A dark day for science: New England Patriots' Tom Brady suspended

Technically Incorrect: Despite the football team claiming to have science on its side, its quarterback is suspended for four games for "probably" demanding deflated footballs.

Chris Matyszczyk
2 min read

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

A modern-day Galileo? Boston Globe/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

I had always thought that science was the best protection against madmen, shamens and, that mixture of the two, lawyers.

If you could prove the truth by objective means, you could be saved from injustice.

Today, though, this has proved to be not enough. The New England Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady was, as ESPN reports, suspended for four games by the NFL for ordering the deflation of footballs. Actually, for "probably" ordering the deflation of footballs. (It is said he prefers his a little more malleable.)

Despite there being no jury, probable cause seems to have been enough.

How can this be when the Patriots insisted it had scientific certainty? Back in January, when the team was first accused of having altered the pounds per square inch of air within balls at the AFC Championship Game, coach Bill Belichick proudly pronounced: "We all know that air pressure is a function of the atmospheric conditions."

Belichick talked expertly about a ball's equilibrium state.

He even tried to put it in layperson's terms that even a lawperson could understand: "It's similar to the concept of when you get into your car and the light comes on, and it says low tire pressure because the car's been sitting in the driveway -- outside, overnight -- and you start it up, drive and the light goes off. It's a similar concept to that."

Still, the NFL hired Ted Wells. He's not a scientist, he's a lawyer. The best that he could come up with were texts between two members of the backroom staff, in which one called himself "The Deflator." Wells concluded that Brady "likely" knew what was allegedly going on.

Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft pleaded for science to be consulted. Feeling himself insulted, he declared in a statement that four balls from the opposing team, the Indianapolis Colts, were also deflated.

He added: "There is no comparable data available from any other game because, in the history of the NFL, psi levels of footballs have never been measured at halftime, in any climate."

He positively ululated for scientists to be heard: "I am going to rely on the factual evidence of numerous scientists and engineers rather than inferences from circumstantial evidence."

It's true that Bill Nye stood against Belichick and Kraft, but other scientists said Nye was wrong.

The NFL, though, doesn't seem interested in science. Facts be damned. Instead, it has sent Brady into detention (although Brady has three days to appeal the suspension).

It seems we haven't moved on too far from the days of Galileo.