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Eric Wilbur's Sports Blog

#Deflategate: Blame it on the Rain, Or Is There No Defense for Bill Belichick and the Patriots This Time?

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Well then.

Itís difficult to ascertain who looks more foolish in this whole once-seemingly overblown affair; Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots, or those who scoffed at the notion that the team was deliberately deflating footballs and getting away with it.

According to a report by ESPNís Chris Mortensen, the NFLís investigation into the captivating ďdeflategateĒ has determined that 11 of the 12 balls the Patriots used in their 45-7 win in their AFC Championship win over the Indianapolis Colts were ďinflated significantly less than the NFL requires.Ē

Mortensenís sources told him the investigation found the footballs were under-inflated by two pounds per square inch of air less than what's required by NFL regulations during the Pats' 45-7 win.

Thatís like, a lot for balls that are required to to be inflated between 12.5 and 13.5 pounds per square inch and weigh between 14 and 15 ounces.

One league source described the league as "disappointed ... angry ... distraughtĒ with the findings.

So much for this blowing over, an inkling we should have gathered when the NFL said on Tuesday that its investigation would be complete within two to three days. Something so easy simply canít take so long.

Thus, get used to it. Deflategate is real, and the interception Tom Brady threw to D'Qwell Jackson to start all this might just go down as the worst in his illustrious career for reasons nobody could have thought of at the time.

The question as to whom is more responsible though flickers in the wind like the fourth banner the Patriots hope to measure for in less than two weeks time. If normal NFL procedure took place, and the balls were inspected prior to kickoff, then the referees would seem to be conspired in this whole mess, either by failing to determine the proper weight of the balls, or looking the other way with a wink and a nod when realizing they were adjusted for the meteorological elements in Foxborough Sunday evening, which were due to become a wet and windy affair.

Plus, barring all that, how did they not realize the ball felt some 16 percent lighter every time they touched it between Patriots offensive plays?

It also, of course, leaves the question as to whether or not the Patriots then deflated the balls between the time the refs had their look at them and play began. If thatís what the NFL determines, then, hoo boy. Not only is it going to be an interesting 11 days leading up to the Super Bowl in Glendale, Ariz. (apparently now the official Super Bowl home of Patriots cheating scandals), but itís going to be perceived as another stain on the legacies of Belichick, Brady, and the New England Patriots franchise, whether you like it or not.

It doesnít really matter what weíve gone back and discovered guys like Eli Manning or Aaron Rodgers say about how they like their footballs prepared, in a post-Spygate world, the Patriots arenít going to receive any benefit of the doubt when it comes to skirting the rules, no matter how commonplace the practices might be across the league.

To be clear, deflating footballs isnít the reason the Patriots are preparing to take on the Seattle Seahawks next Sunday for the Lombardi Trophy, but your average Patriots-hater canít see that logic through the bile for Belichick covering their eyes, piled up over the years with a new layer added to start 2015 off right.

No matter what the logistics say otherwise.

Take it from a lifelong New Englander, Sunday was not your typical weather for Jan. 18 around these parts. Coincidentally, the Colts came to town in warm, rainy conditions more apt to be cold and snow in any other average year, pretty similar to the conditions that welcomed Indianapolis to Gillette Stadium last year in the AFC divisional round. But normal? Conceding there is a ďnormalĒ when it comes to New England weather, no, it wasnít.

So what could the atmospheric conditions have meant for the condition of the balls, and did the refs weigh the balls the Colts were using as well, or just the Patriotsí arsenal? Because there is your smoking gun.

If the balls the Colts were using were found to be of normal weight, then the Patriots are screwed. But if they were also off by a significant margin, it stands to reason that barometric pressure played the culprit.

The science behind this is purportedly pretty simple, but try telling that to your average NFL fan scribbling ďCheatriotsĒ over and over again in his or her physics notebook.

But hereís a poster on Reddit, supposedly a local science teacher, and his formula sounds logical to even the most removed student of Newton, describing how the elements that night may have played a role. Honestly, itís the best breakdown Iíve seen yet this week explaining how this whole mess may have come to fruition.

Given the conditions of the game, a ball which meets specifications in the locker room could easily lose enough pressure to be considered under-inflated. Some math:
- Guy-Lussacís Law describes the relationship between the pressure of a confined ideal gas and its temperature. For the sake of argument, we will assume that the football is a rigid enough container (unless a ball is massively deflated, it's volume won't change). The relationship is (P1/T1) = (P2/T2), where P is the pressure and T is the temperature in Kelvins.
- The balls are inflated to between 12.5 and 13.5 psi at a temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit (294.1 K). Let's assume an average ball has a pressure of 13 psi. Since these are initial values, we will call them P1 and T1.
- The game time temperature was 49 degrees F (278 K). We are attempting to solve for the new pressure at this temperature, P2. We plug everything into the equation and get (13/294.1) = (P2/278). At the game time temperature, the balls would have a pressure of 12.3 psi, below league specifications.
Furthermore, given that it was raining all day, the air in the stadium was saturated with water vapor. At 70 degrees, water has a vapor pressure of 0.38 psi. The total pressure of the ball is equal to the pressure of the air inside the ball and the vaporized water in the ball. At 49 degrees, the vapor pressure of water is 0.13 psi. Up to 0.25 additional psi can be lost if the balls were inflated by either the team or the refs prior to the game. Granted, it's unlikely that anyone would inflate balls from 0, but it easily could cost another couple hundredths of a psi in pressure.
- For a ball that barely meets specifications (12.5 psi), it's pressure would drop to 11.8 psi during the game... enough to be considered massively under-inflated.

Is that enough to account for two pounds though? Thatís difficult to ascertain, which is why is will be fascinating to discover if the league weighed Indyís balls as well (assuming Roger Goodell hasnít already shredded them).

But the damage, itís been done and is now set to hover over everything the next week-plus. Blame it on the rain, or blame it on Belichick, there is apparently fire to accompany this smoke, and the ramifications of another cheating scandal in New England just might be a little too difficult for Bob Kraft and the NFL to swallow without something severe in terms of punishment due to come.

The rest of us can at least make breakfast with the remaining egg on our faces.

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