Is everyone getting tired of hearing and reading about deflated footballs? I certainly am. Like many football fans, I would prefer having the two-week buildup to the Super Bowl filled with stories about matchups, strategies, and predictions. Instead, we’ve had deflate-gate dominate the past week’s NFL news. I think most of us hope that nothing illicit took place with any of the footballs used in the Patriots win over the Colts. We like to believe the games we watch are on the level. But I also think most of us believe that if any person (or persons) did anything outside the bounds of the rule book, that person (or persons) should be held accountable.
I now wish to hold myself accountable for a lack of clarity when I first commented on deflate-gate. When I was contacted by NPR early morning last Tuesday (20 January) to talk about deflated footballs, I had only heard about possible under-inflated balls used in the Patriots AFC title game win over the Colts. I spoke to NPR’s Geoffrey Brumfiel for at least 20 minutes on the phone that Tuesday morning, and then a couple of quotes made it to air and in a story. I was talking about the science associated with footballs and pressure and noted that quarterback grip could improve with a little less air pressure in the ball. I then spoke in general terms about how each quarterback could have performed with an under-inflated ball. Brady outperformed Luck, so “if” both quarterbacks were using balls with the same pressure inside, it certainly didn’t appear to help Luck. Where I lacked clarity was not including and emphasizing “if” enough in that comment. I further assumed the “if” when I wrote a blog post early morning this past Wednesday (21 January).
It was a couple hours later while I was teaching when Geoffrey Brumfiel e-mailed me about an ABC news story (click here for that story). That story noted that 11 of the 12 Patriots footballs were found to be under-inflated. That was the fist time I learned that there was alleged proof that balls used in the AFC title game were under-inflated, and that the balls that were alleged to be problematic were the ones provided by the Patriots. I emphasize those last seven words because before I had seen any alleged proof, I was making general comments about under-inflated balls and the associated science. Had I seen the ABC news story, which posted after 11:00 pm last Tuesday evening, before I wrote my blog post early morning last Wednesday, I wouldn’t have ended on general terms about both quarterbacks using the same balls.
I was certainly aware of Rule 2, Section 2 on how teams supply balls for a game. But a few readers contacted me about my general comments that concerned both teams. They had heard and read news before I had that tests of balls supplied by the Patriots had revealed problems. To those readers: Thank you so much for you kind comments! You reminded me how challenging communicating can sometimes be. As much as I was focused on the science behind how pressure and temperature affect footballs, I wasn’t as focused on being as clear as possible on my general game comments.
When I wrote another blog post last Thursday (22 January), I emphasized science and concluded that I certainly have no way of knowing the environments in which the balls were tested and retested. When interviewed by Fox News last Friday (click here for the story), my focus was solely on the science.
My goal when talking to media is to communicate the science behind sports. Honing my craft of communicating clearly is a never-ending process. I apologize for a lack of clarity and, again, I thank readers for contacting me with kind comments that sought clarification.