New England Patriots bring out Nobel Prize winner in Deflategate rebuttal

Technically Incorrect: Still fighting a four-game suspension of their quarterback, the Patriots create a Web site to counter what they say is the NFL's dismissal of scientific evidence about ball deflation.

Chris Matyszczyk
3 min read

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

Does that ball feel a little flat? How about the NFL's science? TMZ/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

The New England Patriots won't give up on science.

After the NFL announced it was suspending quarterback Tom Brady for four games and imposing other punishment as well, the Patriots huddled together and did what all modern fighters do. They've created a new Web site.

Called The Wells Report In Context, it attempts to rebut, point by scientific and legal point, the report by NFL investigator (and lawyer) Ted Wells that tackles the issues in the airily named Deflategate scandal.

Should you have been living in a personally imposed asylum since January, you might not be aware that before the Patriots won the Super Bowl, they were accused of deflating balls to below 12.5 pounds per square inch, the air pressure that the NFL mandates, during the AFC Championship game.

The Wells Report "="" knew"="" shortcode="link" asset-type="article" uuid="31a6c8e2-5424-48a6-908b-265e8fcb3bc2" slug="science-fails-to-save-tom-brady" link-text="found that Brady " section="news" title="A dark day for science: New England Patriots' Tom Brady suspended" edition="us" data-key="link_bulk_key" api="{"id":"31a6c8e2-5424-48a6-908b-265e8fcb3bc2","slug":"science-fails-to-save-tom-brady","contentType":null,"edition":"us","topic":{"slug":"culture"},"metaData":{"typeTitle":null,"hubTopicPathString":"Culture","reviewType":null},"section":"news"}"> that the balls were being deflated by backroom staff. Brady allegedly prefers a softer ball for better grip.

The Patriots, though, have repeatedly appealed to science as their defense. They say that balls naturally deflate in cold conditions. On their new site, they even feature Roderick MacKinnon, a Nobel Prize winner in chemistry (and not a Patriots employee).

MacKinnon declared that he didn't agree with the NFL's conclusion that "within the range of likely game conditions and circumstances studied, they could identify no set of credible environmental or physical factors that completely accounts for the Patriots halftime measurements or for the additional loss in air pressure exhibited by the Patriots game balls, as compared to the loss in air pressure exhibited by the Colts game balls."

He deflated the fact that the NFL allegedly ignored the referee's recollection of which gauge he used to test the ball pressure.

"The major uncertainty in the Wells Report scientific analysis," he said, "lies in the pregame measurement of ball pressures: there were two gauges that differ by approximately 0.4 psi, it is not certain which was used in the pregame measurement, and the data were not recorded."

Oh, dear. That sounds like basic science, doesn't it?

MacKinnon then begins to put the needle into the Wells Report: "If the pregame measurement of Patriots balls was made with the gauge that gives the higher number (high gauge) -- as was the Official's best recollection -- then when you compare the Patriots ball pressures at halftime using the same gauge, you observe that the average Patriots ball pressure drop (1.0 psi) falls precisely in the range predicted by the Ideal Gas Law (1.0 to 1.2 psi) for the temperature differences the balls were thought to experience on game day."

Yes, he's quoting the Ideal Gas Law.

This seems entirely appropriate, as the amount of gas that's been expended on this affair thus far is even greater than that emitted by all of ESPN's talkers put together in a whole lifetime.

This site is surely one step in an appeal and a sign that the Patriots will take Deflategate into an overtime that may be interminable.

Personally, I am deeply heartened to see science placed at the very center of this debate. Just imagine all the young people who are now scouring the annals of the Web to learn the nuances of the Ideal Gas Law.

From these small steps, our Earth will be saved.