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Friday 19th Jan 2018

I probably shouldn’t do this. I probably should stop typing and go back to writing profiles for the Platinum subscribers. But, it appears as though I’m going to keep going.

In full disclosure, I am a card-carrying member of Patriot’s Nation. I’ve been to two of their Super Bowls: Carolina in Houston and the first one against the Giants in Glendale. I had tickets to a third but a laboratory accident the week of the game prevented me from making the trip to New Orleans to witness the victory over St. Louis. I’ve been to numerous playoff games including the Tuck game and Ty Law picking off Peyton Manning to secure the AFC Championship.

I believe the New England Patriots are innocent. I don’t think they cheated against the Colts. I believe Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.

You think I’m nuts. You think I’m a naïve fanboy with myopic vision, not willing to admit my team is a bunch of cheaters. You think Belichick and Brady are liars.

But here’s the deal. I’m a fan of the team and I WANT them to be innocent. Truth be told? I have no freaking clue.

On the other hand, you aren’t a fan of the team. You are still recalling Spygate. You’re sick of New England always being in the playoffs. You are turned off by the smug nature of Brady and the mesh of aloofness and cockiness displayed by Belichick. You WANT them to be guilty. Truth be told? You have no freaking clue either.

The analogies aren’t perfect but this reminds me of the fantasy league owner that votes against a rules change that benefits the league but hurts their team or vetoes a fair trade because their team is negatively affected.

This incident is simply another example of passing judgment without knowing the facts on either side. It’s a fixture in society, I get that. I just don’t happen to like it. It’s not even innocent until proven guilty. It’s drawing a conclusion without knowing all the facts.

It’s probably the scientist in me. Imagine if research was conducted on hunches. Sure, maybe that’s how experiments may begin, but do you want your physician subscribing a medication that he thinks may work?

Another societal element is the need for rooting for the white hat and against the black hat. It’s bred into our DNA. It’s why soap operas are so popular. It’s why cop and detective shows dominate prime time. Heck, it’s why professional wrestling is so huge, not to mention reality TV in general. Even a show like "Survivor" thrives off that mentality. Most want the good guy to win. The entire science fiction and superhero genres are based off this principle. We’re brought up to root for good to prevail over evil. We yearn for that narrative or else the time spent feels unfulfilling. We’re not satisfied.

I’m guilty of this with respect to watching the Olympics. While I was alive during the Cold War, I was too young to really appreciate what was happening. But in the ‘70s, I was old enough to know the Russians were evil. I didn’t care about speed skating or the luge. I didn’t know what a meter was, let alone 400 of them. But by golly, so long as we kicked the Russian’s ass I was happy. Once we became buddy-buddy with them, the Olympics lost much of their luster and to this day I barely watch.

I do realize there’s a significant faction of black hats out there that root for the dark side, and that’s fine. But, it is the minority and it’s more for fun than anything else.

I get it. The Patriots are the bad guys and in order for the narrative to work best, you need them to be cheaters. And in order for me to root for them without feeling guilty, I need them to be innocent.

But again, neither of us really know the truth.

No, you don’t.

And neither do I.

Back to the scientist thing. I put much of the blame on the NFL. Belichick alluded to some of the processes whereby footballs are tested, but even the steps he described are seriously lacking.

I spent 20 years in chemical manufacturing, a goodly number of them in pharmaceuticals where everything was done according to an approved Standard Operating Procedure. The manner the NFL handles the footballs is a joke. There should be no controversy. Either they were compliant or they weren’t. But the proper testing measures are not in place.

Was the pressure gauge calibrated? What’s the error associated with the gauge? What were the exact conditions where the testing took place? Did the footballs sit for the requisite time needed to equilibrate in the testing conditions? Are there p.s.i. specifications relative to that specific temperature? Were the readings taken at a specified (and consistent) time before kickoff?

Was all this done by an operator and checked by a reviewer? Was it written down?

Pharma has a saying that is drilled into everyone’s head – IF IT ISN’T WRITTEN DOWN IT NEVER HAPPENED.

Any violation along the way results in a deviation being filed. If checking footballs were medication, they’d never make it out of the manufacturing stage.

This is only half the story. What’s the rule during the game – do balls have to maintain a specific p.s.i.? Do they need to be a certain level after the game?

There’s a good chance I’m guilty of what I’m railing against by jumping to a conclusion – perhaps all this is in place and I don’t know all the facts. I just find it curious we haven’t heard about the results of the tests run on the Indianapolis footballs. Were they inflated to 13.5 so a loss keeps them in range? If all this was on record, someone would have reported it.

I know, at this point you’re even more pissed that I’m making excuses. Of course, Brady should have known the ball was different. Ask Mark Brunell.

Then why didn’t the refs notice it?

For every circumstantial reason you can come up with, I can counter.

My favorite reason cited for the Patriots guilt is they don’t fumble. There are some studies floating around saying how remarkable it is that the Patriots fall so far outside the bell curve of random distribution with respect to fumbling. The conclusion is there has to be a reason. So of course, the reason is softer balls are easier to handle so they’ll fumble less. It can’t be that the team is coached not to fumble and players that do find their butt on the bench. The same guy bitching that Belichick benches guys like Stevan Ridley when they fumble are calling the team cheaters because they don't fumble.

You say they’ve cheated before. I say do you really think they’d put themselves in a position to be caught again? Will the defense never have a chance to handle the football and notice it was softer?

You want them to be guilty.

I want them to be innocent.

Neither of us knows the truth.

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