First of all, if you aren’t a semi-serious sports fan, stop reading. Right now. This is going to be a post about the air pressure levels of footballs, so it’s probably not something a casual sports fan cares about at all.
OK…for the rest of us, here’s why #Deflategate matters.
I didn’t do the research, but it’s out there. Here is a post from Sharp Football Analysis that details just how much the New England Patriots’ tendency to fumble dropped once the rule changes Tom Brady (among others) lobbied for in the mid-2000’s went into effect.
Every single media member who talks about the air pressure issue talks about Tom Brady’s completion percentage, and how it didn’t change all that much. They talk about the AFC Championship Game, and how it was a blow, and how the balls were switched in the second half anyway.
But, what they don’t talk about is how a ball that has less air in it is easier to grip. Easier to catch. Easier to hold on to after the catch. Easier to maintain possession of as giant men try to rip it out of your hands.
Those situations are where the New England Patriots really gained an advantage over their NFL peers, and there are two things that are certain:
#1. Tom Brady knew about the under-inflated balls.
#2. It was NOT a one game event.
It’s easy to prove those two statements.
#1. The guy who deflated the balls was a part-time, game day employee. Tom Brady makes millions of dollars a year. Do you think the part-time guy is doing anything to those footballs that wasn’t requested by the multi-millionaire star of the show? I have never made a dime throwing a football. But, if you lined twelve of them up in front of me, with two at 13.5 PSI, eight at 12.5 PSI, and the last two at 11.5 PSI, I have no doubt I could tell you which is which. Tom Brady, who throws footballs for a living, would have known immediately if a ball wasn’t right, in the same way that a pro golfer can let you know if his grip has an extra layer of tape underneath it.
#2. In the Wells Report, the guy who deflated the balls called himself “The Deflator” in text messages. Text messages from May 2014. Despite what New England and its fans would have you believe, there is not much of a chance that some inside joke between him and his friend was about something other than footballs.
New England plays its home games in some of the toughest conditions of any NFL stadium. As it turns out, for some amount of time (more than one game) they have played those games with balls that were more suited for that weather than the rules of the NFL allow. All of those games were not blowouts.
That’s why the team gets fined. That’s why the team loses draft picks. That’s why Tom Brady gets suspended. That’s why the air in the balls is a big deal.