Reading this, all I can think of is Frank Drebin: “Hey, the missing evidence in the Kelner case! My God, he really was innocent.” “He went to the chair two years ago, Frank.”
Brady’s not going to the chair, though. And this still leaves one obvious question unanswered.
In a usually obscure profession that has received extraordinary attention during the controversy, some academic and research physicists now concede that they made a crucial error in their initial calculations, using an equation called the ideal gas law.
When that error is corrected, the amount of deflation predicted in moving from room temperature to a 50-degree field is roughly doubled. [Thomas] Healy, a graduate student in mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, went further: He measured the pressure drop in 12 footballs when they were moved from a room at 75 degrees to one at 50 degrees (the approximate temperature on the field in the Colts game).
In the experiment, the deflation of the footballs was close to the larger, correctly calculated value. When Healy moistened the balls to mimic the effects of the rainy weather that day, the pressure dropped even further, close to the deflation of 2 pounds per square inch that the N.F.L. is believed to have found.
Inflate a ball at a warmer temperature and then introduce it to a cooler environment and it’ll deflate (a little) naturally. We already knew that. What we didn’t know was how much it would deflate, apparently enough to drop the pressure below the lower threshold allowed by the NFL. So, mystery solved: The Pats are innocent! As for that Patriots locker-room attendant who brought the game balls for both teams with him into the bathroom for 90 seconds before kickoff, maybe it was a simple matter of nature calling. Maybe he went into the referees’ locker room to take the footballs out for the start of the game and then thought “I should take a whiz now or else I won’t make it to halftime.” So he made a pit stop en route to the field. No one believes he could manually deflate 12 balls in a minute and a half; he probably could have run the Pats’ footballs under the faucet quickly in that time to encourage more rapid deflation, but that assumes the guy has the same handle (or even a better handle) on how gas behaves than many physicists. What’s he doing working as a ball boy when he could be teaching at MIT?
So he’s probably innocent. But that brings us to the unanswered question: How come the Colts’ footballs didn’t also naturally deflate in the cold weather? How come the Baltimore Ravens’ footballs didn’t deflate a week earlier in their game at New England? The Ravens were also suspicious of deflation by the Pats, to the point where they felt obliged to tip Indianapolis off to it. The weather is a constant for both sides so it can’t explain a variation in the equipment. The variation has to have come before the game. One innocent possibility is that, for whatever reason, the Pats inflate their balls in a room with a higher temperature than their opponents do. Maybe the Colts and Ravens inflated their footballs on the field, or in a cold room, such that the temperature at game time was less of a drop than it was for the Patriots’ footballs. But … why would they do that? Why wouldn’t the equipment manager choose someplace comfortable like a warm room to inflate the balls and run through the pre-game selection process with the QB? For that matter, why aren’t deflated footballs a problem for every team that plays outdoors in the winter? The Ravens, in fact, play in a division of four cold-weather teams, all of whom have open-air stadiums; they should be running into this problem on rainy or snowy game days every week starting in November. And yet, both they and the Colts noticed something unusual about the Patriots’ equipment. That shouldn’t happen if this is a purely natural phenomenon.
But oh well. Doesn’t matter anymore: If there was ever even a small chance that Belichick(!) or Brady(!!) would be suspended for the Super Bowl, obviously it’s gone now. The league isn’t going to sandbag the Pats 48 hours before kickoff by stripping them of their coach or their star QB when the team’s been practicing all week with them. If Goodell was going to do something draconian (giggle), he would have done it a week ago at the latest.