH, just so I'm not accused of picking the poor beleaguered Texans... if we compare Seattle to NE, we get an average of 10 wins per season (7, 7, 11, 13, 12) and find the Seahawks fumbled the ball on average just over 5 more times per season. Probably a lot of that difference in those 7 win seasons. Hm... I wonder what the fumbles per game (FPG) was in that span...

Year, NE, SEA
2010, 0.7 (1), 1.1 (7)
2011, 0.9 (4), 1.4 (9)
2012, 0.9 (5), 1.1 (8)
2013, 1.5 (24), 1.6 (26)
2014, 0.9 (2), 1.5 (22)

So NE is consistently elite but not exceptionally so when it comes to fumbling (see that 24th place rate in 2013). Oddly, Seattle started fumbling a lot more- near league worst- when they made their two SB appearances.

Maybe... maybe fumbling rate isn't such a great fucking stat to use to prove a point?

All this chart really tells us is:
a) How easy it is to mislead with statistics and rigged graphs
b) A consistently elite team will, over several years, make several fewer mistakes on average than other teams.
c) If we were to accept the original author's premise, the NFL really ought to be investigating the Philadelphia Eagles and Denver Broncos under suspicion of tampering with their footballs to the point of being comically *overinflated*. :)

posted by hincandenza at 08:00 PM on January 24

11 of 12 Patriots' Balls Deflated, ESPN Reports

"My SpoFite is an Honors Student". :)

The latest is... still fuzzy. But the story that's shaping up to me is: the Patriots likely underinflate their balls a little, which is a quiet and customary practice around the league the NFL has never really cared about too much. After all, they take greater pains to regulate the kicking balls as a separate group, but pretty much leave the rest of the team balls to their own devices.

This ball boy, Eric Kester, is on record saying that in his experience, ball boys were encouraged to tweak the ball a little to their QB's specifications, because the refs didn't care and only touch-tested balls so you might get a couple tossed but mostly not, so might as well try. He worked several years ago, so that might not be the case these days. This wouldn't require involvement or knowledge from Belichick; it's probably something that the equipment managers know to do, to get a sense of when their QB likes the ball a little less or a little more and adjust it accordingly. Heck, Brady might not know the rule, he might just say "Ball feels a little stiff out there" or something and they keep adjusting per his tastes.

It sounds like the NFL suspected some pre-game deflation because of a formal complaint (and thus were obliged to check), but for some reason the refs or other officials didn't do a thorough pressure check initially. Thus when they did check at half time- possibly because a Colts staff member reminded them of their complaint, not so much due to "feel"- they found them a little low due to both less air and the temperature difference, then inflated them back up.

Oddly, the Pats played much better in the 3rd, so depending on where they measured and where they inflated at half time, it could be that Tom Brady just found out via a roundabout fashion that all this time he should have been playing with a more inflated ball. :)

I suspect no tampering in-game was ever done, and that the story got misreported as "intentional in-game tampering/deflating" because the unmeasured balls at kickoff were measured at half time and found light. The evidence is likely limited that the most the NFL can do is ding the Patriots with some minor penalty for not fully meeting the requirements- requirements that the NFL at the start of this game, and every game, basically never enforced.

posted by hincandenza at 04:53 PM on January 23

11 of 12 Patriots' Balls Deflated, ESPN Reports

Well, I stand (possibly) corrected. In my defense, I did make sure to say that until more facts came to light, which until recently were very much missing. :)

There are now elements that I'm becoming aware of that it's not the pressure but the amount of air- as if leaked out- that was down when measuted at half time, then stayed back up after the game. And that apparently the NFL had been targeting them in a sting because of a prior complaint. Or possibly not, it's very hard keeping on top of this story, and filtering out biased or faulty reporting. That still doesn't implicate the main people; some overzealous Southie ball boy might be out there somewhere, freaking out because he knows sooner or later his name and pictire is going to be on national news.

Honestly, I should just tap out for a few days to relax, and just wair and see what the final verdict is from the esteemed panel of Internet sports historians. :)

posted by hincandenza at 07:43 AM on January 23

11 of 12 Patriots' Balls Deflated, ESPN Reports

Thanks, Goyoucolts. Whatever our fandom differences, you've been a real mensch and a great example of sportsmanship here lately. :)

grum: Yeah, I'm kind of hung up on that a little, but not too bothered... when the story initially broke, I was thinking "Why 11 of 12? If it was an evil plot, wouldn't it be 12 of 12?" So maybe one got a little overinflated (accidentally), or maybe it was the one in the middle of the remaining unused balls so it had far less air surface temperature loss buried in the sack, like the middle rolls in the dinner table bread basket. But that's just me making some shit up for a post hoc explanation. :)

I will of course retract everything I've said- except the admonishments for us to not rush to judgment- if tomorrow the NFL releases hard facts that prove to be a smoking gun. Barring that, then hopefully soon the NFL would come out with more facts, including a prettier version of the work done above showing this was just what happens all the time when games are played in 50 degree weather or lower and exonerates the Patriots. They'd then further issue a statement that starting next season, they will keep game balls in a climate controlled container on-field and periodically rotated in and out, under ref supervision or something, to ensure all balls are consistently within the pressure range throughout the course of the game regardless of on-field conditions.

The hardline haters will never believe the "cheating" stories aren't true, or that no team or QB gets an advantage, but the league and fans can move past this (I hope) utter nonsense of a media tornado.

posted by hincandenza at 02:38 AM on January 23

11 of 12 Patriots' Balls Deflated, ESPN Reports

There's going to be some embarrassment when the facts come out and there's no "there" there, that this is all a fake story for drummed up controversy with no actual foundation- no real complainants, no real facts on the ground, just one person with an axe to grind that "forced" the media to talk about it, and thus compelled the NFL to "investigate" what they probably already know is a total non-issue.

Habeas Corpus
The first and most obvious question some- but nearly not enough- are asking is, "Is there even any smoke, much less a fire?". I mean, we can't even establish who started asking the question that prompted news reports and an investigation!

One person we can rule out: D'Qwell Jackson, the alleged Colt player who intercepted a Brady pass and claimed it was light. He has come out, on record, and claimed no, he didn't blow a whistle, he didn't feel the ball was any different, and didn't suspect anything or notify anyone. All he did say was that he asked someone to keep the ball for him as a memento: his first playoff interception, against Tom Brady no less.

So uh... who even started this story?

We're also four days in, and we can't get exact measurements and facts to be agreed on, and the NFL hasn't apparently interviewed anyone from the Patriots yet. We hear "two pounds" or "nearly two pounds", but we don't know how accurate that is or who is claiming to have observed that, or how it was measured, or where, or by whom. Shouldn't we at least be discussing specific measured pressure drops, and be comparing those to other measurements seen experientially in other games, so we can tell for sure if this is an anomaly even worth investigation?

Oh right- because the NFL has never cared before, they've never kept any kind of logs or records, and it's all just a fuzzy and friendly "Eh, ball seems good to me" when the ref checks it. This only looks like a "controversy" because no one is looking at any other teams, or any other situations. Also, most Americans are functionally innumerate, as my Facebook feed has been showing the last few days. :)

Does the science add up?
Thanks to Howard_T, we have this handy calculator to work with, which simply requires the effective pressure of the air in the ball (ambient pressure + pump pressure) and the two temperatures, converted from Fahrenheit to Kelvin.

Since we don't know actual starting figures, I decided to explore how much temperature change would drop the pressure in the ball, assuming we had a perfectly accurate gauge at all times, in various scenarios. I vary the starting PSI from 12.0 to 14.0 in .5 increments- so I can also look at an intentionally overinflated and underinflated ball, and initial temperature of the equipment room at 72, 77, and 85 degrees.

This is to demonstrate the expected changes in these various scenarios, to see if significant pressure drops- even below "legal" levels, would be expected- and how much.

Hard, Indisputable Facts
First, let's get some facts to work with- actual, hard, scientific facts, such as temperature and pressure in Foxboro, MA at kickoff and again at half time (estimated as 8:20). This data is from Weather Underground:

At kickoff: ~52.0 degrees, 29.75in @6:50PM ET, January 18th
At half time: ~52.0 degrees, 29.61in @8:20PM ET, January 18th

As you can see, temperature and pressure didn't change much over the course of the half on-field, but now we have a temperature and pressure (14.61) of the ambient atmosphere on the field. If you search for a Fahrenheit to Kelvin convertor, Google will have it built in to convert 52, 72, 77, and 82 degrees F into their Kelvin equivalents.

The one big presumption I had to make is that the adjustment due to temperature takes time, so the ball would "deflate" gradually over the half, and not immediately "spring back" to form when brought into a room, at least not for several minutes of exchanging heat with the surrounding room. I'm guesstimating, but I assume it would take at least several minutes to return to 72 degrees, based on this ESPN video showing how in 10 degree weather the ball drops to 10PSI after an hour. Amazingly, this video is from 2010. :)

Calculating the different Scenarios
Below is a hopefully straightforward table, built using the indisputable pressure and temperature above, along with the Gay-Lussac's law to determine an ideal estimate of end pressure after play. At each starting "verified" PSI of the ball and a given room temperature, we determine the PSI of the ball itself after a half spent outside at the above temperature and pressure.

Initial PSI of ball14.0
Effective pressure28.61
Room tempPressure on fieldChangeFinal PSI
Initial PSI of ball13.5
Effective pressure28.11
Room tempPressure on fieldChangeFinal PSI
Initial PSI of ball13.0
Effective pressure27.61
Room tempPressure on fieldChangeFinal PSI
Initial PSI of ball12.5
Effective pressure27.11
Room tempPressure on fieldChangeFinal PSI
Initial PSI of ball12.0
Effective pressure26.61
Room tempPressure on fieldChangeFinal PSI

I encourage you to double check my math, because given the amount of calculations, cut-and-pastes, and table building I probably made a couple of mistakes. You are also encourage to confirm my presumptions, my raw data, and my calculations.

But what I'm seeing above is nearly indisputable: the laws of physics make it clear that if the Patriots filled their ball legally- meaning between 12.5 and 13.5 PSI, or up to .5 PSI lower but still signed off on by a ref and wholly untampered with after that- that the end result would always be a football that naturally ends up always well under 12.5 PSI, and in some cases far enough under that the value is reasonably rounded up to "two pounds".

My own conclusion is therefore that that there is no evidence, not that we've been offered by the NFL as actual measurements and facts apparently not in science, that the Patriots or Colts in any way tampered with the balls.

In fact, the only way a team could have still had a ball measure between the "legal" 12.5 and 13.5 PSI after the half would be if it was originally inflated higher than 13.5- again, this could be done perfectly legally within the rules simply by knowing that in the past, the refs do an eyeball glance or quick feel to validate the balls are good enough, and wouldn't catch or care about it being 14.0 instead of 13.5.

  • It is possible the Patriots always inflate the ball a little less than 12.5 and/or raise the temperature in the equipment room... but are never called on it. This is possibly a minor rules violation... but since the refs consistently let them- and presumably other teams- use those balls without any complaints or rejections it's legal.
  • It is possible the Patriots always inflate to exactly 12.5, as the bare minimum, per Brady's preferences. In this case, the ball will still end up underinflated by the half by at least 1 PSI, possibly more if they- again, perfectly legally- inflated the ball in a room with the temperature turned up considerably higher than 72 degrees.
  • It is possible the Patriots always inflate their ball to 13.0 or around there- right in the middle- and end up with a ball that's .6 to 1.5 PSI lower depending on the room temperature, meaning they aren't necessarily even doing anything intentional about the ball at all- but can still show, rounding up, "almost 2 pounds PSI" lost.

Most interestingly, per the table above, the only way you could get a football to still be above 12.5 PSI after a half spent in that weather is to have overinflated it initially. If the Patriots footballs were deflated at the halftime measurement but the Colts were not, that could mean simply that Brady prefers them at league minimum (12.5) or a little less, and Andrew Luck prefers them at league maximum (13.5) or even more, leaving the Colts' footballs seemingly "untampered with" and the Patriots looking suspicious, when literally no malfeasance whatsoever occurred by either team.

But none of this math will sway anyone, not even here at SpoFi, I suppose.

Ah well... Go Pats. :)

posted by hincandenza at 01:18 AM on January 23

11 of 12 Patriots' Balls Deflated, ESPN Reports

Howard_T does the math (new SpoFi column?) and asks the real questions:
- What was the exact psi to an accuracy of .1, when initially okayed and again when they were measured at halftime?
- What was the temperature in the rooms both times, and the other values that would affect pressure differentials?
- To what accuracy is the pressure gauge; are we talking a simple handheld pump with a dial, where "12.5 to 13.5" is an eyeball guesstimate between the 10 and 15 ticks?
- Importantly, what did Indy's balls do over the same period? Did their psi fall proportionately the same?

I expect we'll find the sign off by the refs is and always has been a casual affair where they glance at the consumer grade gauge and call it good. Maybe the balls were at 12, not 12.5, measured at the half as around 11, and called a "2 psi drop"... when really, the ball was inflated normally (maybe a touch shy, but hardly intentionally under) on a hand pump where we can only eyeball the pressure like the hour hand on a clock. But I bet that data never gets released, because it doesn't exist; no one cared before to be super accurate.

Until and unless the NFL releases all the above to prove some kind of tampering, I consider this a non-story and slur against NE.

posted by hincandenza at 11:58 PM on January 21

11 of 12 Patriots' Balls Deflated, ESPN Reports

Jesus, grum, why not just kill them by firing squad and be done with it?

I'm not caught up on the very latest gossip, but last I saw on SoSH was that with a sufficient drop in temperature of 35 degrees between measure and field could acount for almost 1 psi right there. So before we start de-franchising the New England Patriots, let's be sure there is an actual malfeasance to punish, and not just the laws of physics or a mistake somewhere along the line.

posted by hincandenza at 10:24 PM on January 21

11 of 12 Patriots' Balls Deflated, ESPN Reports

How does the ref inspect the ball pre-game? Is there a pressure gauge handy, or does he just give them a once over and say "Good enough", and there was no malice? 11 of 12 suggests a systemic mistake to me, else why not 12 of 12 if a human were doing it on purpose?

I also lack a direct knowledge of how much different 2 psi feels. They say the allowed range is 12.5-13.5 ps which is already a 1psi range... so "2 psi less" just a fancy way of padding the outrage, by saying 11.5 is "2 less" than the high end of 13.5? If so, is it obvious by touch, or the kind of nuance only an elite few would detect casually? If we are talking about 11.5 psi instead of 12.5, then that's 1 psi off 12.5, and presumably the Pats would inflate to 12.5 as the minimum... would this be both not particularly large and also an amount that could occur from wide temperature changes?

I ask, because the refs are touching the ball constantly, placing it at the line of scrimmage after almost every down. They didnt notice either, for an entire half? That to me furthers the idea that they were "technically underinflated"... but not so much many people even on the field noticed, the issue was brought up, and the refs made sure they were properly reinflated before the second half.

Which the Colts shouldn't have requested: they were still in the game after a half played with these allegedly underinflated balls. If anything, the 1st/2nd half difference might suggest Brady et al were benefitting more from a properly inflated ball!

This doesn't change rcade's point, that even if you cheat without good reason or benefit, the intent matters. If there is compelling evidence any Pats staff did this on purpose, there should be punishments suitable to the offense. But other than media toolbags who thrive off fake controversy like Wilbon, the players are pretty copacetic about it, and seem to consider it a non-issue. That to me suggests it's not likely to be some grand conspiracy.

posted by hincandenza at 07:07 PM on January 21