Sunday, May 17, 2015

Reading the Wells report - Air Pressures

As I noted in my previous post, I think the disinformation campaign waged by the league implies that they feel that the actual data doesn't support their argument very well.

First, it appears that this analysis is based on the assumption that the Colts' footballs were gauged right after the Patriots' footballs.  I refer to PDF page 162 (p.2 of the Exponent report)
According to information provided by Paul, Weiss, during the halftime period, three events pertaining to the footballs are known to have occurred:
1. The air pressure measurements of 11 Patriots footballs were taken and recorded.
2. The air pressure measurements of four Colts footballs were taken and recorded.
3. The reinflation and regauging of 11 Patriots footballs to a level within the 12.5–13.5 psig range was performed.
According to information provided by Paul, Weiss, it is clear that of the three events listed above, the measuring of the Patriots balls occurred first. Although there remains some uncertainty about the exact order and timing of the other two events, it appears likely the reinflation and regauging occurred last. According to security footage, the footballs were taken back to the field for the second half at approximately 8:42:30 pm, meaning that they were inside the Officials Locker Room for no more than 13 minutes and 30 seconds. Therefore, all three of the above listed events must have taken no longer than 13.5 minutes to complete.
I'm very suspicious of this need to make an assumption.  Here are things we know. 1. The Patriots' balls were tested first.  2. The stated excuse for only testing four Colts' balls is "we ran out of time", 3. Between the two sets of tests, Prioleau and Blakeman switched gauges.

I would argue that it's much more likely that they switched gauges if the reinflation and regauging of the Patriots' footballs took place before the Colts' balls were tested.  In this scenario, the gauges are put down and the pumps are taken out to reinflate the balls that are all arrayed around the room.  The officials have emptied a bag of footballs, it seems more likely that they'd want to fill that bag again before emptying the other bag - for a good number of reasons.  I'm very hard-pressed to imagine the opposite scenario, the one that Exponent claims is more likely: With 11 balls lying around the room, how likely is it that somebody looks at his watch and says "It will take an indeterminate amount of time to reinflate and gauge these balls.  But I'm pretty sure we only have time to gauge four of them.  Let's start that process, abort it 1/3 of the way through, and then return to the Patriots' footballs."  It's a nonsensical scene.

I would also argue that if this point were important, and it were true that the Colts' balls were done in the middle, that it would be easily confirmed.  I am not buying into "there remains some uncertainty about the order of events."  You had a room full of people and none of them can remember if the Colts' balls were tested before or after the Patriots' balls were reinflated?  Given that the excuse for not doing all the Colts' footballs was "We ran out of time," I think we already have solid information that this part of the halftime procedure was last.  But like Walt Anderson's recollection about which gauge was used before the game started, a recollection that supports the Patriots' case is discarded.

So, let's look at what the air pressures actually were. At some point I might address the rest of the Exponent report, but let's just say that they do a whole lot of simulations, apparently with the theory that if you don't have actual data, you should replace it with simulations. Huzzah!

Poisoning the well of public opinion against the Patriots

On January 21, Chris Mortensen published a story at that claimed, among other things, that

The NFL has found that 11 of the New England Patriots' 12 game balls were inflated significantly below the NFL's requirements, league sources involved and familiar with the investigation of Sunday's AFC Championship Game told ESPN.The investigation found the footballs were inflated 2 pounds per square inch below what's required by NFL regulations during the Pats' 45-7 victoryover theIndianapolis Colts, according to sources.
This claim wasn't true.

On January 19, league official David Gardi sent a letter to the Patriots claiming “In fact, one of the game balls was inflated to 10.1 psi, far below the requirement of 12-1/2 to 13-1⁄2 psi. In contrast, each of the Colts’ game balls that was inspected met the requirements set forth above.”

Two more claims, neither of which is true.  First that the Patriots had a ball that was 2.4 psi low.  Also the claim that none of the Colts' were low.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Reading the Ted Wells Report: Exponent report

There are various parts of the report which are used by the NFL to make their case.  They seem to rely more than anything else on the text messages.  This is odd to me, as the text messages are not, in fact, incriminating.  Embarrassing?  Certainly.  Consistent with guilt?  Maybe.  There are more problems with that than people are admitting.  Damning?  Hardly At some point I may go over that, but I think it's a better use of my time to go over the Exponent appendix, which makes the case that the Wells report and the suspensions rely upon.  It should be clear here that without the Exponent report, there is no evidence of any wrongdoing.  Without evidence that the balls were actually deflated, who cares what text messages a couple locker room attendants sent to each other?

The main problem with the Exponent report is that a lot of information is missing.  Where we should be using carefully recorded air pressures, we rely more upon half-rememberances, including on the question of which gauge was actually used to measure the air pressures.

A second issue that I find problematic is that it presumes uniformity to conditions that simply isn't reasonable to assume.  It also fails to consider the possibility that using a football playing a football game in the NFL might tend to lead to loss of air pressure.

Anyway, let's start.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Reading the Ted Wells report - Executive Summary

I am literally baffled that people seem to think that this report offers conclusive proof of anything.  And yet reporters around the country are piling on.  More evidence that the media isn't terribly rigorous with what stories they run.  Anywhere, here it goes...

Executive Summary

p.1 (p.5 of pdf)
"All eleven of the Patriots game balls tested measured below the minimum pressure level of 12.5 pounds per square inch (“psi”) allowed by Rule 2 of the Official Playing Rules of the National Football League (the “Playing Rules”) on both of two air pressure gauges used to test the balls."

Already the report is acting like it's the responsibility of the Patriots to keep balls at a certain pressure level during the game.  But it isn't.  The only thing the Patriots are obliged to do is provide balls pressurized to a level between 12.5 and 13.5 psi to the officials before the game starts.  Even then there is no sanction if a ball is over- or under-inflated.  It's up to the officials to adjust the pressure so the ball falls in the desired range.

Aside: let's remember what Chris Mortensen was told
The investigation found the footballs were inflated 2 pounds per square inch below what's required by NFL regulations during the Pats' 45-7 victory over the Indianapolis Colts, according to sources. 
Well, that turned out to be untrue, as we'll see soon.