Friday, May 15, 2015

5 Things on a Friday: Oh Balls!

Billions of dollars rest on the
perception of a fair game.
Sorry for the focus on #deflategate this week.  As I wrote on Facebook yesterday, the Wells Report and yesterday's rebuttal from the Patriots "has all my favorite things: conspiracy, incompetence, leadership failure, conclusions drawn before facts are gathered, football (!), endless/meaningless detail, and a healthy dose of mathematics."  I'm absolutely fascinated.  The whole thing is ludicrous at a level that is unusual even for the NFL.  On top of that, though, there's an infinite variety of detail and counter-detail in the various arguments, none of which actually proves anything.  So we're left with people reading into this whatever they want.

It's a mirror.  Lawyers, reports -- people who use words -- universally seem to think that the Wells Report contains damning evidence.  Meanwhile, scientists and engineers -- people who use numbers -- look at the science and scoff incredulously.  Not surprisingly, Twitter is trending anti-science.  What is surprising -- at least to me -- is the number of media outlets that keep reporting on the meta-news of public opinion.  

Who cares about public opinion?   This is a matter of actual fact.

But, of course, Roger Goodell cares about public opinion, perhaps more than actual fact.  He's got a brand to protect.  And so here we are.
Speaking for much of Patriots Nation, Attorney General Maura Healey questioned the priorities of the National Football League a day after it announced a four-game suspension of quarterback Tom Brady, a $1 million fine and the loss of two draft picks for the New England Patriots for the alleged deflating of game balls.
"I sure wish that the NFL would spend about a tenth of the time that's it's spending on this on issues of domestic violence and sexual assault," Healey said Tuesday after a speech to Boston's business community. "I'm just struck by the fact that somebody like Ray Rice gets a two-game suspension and Tom Brady, over deflated balls, is facing a four-game suspension. It doesn't add up for me."
This is my view as well.  What Brady did is on par with a receiver using Stick-‘Em on his gloves during a game.  Among many, many others, Hall-of-Famer Jerry Rice has long since admitted to this, and nobody cared.  Moreover it is 100% beyond question that the deflation of the footballs was a non-issue in the game in question.  Now, I’m not a Pats fan or anything, but this is national absurdity taken to a wholly new level.  Dudes in the NFL can be guilty of rape and the torture of animals and be forgiven, but this somehow tarnishes Brady’s legacy?  
That is ludicrous.
"Don't make me angry.  You wouldn't like me when I'm angry."
Look, NFL officials handle footballs every play.  They handle them before the games as well, and as the Wells Report points out, a substantial part of the problem here is that the Head Referee lost control of the footballs between the time when they were tested and kickoff.  Refs are responsible for keeping things honest.  So if the refs had an inkling that there was some problem with the footballs, they should have stopped the game, grabbed a pump and a gauge, fixed the problem, and then thrown a flag if necessary to punish the infraction.  That’s their job!  At no point was an inquisition called for, especially considering how easy the fix was once the problem was finally acknowledged.
Honestly, if I was Brady, I would consider retiring.
EDIT: I realize that people have already made their minds up about this issue, but I think Brady’s lawyer made a pretty strong rebuttal, especially in regards to the timing of the gotcha texts, all of which were made in October(!).  
The science of this deflation thing has never been straightforward, but reading some of this in greater context has me convinced that not only is Brady not going to be suspended, but in fact, Robert Kraft is still going to get his apology from Roger Goodell.  This thing has not been handled well at all, with the League spinning to cover its ass since the beginning.  That’s not going to end well.
Verizon announced early on Tuesday that it would acquire the company, and AOL CEO Tim Armstrong explained his rationale during a CNBC "Squawk Box" interview: "We've made AOL as big as it can possibly be in today's landscape. But if you look forward five years, you're going to be in a space where there are going to be massive, global-scale networks."
That consolidation is why Verizon bought AOL: to harness AOL's strengths in online advertising and mobile video, and transform itself into one of those massive networks.
Speaking personally, I can’t believe that anyone would pay money for AOL, but I guess they do mobile advertising very well, and like it or not, mobile dollars are the future, both for media and the IT sector.
3. The Muppets (ABC)
TVs upfronts were this week, with the result that we got some unexpected trailers for some of next season’s new TV shows.  This one’s my favorite, from the producers of The Big Bang Theory.

4. Supergirl (CBS)
This one’s from the producers of Arrow and The Flash.  

I’m not going to sit here and pretend that I’ve read a bunch of Supergirl comics, but Berlanti is known for making reasonably faithful TV adaptations of comic books properties, and this looks like no exception.  Certainly, they didn’t shy away from some of the goofier aspects of the character’s history.  For example, the whole glasses-as-disguise trope is in full effect.
I don’t honestly know that I need Superman-meets-The Devil Wears Prada, but there’s no doubt that my kids will like this, and in a world that’s screaming for a Black Widow movie, I think the timing is excellent.  They’ve done a nice job making her less than totally indestructible as well, which is always the problem with stories about Superman.  I think this will do well.
This Supergirl clearly exists in a universe with metahumans and aliens, a TV version of the DCU.  So do Berlanti’s other shows, Arrow and The Flash.  But those shows are on the CW.  Can they still perhaps exist in the same universe?  I’d guess that they probably can’t, but that’s a shame.

5. Friday Hair Metal: America

This song reminds me of my days living back in sunny Southern California.  Not only because POD is from San Diego (at least, I think they are), but also because the mix of sonic influences is reminiscent of the influences that make San Diego what it is.  The song is about a girl named America, but to me it sounds like America -- what this country can be when it's at its very best, anyway.

Have I mentioned my book?  Of course I have.

Go buy my book, people.

Have a good weekend!


  1. For the general public, Brady's the face of the NFL. But for the NFL, Peyton Manning is. Or is supposed to be. That's the view of the whole sports establishment, really. And I still believe that's the whole problem. Brady's success has been a huge slap in the face to what the narrative is supposed to have been all these years. And so people keep coming up with phony controversies so that eventually, the public will view Brady the same way as the sports establishment. Which is about where we're at right now, alas.

    1. See, my problem is that I think this is a science case about air pressure. And the science is shoddy and inconclusive at best. Okay, there are some weird texts, but those are from October. They could mean ANYTHING. The number either prove the point or they don't, and clearly they don't. End of story.

      I don't care about Brady. I'm a Giants' fan.

  2. My problem with the whole Brady Balls (HA!) is that it had zero effect on the outcome of the game and people are acting like it's the whole reason why he's arguably one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the game. And I say all of that as a Chicago Bears / Green Bay Packers fan.

    Yes I do have issues during the season and no I don't want to talk to a therapist about them.

    1. I don't mind neglecting the impact to the game in the name of fairness, but taken as evidence, I think Brady's performance in the second half is telling. He claims that he prefers footballs inflated to exactly 12.5 psi. During the first half, the balls were under inflated, and his play was mediocre. They then reflate the balls, and he plays better. This is evidence!

      It also bugs me that Goodell ingnored his own stated guidelines on punishment ($25K for the infraction in question) in the name of political expediency. That's terrible.