THE DUMBNESS OF THE WHALE: Leading pundits just wanna have fun!

FRIDAY, MAY 22, 2015

Part 5—People, what’s in a word:
Did an employee of the New England Patriots let some air out of some footballs?

We can’t give you the answer to that. The NFL’s official Wells report says this: “more probable than not.”

If that actually happened, did the team’s wonderfully handsome star quarterback actually know about it?

We can’t answer that question either. The Wells report is highly speculative concerning that second point.

That said, we don’t critique NFL employees or handsome star quarterbacks at this site. We critique the work of the American press.

In many ways, the Wells report seems slippery and disingenuous. If anything, the journalism about the report has been substantially worse.

In what way does the Wells report sometimes seem disingenuous? In what way has the journalism failed to challenge this problem? Consider the passage shown below, in which the Wells report discusses what happened when the Indianapolis Colts intercepted a pass from a quarterback who is widely believed to be more handsome than their own signal-caller

Alberto Riveron is an NFL senior officiating supervisor. According to the Wells report, this is what occurred:
THE WELLS REPORT (page 64): Riveron told us that it was his call to collect the game balls for testing at halftime and that he did not consult with anyone else. Riveron believed that the combination of the pre-game concerns raised by the Colts and the information received about the intercepted ball made testing the game balls essential. At Riveron’s request, Daniel retrieved a gauge that was near the air pump in the dressing area of the Locker Room, and they tested the intercepted ball three times before the balance of the game balls were brought back to the Officials Locker Room. All three measurements were below 12.0 psi. A few minutes later, the game officials and other NFL representatives started arriving in the Officials Locker Room for halftime. Riveron took the intercepted ball from Daniel and walked into the dressing room area of the locker room.
“All three measurements were below 12.0 psi,” the Wells report dumbly says.

We call that statement dumb for an obvious reason. On page 113, the Wells report finally notes an extremely basic fact. According to basic laws of physics, the Patriots’ footballs should have measured “below 12.0 psi” by halftime of that game.

In fact, the Patriots’ footballs should have measured anywhere from 11.32-11.52 psi by halftime, given weather conditions. But the Wells report doesn’t mention that fact until page 113.

Forty-nine pages earlier, it tells us that the intercepted football measured “below 12.0 psi”—full stop! And uh-oh! Since readers have already been told, early and often, that the “permitted range” was 12.5-13.5 psi, that statement clearly seems to imply that these readings—the footballs were below 12.0 psi!—meant that something was wrong.

“All three measurements were below 12.0 psi,” the Wells report dumbly says. Was that statement deliberately disingenuous, or is it just an artifact of lousy writing?

We can’t answer that, but the statement is massively dumb. It plainly suggests that the psi of the intercepted ball meant that something was wrong.

It makes this obvious suggestion even though the authors of the Wells report knew that the football should have produced such a reading by halftime. At best, that is horrible writing. A cynic could wonder if it’s actually deliberate deception.

The suggestion that passage makes is monumentally dumb. But as we noted yesterday, the New York Times adopted this ridiculous framework in all its reporting about this matter.

Amazing! In two lengthy front-page reports and a third informational column, the New York Times never told readers about the way weather conditions affected air pressure in the Patriots’ footballs. With remarkable dumbness, the Times adopted the gong-show framework according to which the Patriots’ footballs were judged to be “underinflated” because they measured below 12.5 psi at halftime.

In three lengthy reports, Times readers were never told that the Patriots’ footballs should have measured below 12.5 psi. The famous newspaper didn’t seem to have made it all the way to page 113 of the Wells report.

The Wells report is very poorly written. At various points, it’s hard to tell if the poor quality of the writing has been done deliberately, for a nefarious purpose.

“Appendix 1” to the Wells report was written by Exponent, a scientific firm with a somewhat shaky reputation. The appendix is much more competently composed than the 139-page Wells report proper.

The appendix actually offers answers to some of the questions which the Wells report proper seems to duck. For that reason, it’s possible that some of the misleading work in the Wells report results from simple incompetence, rather than from bad motives.

That said, the journalism in the New York Times was just amazingly bad. This brings us to the dumbest part of a truly hopeless performance by the American press corps.

All across the American press, that hopeless performance quickly focused on a single word from a single text message. That single word became the primary focus in the coverage of this consensus scandal.

Everyone knew that this single word was the last nail in the coffin! When the Wells report appeared, the New York Times seized on the new talking-point in the very first sentence of its very first news report:
BRANCH (5/7/15): He called himself the deflator. A longtime locker-room attendant for the New England Patriots, Jim McNally, was responsible for controlling the air pressure in the footballs that quarterback Tom Brady would use on the field.

Another Patriots employee, an equipment assistant named John Jastremski, was in direct communication with Brady and provided McNally with memorabilia, including shoes and autographed footballs.

Those three men—two low-rung employees and Brady, the passer regarded as one of the best ever—are now linked in a scandal that threatens Brady’s legacy and further tarnishes the reputation of the Patriots, a team that has taken suspicious paths to success.
“He called himself the deflator,” the Times said in its opening sentence. As the consensus scandal progressed, this was treated as the definitive point—as a virtual confession—all across the American press.

“He called himself the deflator!” In part because of slippery writing in the Wells report, reporters may not have understood that McNally “called himself this” exactly once, and that he did so in May 2014, three months after the Patriots played their final game of the previous season.

No football games were being played when McNally made this lone remark in a cryptic text message. If McNally ever let air out of footballs in an inappropriate way, he hadn’t done so for at least three months at the time this lone remark was texted.

The Wells report interpreted the remark in a nefarious way. In at least one passage, it seemed to pluralize the remark—seemed to convey the impression McNally may have “called himself the deflator” on a regular basis.

Many journalists took it that way. Eagerly, they gulped the bait they had been offered.

One week later, in their rebuttal report, the Patriots said that lone remark wasn’t a reference to deflating footballs. Starting on ESPN, American pundits reacted to the passage shown below with utter derision, as in all such consensus scandals, and with the greatest joy known to the modern journalist—the appalling joy of the hive:
PATRIOTS REBUTTAL REPORT: There was a second way that Mr. Jastremski and Mr. McNally used the term “deflation” or “deflator” which the report disregards. The Wells investigators had the May 9, 2014 “deflator”/espn text string in their possession several weeks before their full day, four lawyer-staffed interviews with each of Mr. McNally and Mr. Jastremski. They came to the interviews with laptops, documentation and had obviously prepared extensively for each interview. They never asked either of them about that May 9 “deflator”/espn text. Perhaps that is not surprising since the word “deflator” appears in only ONE text from among many hundreds of texts that were made available to the investigators. The Report then takes this one word, in this one text, and uses it throughout the Report as a moniker for Mr. McNally. Is this true objectivity? Further, when they sought their additional interview with Mr. McNally, they never candidly said they had overlooked this text and therefore wanted Mr. McNally back for another interview to ask him about it. They never asked Mr. Jastremski about it in his interview. Had they done so, they would have learned from either gentleman one of the ways they used the deflation/deflator term. Mr. Jastremski would sometimes work out and bulk up—he is a slender guy and his goal was to get to 200 pounds. Mr. McNally is a big fellow and had the opposite goal: to lose weight. “Deflate” was a term they used to refer to losing weight. One can specifically see this use of the term in a Nov. 30, 2014 text from Mr. McNally to Mr. Jastremski: “deflate and give somebody that jacket.” (p. 87). This banter, and Mr. McNally’s goal of losing weight, meant Mr. McNally was the “deflator.” There was nothing complicated or sinister about it. If there was any doubt about the jocular nature of the May 9, 2014 texts, a review of all the texts between these two men that day would dispel it...
Is it possible that this explanation was true? Is it possible that McNally and Jastremski used that term as a jocular reference to losing weight?

Is that possible? Of course it’s possible! People use unconventional joking language with friends all the time. Of course it’s possible that Jastremski and McNally spoke with each other that way.

The fact that this is possible doesn’t mean that it’s true, of course. It’s also possible that this is a joking reference to letting air out of footballs in a surreptitious manner, although McNally couldn’t have done that for at least three months at the time he made this one remark, a remark which was quickly pluralized across the American press corps.

Is it possible that McNally and Jastremski jokingly refer to weight loss as “deflation?” Yes, of course it is! But it isn’t possible inside a hive whose inhabitants mainly like to cavort and play, as they’ve done so many times in matters of much greater consequence.

When the Patriots rebuttal appeared, we turned on ESPN. Groups of ex-jocks were taking turns laughing about “the deflator.”

Their analysis was clear. They had never spoken that way. So plainly, no one else had!

On ESPN (the network of record), the analysts were having great fun that day. They never asked why the NFL sent that bad information to the Patriots. They never asked why their own network had reported a bogus set of statistics, attributed to “NFL sources.”

They didn’t ask why the NFL didn’t correct or disavow that false information. They never mentioned the clownish aspects of the data collection which lay at the heart of this messy consensus tale.

Most of them were former jocks. When X’s and O’s are no longer involved, their analytical skills aren’t among the best. Talking about statistics is hard. Joking and laughing are fun!

That said, their joking and laughing was reproduced all around the press corps. We’ve seen almost no discussion or analysis of the NFL’s clownish data collection, or of its apparent lying concerning the data it gathered.

All in all, American journalists just wanna have fun. We think Cyndi Lauper said that!

Our pundits don’t know what McNally meant by his single use of that term. But all across the American press, the dumbness of the whale is such that no one is able to understand or say that.

Al Gore said he invented the Internet! Inside the hive, that provided two solid years of good solid fun!

Given the dumbness of the whale, all the hive-dwellers knew it was true. Even though they didn’t!

They enjoyed two years of fun. At least in the case of the man who “called himself the deflator,” their silly clowning won’t result in death all over the world.

The power of pluralization: How do talking-points spread within the hive? On the day of Branch’s front-page report, Michael Powell included this in his New York Times column:
POWELL (5/7/15): The evidence fell a couple of feet short of definitive. Investigators, however, unearthed a clubhouse fellow who went by the wonderfully suggestive nickname ''the deflator.'' Mr. Deflator worked closely before games with another clubhouse attendant. When word of the scandal broke, that attendant spent a lot of time talking and texting with Brady.
Mr. Deflator “went by that wonderfully suggestive nickname” exactly one time!

The joy of the hive was spreading fast. The next day, Dan Barry had some fun in his own New York Times column:
BARRY (5/8/15): McNally and a longtime friend, a Patriots equipment assistant named John Jastremski, felt comfortable enough to exchange candid texts about deflating footballs (he even refers to himself as ''the deflator''), collecting Patriots memorabilia and trash-talking about Brady.
He even “refers” to himself as the deflator? In fact, he did it exactly once, at a time when “deflating footballs” simply wasn't possible.

Later in his column, Barry referred to McNally as “the self-proclaimed ‘deflator.’ ” As when they joked and clowned about Gore, these whales just want to cavort and play. Our children just wanna have fun.

Why did the NFL distribute all that bad information? How strange! Neither columnist asked!

THE DUMBNESS OF THE WHALE: The Times inflates the NFL’s case!

THURSDAY, MAY 21, 2015

Part 4—The gang that wouldn’t report straight:
Did an employee of the New England Patriots under-inflate some footballs in violation of NFL rules?

It’s possible! Pretty much everything is.

That said, we can’t say we see much evidence that this offence occurred. We say that because we’ve read the NFL’s official report on this subject, the Wells report.

Did a Patriots’ employee under-inflate some footballs? It’s still a possibility! But the Wells report reveals the NFL as the organization that can’t function straight—and as an organization that can’t seem to tell the truth straight.

It’s astounding to see the way the New York Times has refused to report those matters. Let’s review of the NFL’s serial dysfunction in this high-profile affair.

The gang that can’t measure air pressure straight

First, the Wells report shows the NFL to be the gang that can’t measure air pressure straight. The league had rules about the air pressure of footballs. But it had never developed a standard procedure for measuring that air pressure.

On the day in question, referee Walt Anderson brought two air pressure gauges to the game from his home. As a result, he enacted the old joke known as Goldberg’s Law:

The man with one watch always knows the time. The man with two watches is never quite sure.

As Anderson would learn at halftime, his two gauges produced systematically different air pressure readings. Beyond that, Anderson apparently wasn’t sure which gauge he had used before the game to measure the pressure of both teams’ footballs. But if he used the gauge he said he had used, the air pressure readings of the Patriots’ footballs were pretty much right where they should have been when they were measured at halftime.

To solve this problem, the Wells report decided that Anderson must have been wrong about which gauge he used before the game. They explained this helpful assessment in such murky language that they came close to defining themselves as “the gang that can’t speak English straight.”

The problem of the dueling gauges was only the tip of the iceberg. At halftime, the NFL measured the air pressure of four Colts’ footballs. One of their readings made so little sense that the Wells report basically disregarded it.

After the game, the NFL measured the pressure of four Patriots’ footballs. None of those readings made sense. They too were disregarded by the Wells report.

At this point, an honest organization might consider the possibility that their review should go no further, so thoroughly had they failed to gather reliable data. As the Wells report makes clear, the NFL isn’t that kind of org.

That gang that can’t seem to tell the truth straight

The NFL’s attempt to measure air pressure was clownish beyond belief. From there, the league apparently moved to Step 2 in its operation—the distribution of false information to the national press.

The league’s initial conduit was Chris Mortensen, a gullible and apparently dishonest ESPN star reporter. Three days after the game in question, he reported a set of air pressure readings which made it seem that the Patriots’ footballs were grossly under-inflated. He sourced the incriminating data to “NFL sources.”

When the Wells report presented the actual air pressure readings, it became clear that Mortensen had been given a bogus set of statistics—false statistics which grossly tilted the playing field against the Patriots. To this day, Mortensen hasn’t reported this fact to ESPN viewers and readers, nor has he explained the source of his false information.

The gang that can’t write letters straight

By now, the NFL had thoroughly bungled its attempt at data collection. It seems it had also misinformed the national press about the air pressure readings its procedures had produced.

This took the league to Step 3 in its action. Now, it grossly misinformed the Patriots organization about what it had found.

This piece of apparent disinformation came from David Gardi, an NFL senior vice president. Gardi wrote a letter to the Patriots which included a wildly inaccurate claim about the air pressure reading of one of the Patriots’ footballs.

According to the Wells report, this was “an inadvertent error” on Gardi’s part. He had simply “relied on memory” when he wrote the inaccurate letter, the Wells report ridiculously said.

The gang that won’t correct false information straight

The Patriots weren’t given the accurate air pressure readings for two more months. They finally received the accurate data on the stipulation that they couldn’t correct the false information which had appeared in the press.

As far as we know, the NFL never told Mortensen, or anyone else, that he had published a bunch of false statistics—false statistics which strongly tilted the playing field against the Patriots.

As noted, this fact became clear when the Wells report published the actual air pressure readings. As mentioned, “Mort” hasn’t said a word about this matter in the weeks since the Wells report appeared. Neither have any of the other whales who “spout” and slap their horizontal tails on ESPN, the news org of record for this journalistically disgraceful affair.

In fairness to ESPN, roughly half their analysts left their previous careers after taking too many blows to the head. This doesn’t explain the silence of Mortensen.

Did an employee of the Patriots under-inflate some footballs? It’s possible, although we’d say the evidence for this crime is extremely weak.

If the referee used the gauge he says he used before the game, there doesn’t seem to be any “under-inflation” to explain! In that case, the Patriots’ footballs were pretty much right where they should have been according to the Ideal Gas Law, a part of basic physics.

This is all explained in the Wells report, which hit the press all the way back on May 7. Amazingly, none of this has been explained in the New York Times, which has done two lengthy front-page reports on this matter, plus a lengthy informational column.

In the weeks since the Wells report appeared, the New York Times has established itself as the gang that won’t report even the most basic information. The Times won’t report basic information at all, let alone report it straight!

In a global perspective, nothing much turns on this latest consensus scandal. But it represents a stunning example of the way our American “press corps” works.

The dumbness of the whale is profound. So is the his brute dishonesty.

The gang that won’t report even the most basic information

It isn’t like the New York Times has avoided this topic. On May 7, it published a front-page news report about the Wells report.

On May 12, it published another front-page report. This report described the penalties the NFL had just announced for the Patriots and for Tom Brady, the team’s wonderfully handsome star quarterback.

On May 14, the Patriots published their 20,000-word rebuttal to the Wells report. The Times didn’t do a news report about the Patriots’ rebuttal, but they published a lengthy column by David Waldstein which served as the paper’s account of what the patriots had said.

The Times has not avoided this topic. Let’s summarize its basic coverage:
May 7: “Tom Brady Probably Knew Footballs Were Doctored, N.F.L. Finds”
Front-page news report, John Branch, 1727 words.

May 12: “Brady Receives a 4-Game Ban”
Front-page news report, Bill Pennington, 1394 words

May 15: “Patriots' Rebuttal Is Foray Further Into Farce”
Sports section, informational column, David Waldstein, 1015 words
In those three pieces alone, the Times has devoted more than 4100 words to these recent events. Let’s marvel at the basic things Times readers never been told.

Let’s start with the paper's lesser omissions. Times readers have never been told about the clownish procedures which produced the NFL’s official data.

They’ve never been told about the dueling air pressure gauges. They’ve never been told about the data which had to be thrown out.

They’ve never been told that the NFL produced four different air pressure readings for the intercepted football which supposedly triggered this conflagration. As far as New York Times readers know, the NFL’s fata collection was competent right down the line.

Beyond that, Times readers have never been told that this brouhaha started with false information in the press, attributed to “NFL sources.” They’ve never been told that the NFL also sent false information to the Patriots organization.

If you read the Times, those things never happened. Those matters won’t worry your head. But there’s a massively larger piece of this puzzle Times readers have never been given.

Incredibly, Times readers have never been told about the basic physics of this matter—about the Ideal Gas Law. They’ve never been told that the Patriots’ footballs should have been “underinflated” by halftime, a point which the NFL’s own Wells report makes perfectly clear.

What can we possibly mean by this? Consider Bill Pennington’s front-page news report on May 12.

By now, Pennington and his brutish editors had had a full five days to review the Wells report. That report explains the physics quite clearly—given the cool weather on the day of the game, the Patriots’ footballs should have measured anywhere from 11.32 to 11.52 psi by the time they were measured at halftime.

The Wells report makes it perfectly clear—the Patriots’ footballs should have bene “underinflated” by halftime. But Pennington, like Branch before him, never mentioned this brutally basic fact.

Here’s the account he handed Times readers at the start of his front-page news report—a news report whose clownishness matched that of the NFL’s data collection:
PENNINGTON (5/12/15): New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, a golden boy of American sports and perhaps pro football's biggest star, was suspended Monday for four regular-season games without pay by the N.F.L., which said he had deliberately and secretly violated league rules.

The N.F.L. also fined the Patriots $1 million and took away two prized future draft picks, including a first-round choice in 2016, saying that the team, and Brady, schemed to improperly deflate footballs in the A.F.C. championship game last season on the way to securing New England's fourth Super Bowl victory.

A deflated football is said to be easier to grip, especially in the cold and wet conditions that the Patriots faced at home against the Indianapolis Colts on Jan. 18.

In a statement, N.F.L. Commissioner Roger Goodell said he supported the punishment issued by the league's executive vice president for football operations, Troy Vincent, for what the league called “conduct detrimental to the integrity of the N.F.L.” The team and Brady were also censured for not fully cooperating with a league-commissioned investigation into how a vast majority of footballs used in the first half of the Patriots' victory in the A.F.C. championship game ended up underinflated not long after the game officials had measured and approved the footballs in a pregame inspection.
“A vast majority of [Patriots] footballs...ended up underinflated not long after the game officials had measured and approved the footballs in a pregame inspection?” You could possibly defend that as “technically accurate,” but it doesn’t begin to explain the actual situation.

Later, Pennington tried it again. Here’s what Times readers were told:
PENNINGTON: At the core of the league's investigation was the discovery at halftime that a high percentage of the footballs used by the Patriots in the A.F.C. championship game were underinflated. The footballs had been inspected by game officials before the game and inflated to the permissible pounds-per-square-inch measure established by the N.F.L. Circumstantial but detailed information and accounts provided in the league report last week implicated Jastremski, McNally and Brady as part of an operation to furtively deflate the footballs beyond the permissible threshold sometime between the pregame inspection and the opening kickoff.

Tipped off by a Colts executive, the officials measured the footballs again at halftime and found that a majority of the Patriots footballs—the teams each used their own balls—were underinflated. The footballs were once again inflated as required, and the Patriots then continued to dominate the Colts in a 45-7 rout.
We’d describe that as a second-grader’s account of the basic facts. New York Times readers were never told that the Patriots’ footballs should have been “underinflated” by halftime—should have displayed lower readings than the “permissible pounds-per-square-inch measure established by the N.F.L.”

Pennington wrote a child’s account of the basic facts, and thus of the basic dispute. But this child’s account of the basic facts appeared on the front page of the Times, as was the case with Branch’s news report five days before.

Warning! Avert your gaze from Branch’s use of the clownish term “squishier:”
BRANCH (5/7/15): The head referee for the Patriots-Colts game, Walt Anderson, used a gauge to test the air pressure of each ball. The balls are made of a urethane bladder inside a pebbled leather casing. N.F.L. rules dictate that they be properly inflated during a game, falling into the window of 12.5 to 13.5 pounds per square inch.

McNally told Anderson that Brady liked the balls to be at the low end of the scale. (Brady later confirmed this, to reporters, saying that he liked squishier footballs to help him get a better grip.) Ten of the balls were approved. Two others were underinflated. Anderson instructed another official to pump them up until they reached the 12.5-p.s.i. threshold.


[W]hen 11 balls were tested with two gauges at halftime, after the Colts had raised suspicions following a second-quarter interception of a Brady pass, they were all below 12.5 p.s.i. Most were substantially lower. One was at 10.5.

The game was played in the rain, and deflated balls would have been easier to grip in the wet weather.
Good God! According to Branch, when the Patriots’ footballs were measured at halftime, “they were all below 12.5 p.s.i.” Full stop!

The Wells report on which Branch was reporting said that the Patriots footballs should have measured below 12.5 psi by that time, by at least a full pound! In a front-page New York Times news report, Branch simply skipped that fact.

(“One was at 10.5?” Branch didn't note that this reading came from only one of the two dueling gauges—the gauge the referee said he didn’t use before the start of the game.)

Branch offered a simpleton’s before-and-after account—a simple tale of consensus scandal written for a young child. That said, this Simple Simon account of the facts was amplified nowhere in the Times’ two front-page reports.

The clownishness only got worse when the Times published Waldstein’s account of the Patriots’ rebuttal report.

The rebuttal report highlighted all the problems with the NFL’s bungled attempts at data collection. It strongly complained about the false information the NFL had disbursed.

In his original hard-copy text, Waldstein hinted at some of this misconduct by the NFL. As we noted on Monday, all such suggestions were edited out of the scrubbed account which now appears on-line.

That's bad enough—but good God! Below, you see Waldstein’s account of the Patriots basic explanation of the inflation level of their footballs. In a slightly different world, it would be astounding to think that work like this could appear in the New York Times:
WALDSTEIN (5/17/15): The Wells report asserted that the footballs the Patriots used in the first half of the A.F.C. title game in January were, in general, significantly underinflated, while the four footballs the Colts used that were measured conformed to the guidelines.

The Patriots countered by emphasizing that only four of the Colts’ balls were measured and offered theories about why their own footballs were underinflated at halftime. Perhaps it was because the Colts kept their footballs in garbage bags on the rainy sidelines and the Patriots did not. Perhaps it was because the Patriots’ footballs were measured first, and during those 10 minutes the Colts’ balls reached equilibrium in the warmer confines of the referees’ locker room.

The Patriots also noted how they had the ball for most of the first half, especially at the end. Therefore, their footballs—the N.F.L. lets each team use its own—were subjected to far more physical abuse. Could the underinflation have been caused, the Patriots wondered, by the “different number of times” the balls were “crushed under the weight of players being tackled”?
According to Waldstein’s report, “The Patriots...offered theories about why their own footballs were underinflated at halftime.”

He then fails to mention the Patriots’ number-one “theory,” according to which the inflation levels were exactly where they should have been due to the weather conditions and the Ideal Gas Law.

Good God! Waldstein pretends to report the positions the Patriots adopted in their rebuttal report. But in that remarkable passage, he omits the most significant explanation for the “underinflation”—for the reduced air pressure readings—of the Patriots’ footballs.

He weirdly omits another obvious fact. According to the referee, the Colts’ footballs started the game at 13.0 psi, as compared to 12.5 psi for the Patriots’ footballs. Might that help explain why the Patriots’ footballs were “underinflated” by halftime, while the Colts’ four footballs still “conformed to the [pre-game] guidelines?”

In the New York Times, it cannot! That fundamental fact went unmentioned in Waldstein’s account.

The New York Times has devoted thousands of words to the Wells report and its aftermath. But in all its reporting, and in its additional half dozen columns on the topic, Times readers have never encountered even the most fundamental facts about this ridiculous case.

They’ve never been told about the NFL’s clownish attempt at data collection. They’ve never been told that the NFL gave false information to the Patriots and apparently to the press corps itself.

Most amazingly, Times readers have never been told about the basic physics of the case.

Why were the Patriots’ footballs “underinflated” at halftime? In two lengthy front-page reports, then in Waldstein’s informational column, Times readers were never told about the effect the weather had on the air pressure readings of both teams’ footballs.

It was right there in the Wells report. It didn’t get into the Times!

The dumbness of the whale is both astounding and vast. Tomorrow, we’ll show you where the Times, and the rest of the press, took their focus as they cavorted and played on the surface of their consensus tale.

Tomorrow: Dumbest fish in the sea

Supplemental: Frank Bruni’s upset with college presidents’ pay!


We’ll take it one step farther:
Frank Bruni is upset today with college presidents’ pay.

Last weekend, the thoughtful pundit was upset with the Clintons’ “greed” and with their troubling income.

We think Bruni should be concerned with college presidents’ pay. He makes some good points in his new column.

That said, we’re willing to take it one step farther. Since Bruni’s concerned about everyone else, we think the scribe should start to inquire about major journalists’ pay.

For example, how much does Frank Bruni get paid? How about Maureen Dowd?

People like Bruni are often upset about the money other folk make. At the same time, they tend to be secretive about the piles of cash which gets dished to the big runny cheeses in their own sacred field.

Especially on the TV machine, it’s hard to doubt the pernicious results of big corporate pay. We watch the declining quality of Rachel Maddow’s show and we wonder if a person like Maddow would ever decline as much as she has if it weren’t for the ill effects of massive corporate pay.

In our judgment, Maddow’s a special case. That said, all over our TV “news” divisions, wealthy purveyors are clutching their pearls, asking if Hillary Clinton can relate to “everyday people.”

We’re always struck by the efforts these people make to keep their own incomes secret. How are they able to relate? The question never comes up!

In large part, the clowns on TV are willing to clown because of their very large pay-days. In our view, Maddow has become an especially striking case.

Her self-adoration is dragging her down. She’s hardly the only one.

THE DUMBNESS OF THE WHALE: Verdict first, information never!


Part 3—Ahab in Wonderland:
It has long been a basic precept of our press corps’ consensus scandals:

Verdict first, information never!

Information must never intrude on the prearranged judgment which permits the fun of consensus scandal.

Analysis? What’s that?

Who is the Ahab of the current scandal—the scandal concerning air pressure of footballs? That Ahab would seem to be Ryan Grigson, general manager of the Indianapolis Colts.

According to the NFL’s official “Wells report” (see page 45), Grigson sent an email to league officials before last January’s playoff game against the New English Patriots. It included a note about the bad conduct of Grigson’s personal whale:
EMAIL FROM COLTS OFFICIALS: As far as the game balls are concerned it is well known around the league that after the Patriots game balls are checked by the officials and brought out for game usage the ballboys for the Patriots will let out some air with a ball needle because their quarterback likes a smaller football so he can grip it better, it would be great if someone would be able to check the air in the game balls as the game goes on so that they don’t get an illegal advantage.
Question: If it was “well known around the league” that the Patriots had been doctoring footballs, why had no one ever complained to the league before this?

The Wells report skips all such questions. In fairness, it did note this:

“The Grigson email did not contain any factual support for the suspicions raised, and the NFL was unaware of any factual support prior to the game.”

Lack of factual support is often observed at the start of our consensus scandals. Things spiral downward from there.

In this case, the NFL soon found itself seeking more information from the Colts. As a result, the Wells report goes on to describe the Colts’ previous encounter with their own personal white whale.

It happened in Week 11, the last time the Patriots played the Colts. Sean Sullivan is the Colts’ skillful equipment manager:
WELLS REPORT (page 46): During interviews, when asked to explain the source of their concerns about the Patriots game balls, Grigson, Sullivan, and other members of the Colts equipment staff referenced the Colts Week 11 game against the Patriots in Indianapolis. During that game, Colts strong safety Mike Adams intercepted two passes thrown by Tom Brady. On both occasions, Adams handed the footballs to Brian Seabrooks, an Assistant Equipment Manager for the Colts, on the sideline. Sullivan also examined the footballs because, as he described it, he always checks to see how other teams prepare their balls to “make sure no one is doing a better job.” Sullivan and Seabrooks said that the intercepted footballs appeared to be coated in a tacky substance and seemed spongy or soft when squeezed. They explained that even though they did not test the air pressure of the intercepted footballs at the time, based on their years of experience, the softness of the balls raised suspicions. They also cited unspecified chatter throughout the League that the Patriots prefer their footballs softer than other teams and that visiting teams should be on guard when playing at Gillette Stadium. They could not identify a specific source for this information or reference particular conversations.
Just for the record, “unspecified chatter” is also widely observed at the start of consensus scandals.

Back in Week 11, Colts personnel didn’t attempt to measure the air pressure of the highly suspicious footballs their player intercepted. They based their suspicion on “their years of experience” and their presumed expertise.

That said, it may be just as well that the Colts didn’t try to perform an actual act of measurement. During the playoff game in January, they did attempt to conduct such a measurement of a ball which was intercepted.

Despite their years of experience, their attempt at measurement didn’t go especially well. The Wells report continues the tale. As it does, our first statistic appears:
WELLS REPORT (page 63): At approximately 7:47 p.m., during the second quarter of the AFC Championship Game, Colts linebacker D’Qwell Jackson intercepted a pass thrown by Tom Brady. Following the interception upon reaching the sideline, Jackson handed the ball to David Thornton, the Colts Director of Player Engagement, near the Colts bench and Thornton immediately handed the ball to Assistant Equipment Manager Brian Seabrooks. According to Seabrooks, he believed that the ball felt similar to the footballs intercepted by Mike Adams during the Colts game against the Patriots earlier in the season, so he asked one of the team‟s equipment interns to locate a pressure gauge and test the inflation level of the intercepted ball. The intern used a digital pressure gauge similar to the gauge used by the Colts to set their footballs before the game, and reported that the pressure measured approximately 11 psi. Seabrooks then walked with the intercepted football to Equipment Manager Sean Sullivan, who squeezed the ball and agreed that it felt soft.
The Wells report doesn’t explain the basis on which the Colts believed they had the right to measure one of the Patriots’ footballs. Concern for the NFL’s sacred rules is selectively observed in this official report.

At any rate:

For unknown reasons, the Colts directed an intern to measure the pressure of the ball. The intern reported that it “measured approximately 11 psi.”

Conducting his own detailed probe, Sullivan “squeezed the ball and agreed that it felt soft.” But thanks to the intern’s work, we now had our first statistic.

We also had the start of a farce in which the NFL established the fact that it didn’t know how to measure air pressure as of the date in question.

Uh-oh! As events unfolded on the day of the playoff game, NFL officials proceeded to measure the air pressure of that same football.

In fact, they measured it three different times. Needless to say, they came up with three different readings, as revealed on page 70 of the Wells report:

11.35 psi; 11.45 psi; 11.75 psi.

The Wells report doesn’t say what air pressure gauge was used to produce that welter of readings. But by now, the NFL had nailed it down! The air pressure of the intercepted football was one of the values shown below. You can take your pick!

11.0 psi; 11.35 psi; 11.45 psi; 11.75 psi

It was like the old joke about the weather. If you don’t like the air pressure readings in New England, just wait a while!

Perhaps you’re starting to see our general point. Although it never bats an eye at the chaos it is describing, the Wells report goes on to describe ludicrous conduct by a gang which couldn’t measure air pressure straight.

For this one football alone, the Wells report presents four different air pressure readings, across a rather wide range. And the league’s attempts at data collection only became more clownish from there, as we’ve described in previous reports.

After its clownish attempts at data collection, the league proceeded to Step 2 in its probe—the dissemination of false information to the press corps and the Patriots.

A bunch of false statistics quickly appeared at ESPN and NBC Sports, attributed to “NFL sources.” And that wasn’t all! On page 100, the Wells report quotes a letter the NFL sent to the Patriots on the day after the game.

The letter was written by David Gardi, the NFL’s highly august Senior Vice President of Football Operations. This is part of what Senior Vice President Gardi falsely wrote:
LETTER FROM THE NFL TO THE PATRIOTS: The inspection, which involved each ball being inspected twice with different gauges, revealed that none of the Patriots‟ game balls were inflated to the specifications required under Rule 2, Section 1. In fact, one of the game balls was inflated to 10.1 psi, far below the requirement of 12½ to 13½ psi. In contrast, each of the Colts‟ game balls that was inspected met the requirements set forth above.
In fact, none of the footballs had been recorded at anywhere close to 10.1 psi on either of the NFL’s clownish dueling gauges. On page 101, the Wells report, seeing no evil in senior vice presidents, explains this small tiny completely understandable accidental minor pointless mistake:
WELLS REPORT (page 101): In fact, none of the Patriots game balls measured 10.1 psi when they were tested at halftime. We believe that there was an inadvertent error in communication of the results to Gardi. The NFL personnel providing the air pressure information to Gardi at the time did not have copies of the documents on which the measurements had been recorded by Richard Farley and were relying on memory alone. We do not believe that this error raises any doubt about the accuracy of the measurements recorded by Farley or any other relevant issue...In any event, with the knowledge and approval of League staff, we subsequently provided all of the air pressure data to counsel for the Patriots during the course of the investigation subject to a confidentiality commitment.
They relied on memory alone! At this point, you might also describe the NFL as “the gang that can’t write letters straight!”

The Wells report must be one of the most farcical documents ever released to the press corps. In the passage we’ve just posted, you see its authors blithely accepting a claim of innocence on behalf of the organization which was paying their very large fees—an organization which had apparently provided false information to the Patriots and to the national press corps.

Gardi was quickly given a pass for his astonishing conduct. But all through this same report, its authors turn backflips looking for ways to interpret every comment by their Patriotic targets in a criminal light.

On its face, this dual standard is farcical, and perhaps not obsessively honest. By the way:

Under the “confidentiality agreement” cited in the passage above, the NFL apparently told the Patriots that they couldn’t correct the false information which had appeared in the press. As of late March, the Patriots were finally allowed to see the real numbers—just so long as they agreed that the press and the public wouldn’t be told!

We’ve rarely seen a crazier document than the Wells report. It describes farcical conduct by the NFL, an organization which seemed to have no idea how air pressure works in footballs, or how it can be measured.

The Wells report describes farcical conduct by the NFL, but it never seems to notice. It also seems to describe dishonest conduct by the NFL. That too escapes its ken.

On its face, the Wells report has the look of a farcical document which isn’t obsessively honest. But by the time it was handed to the press, the outlines of our latest consensus scandal had already been settled.

Tomorrow, we’ll return to the New York Times to see how that famous newspaper presented the farcical problems which litter the Wells report. Let’s just say that these farcical elements were all disappeared by the Times.

Verdict first, information never! As the press corps happily clowned with its latest consensus scandal, an Ahab among the Colts met the Alice in Wonderland standards which have long prevailed across our “national press corps.”

Information never! Tomorrow, the pitiful Times.