Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Patriots now more likely to win another Super Bowl after Goodell provided them with adversity

There's a factory in Foxborough, Mass. that takes the raw material of adversity and somehow turns it into wins. A few months ago the workers there turned an overblown story about under-inflated footballs into a shiny silver trophy. Several years ago they turned an uproar over videotaping signals which were visible to tens of thousands of people, into a nearly perfect season. The year after that, they went 11-5 despite losing their All-Pro quarterback. And a few years before that, a team that lost 31-0 to the Bills went on to win 21 games and 2 Super Bowls in a row.

The team most likely to succeed in adverse situations is the New England Patriots. They've gone through more -gates than a flight attendant. They survived the Aaron Hernandez arrest. They endured the hype around Tim Tebow.

Tom Brady will miss up to the first 4 games of the regular season. Those are against the Steelers, Jaguars, Bills, and Cowboys. Two good teams, another that always plays the Patriots tough, and the Jaguars. Fortunately, only one game is against a divisional opponent, and only one game is against another contending AFC team. Unless Goodell suspends Brady for appealing his suspension (he already suspended him for not submitting his cell phone, so don't dismiss it), Brady should return to play the Colts on an extra-dramatic Sunday Night Football, then the Jets and Dolphins.

Obviously without Tom Brady those first 4 games will be tough. This team might find itself 1-3 or even 0-4 to start the season.

Then again, it's plausible (or shall I say "more probable than not") that the Patriots can manage to go 2-2 in those games. Going 3-1 is within the realm of possibilities. And although it's unlikely, a 4-0 start isn't out of the question.

So the Patriots could start the season 2-2, and then get even better by adding Tom Brady to their active roster. This team started the 2014 season 2-2. We all remember "We're on to Cincinnati." The Pats then won 13 of the next 15 games, and the Super Bowl.

So as far as the impact of this suspension goes, I don't think it's incredibly severe. And considering how the Patriots rally when they perceive the world to be against them, I think they are now more likely to win the Super Bowl then they had been before Goodell threw the book at Brady.

And if the Patriots do win the Super Bowl in a few months... I don't think I'll ever stop laughing.

Photo Credit:
USA Today/Sports Illustrated

Monday, May 11, 2015

When Tom Brady's punishment for DeflateGate was announced, I laughed hysterically

My friend Mike called me at 5:39 p.m. and asked me "What the hell is going on in this world?" It took me a few seconds to realize he was talking about DeflateGate. Then he told me the punishment the NFL announced it would levy on Tom Brady and the Patriots:

A 4 game suspension

A $1 million fine

A 1st round pick in 2016 and a 4th rounder in 2017

Upon hearing this news, I laughed. Hysterically. This is one of the silliest things I've ever heard.

The 4th round pick is the cherry on top. I can imagine Roger Goodell and NFL execs discussing the punishment in a board room somewhere. "Okay, so we have a suspension for a quarter of the season, a million dollar fine, and a first round pick... Still seems a little light... How 'bout we toss a 4th round pick on top? There we go. That works."

I honestly can't get outraged over this. Not yet. Maybe I will when the season starts and the Steelers are able to get a BS win because they're going against Jimmy Garoppolo. Maybe I'll be angry if the Pats miss out on the playoffs or a bye because of a loss in those 4 games. We'll see. Then again, if the Pats go 4-0 during this suspension, I'll laugh even harder.

But I can't be upset right now. It's too ludicrous. I can't get upset at something that I don't take seriously. And I don't take this seriously. I don't take the NFL seriously, don't take the Wells Report seriously, don't take Goodell seriously. What's even funnier is that they take themselves seriously. But it's a joke. I tend to laugh at jokes.

The lack of proven connection to Brady, the inconsistencies and questions that the Wells Report didn't address, the fact that the same report disagreed with referee Walt Anderson about which pressure gauge he used, so on and so on. I can't marry the flimsiness of the evidence with the brutality of the punishments.

And ultimately, the Patriots are 4 time Super Champions. Even with this suspension they're still contenders for another title. It's a harsh punishment, but the lasting effect might not be as painful as it seems. It's a silly punishment, but these are silly people, playing God in their silly world.

And the final punchline of this joke: Tom Brady's first game back would be against the Colts in Indy. Think he'll be pumped for that?

Wells Report calls NFL referee Walt Anderson a liar

The Wells Report refutes NFL referee Walt Anderson's recollection of which air pressure gauge he used pre-game to check the Patriots' footballs. And that refutation is based on scientific experiments, which were based on Anderson's recollection of the pre-game air pressures of the Patriots' and Colts' footballs.

So Anderson's memory of which gauge he used is "probably" wrong, based on Anderson's memory of something else. So his memory is unreliable, based on how reliable his memory is.

That's odd, isn't it?

It's true that I'm a Patriots fan. But if you're one of those who think I'm just being a homer, and who think that the Patriots clearly cheated, then you should be able to spare a few brief moments to ponder the argument I'm about to make. If you can't read with an open mind the argument of a humble amateur blogger such as myself, then your convictions must be quite flimsy.

Here are the facts around the Wells Report refuting Walt Anderson's memory.

-Referee Walt Anderson brings 2 pressure gauges to games with him. He used one to check the Patriots' footballs pre-game, and those that were under 12.5 psi, he inflated until they were. He later recalled that the pressure gauge he used had a Wilson logo, and a long, crooked needle. The other gauge he had with him did not have a logo, and had a shorter,straighter needle.

-At halftime, those two gauges were each used to measure the air pressure in the Patriots' footballs. Each ball was measured by both gauges.

-The gauge with the Wilson logo consistently gave higher measurements than the non-logo gauge (0.3-0.45 psi higher). According to the Wilson gauge, 8 of the 11 Patriots' footballs tested had pressures consistent with the Ideal Gas Law (at least 11.32 psi) we've heard so much about, meaning they could have started the game at 12.5, and the decrease in pressure at halftime was due to the laws pf physics, not some dude in a bathroom.

In conclusion, Anderson says he used the Wilson gauge pre-game to measure the footballs, ensuring each was at 12.5 psi or more. At halftime, in 8 of 11 balls, that same gauge showed a loss in pressure consistent with what the Ideal Gas Law would allow for had the balls been at 12.5 psi at kickoff.

In other words, the circumstances around the circumstantial evidence that the Wells Report relies on, don't support the conclusions that the report reaches. Anderson, who is paid by the NFL to do things like test the air pressure of footballs, says he believes he used a pressure gauge with a Wilson logo, and a long, crooked needle. He wasn't certain, but he believes that was the gauge he used.

However, according to Ted Wells, who wasn't in the officials' locker room testing footballs, who wasn't paid by the NFL to do things like test footballs, concludes that Anderson is "more likely than not," wrong about which gauge he used.

Isn't that odd?

It takes Wells 60 pages to explain why he believes Anderson "probably" didn't use the gauge he remembers using. The circular logic behind the explanation is that Exponent did experiments trying to figure out why the Patriots' balls deflated so much more than the Colt's balls did from pre-game to halftime.

However, the amount of deflation from pre-game to halftime is based on Anderson's recollection of what the approximate air pressures were pre-game. Anderson remembers the Colts' footballs being in the neighborhood of 13.0 psi. That's his memory of a dozen footballs. And that's the basis for the Exponent experiments' determination of how much pressure the Colts' footballs lost (even though only 4 balls were tested).

In other words, the Wells Report says Anderson's memory is wrong, and the proof of that is an experiment based on something else he remembered.

Does that make sense?

Facts, truth, and logic are the enemies of the monster the DeflateGate story has become. Don't forget, this story all started with a now proven false leak to ESPN about 10 of 12 Patriots footballs being more than 2 psi lower than the legal limit. By the time that was shown to be false, the genie was out of the bottle, and the story had a life of its own.

Did the Wells Report try to find truth, or did it try to find guilt?

Photo Credit:
Getty Images

Thursday, May 07, 2015

DeflateGate report probably made us generally aware of what was already suspected

The DeflateGate investigation is over. Ted Wells has concluded that the Patriots probably broke the rules and intentionally deflated footballs. And that Tom Brady was probably generally aware that this was going on. The report has more "probables" than a weekly NFL injury report.

Could you imagine if the most important lines in literature and cinema were phrased so inconclusively? What if the Gospels meekly proclaimed "And on the third day, Jesus probably rose, and we're generally aware that one day he will come again." What if Shakespeare's Hamlet asked "To probably be, or not to be? I'm generally aware that this is the question." How about classic lines in Star Wars and Terminator 2? "Luke, I'm probably your father." "I'm generally aware that I'll be back."

And aren't Ted Wells' conclusions things that we pretty much knew already? What new information has this investigation uncovered?

Didn't the 2 weeks of non-stop media coverage of DeflateGate take place under the presumption that the Patriots were probably guilty? From the initial leak of the story, to the Colts' suspicions earlier in the season, to the surveillance footage of a ballboy going into a bathroom with the footballs, the general consensus was that the Patriots were PROBABLY guilty. So by including qualifying words like "probably" and "generally aware," Ted Wells' investigation has only put into writing what most people had already assumed months ago: The Patriots are probably guilty, the quarterback was probably generally aware of it.

So what did the investigation unearth? Did it prove that employees deliberately deflated footballs? Did it prove that Tom Brady instructed them to do so? The report's conclusion only argues that Brady was "generally aware" that this was probably happening. What does that mean exactly?

I don't know why Patriots haters are thumping their chests about such an inconclusive conclusion. The haters long ago concluded that the Patriots were guilty. Most of them also thought it was a Belichick initiated conspiracy, and this report actually exonerates Belichick (in stronger language than it indicts Brady, weirdly). This report gives the haters a pile of inconclusive paper to use as ammunition in their never-ending and futile war against the Patriots. And I'm glad for that. The haters make winning fun.

I also don't know why Patriots fans can't face the fact that there's more than a little smoke here. Although speaking of smoke, the scientific evidence in the Wells report comes from a company that once claimed second hand smoke didn't cause cancer. I'm not sure how reputable their science is. I also don't know why Patriots fans should care.

As a football fan I've seen players busted for PEDs, I've seen teams violate the salary cap, I've seen players paid under the table, I've seen players tampered with, I've seen teams pipe noise into stadiums, I've seen falsified injury reports, I once saw a trainer trip an opponent, I once saw a head coach obstruct a kick return. I'm not morally justifying cheating, just pointing out that if non-Patriots fans thinks the Patriots are the only rule violators in the League, they need to grow up. And if Patriots fans think their team has any moral superiority to others, they too need to grow up.

Friday, May 01, 2015

NFL Draft: Patriots surprise everyone by being completely unsurprising

The Patriots were on the clock, Malcolm Brown was probably the best player still on the board, and the Pats have a need on the defensive line. Under those circumstances, you'd expect Bill Belichick to do the unexpected and trade out of the first round. Instead, the Patriots made the obvious pick.

I'm satisfied with getting this player at pick #32. Brown won't be as good as Wilfork was in his prime. But for the next 4-6 years, Brown will be better than what Wilfork would have been here.

I could regurgitate all the draft analysis crap about how thick Brown is, how well his hips move, what kind of motor he has. I hate that cliched crap. What I will say is that at 32, this is the type of player you expect to draft. Maybe slightly better than expectations. You won't get an exciting playmaker at 32 unless he has an injury and/or criminal record. The last two times the Patriots picked at 32, they selected Logan Mankins in 2005 and Benjamin Watson in 2004. Matt Elam, David Wilson, Teddy Bridgewater. Those are other recent 32nd picks.

To sum up this pick in a word, it's "fine." This was a fine pick. I am fine with this pick. I think Malcolm Brown will be a fine player who will have a fine career. This pick is the equivalent of moving the ball 4 yards on 2nd and 10. It's good, it helps your cause, but by itself it doesn't mean a lot.

And again, that's what to expect when you're picking last.

I'm glad that the Patriots didn't trade up, because all the experts who have been watching college players' hips for the past 3 months pretty much agreed that this wasn't a talent rich draft. I'm also glad the Pats didn't move down, because those hip-obsessed experts also say that Brown is a good player, so I'm glad the Patriots took advantage of the opportunity to pick him.

Two closing thoughts:

Brown is listed as 13 pounds lighter than Wilfork, and there's no way in hell that's true. Brown is a big guy, but Wilfork has at least 50 pounds on him. So Brown better start gorging on pizza sheets and turkeys from Big Y.

Finally, how awesome is it to have the 32nd pick again? It's just a fantastically awesome number, isn't it?

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Thursday, April 23, 2015

BREAKING NEWS: TOM BRADY SKIPS WHITE HOUSE VISIT!!!

Tom Brady isn't going to visit the White House with the Patriots today. It's unbelievable, unfathomable, unconscionable, unconsiderable. I'm not sure if that last one is a word, but I'm practically hyperventilating over how serious and earth-shattering this story is, so I don't have time to check.

And much like some media and fans reacting to this story, I also don't have any time to think.

Reports on this report reportedly report that Brady isn't going to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue because of a "prior family commitment." I'm not actually quoting anybody, certainly not Brady or anyone from the Patriots. But by putting quotes around those words, I can make it seem like it came directly from a reputable source.

If Tom Brady is missing this most important of off-season activities for a legitimate family reason, then fine. But if it's just to spend time with his kids, then it's way, WAY out of line. Visiting the President for a token photo op is much more important than trivial things like time with your kids. This is America! Our glorious and revered leaders are of higher importance than our families! That's what America was built on.

But if Brady is lying (even though it's a source saying this, and not Brady), and this was politically motivated, then God have mercy on his soul. And his legacy.

As 98.5 The Sports Hub's Jim Murray very correctly stated about this story: "If you don't go to the White House for political reasons, you're a bad teammate." (that's an actual quote, not a made up one like earlier)

And that's so very very true. After winning his fourth Super Bowl and third Super Bowl MVP, we were all considering Tom Brady to be one of the greatest of all time, if not THE greatest. However, this newly revealed bad teammate aspect of Brady has tarnished that legacy. Super Bowl wins aside, how can you be the greatest of all time if you aren't a good teammate? It's not possible.

What makes this the act of a bad teammate is that it will create a media firestorm, which will possibly be a distraction. And the Patriots have little to no experience dealing with media distractions. Apart from DeflateGate, SpyGate, Tim Tebow, and Aaron Hernandez.

It's completely Brady's fault if the media makes a huge deal over this. It's Brady's responsibility, as a teammate, to predict what the media will overblow as a story. It's also Brady's responsibility to not do what he feels is right. No, a good teammate and a good leader caves in to peer pressure, and goes against his own principles in order to appease and conform to the masses. That's what leadership is all about.

The important thing to remember is that Tom Brady's motivations behind skipping - I could be more accurate and say "not going," but "skipping" makes it sound like he's doing something wrong, and it's more important to use provocative language to enhance a story than it is to be truthful - anyway, his motivation for blowing off this White House visit is more indicative of him as a teammate than anything he's ever done on a football field.

Such a shame. I used to really like Brady. But now... I don't know.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Patriots to begin 2015 season with win over Steelers

The Patriots will host the Steelers to begin the 2015 NFL schedule on September 10th, a Thursday night, according to "leaks."

This is great. The Patriots are essentially 1-0 with this leaked announcement. The win is already in the bag, it's just a question of score. And the weather forecast will have more impact on that than anything the Steelers will try to do.

Although, without Troy Polamalu to toy with and trick, it might be slightly tougher for Brady against the Steelers defense.

Yes, I'm being cocky. Because the Patriots won the Super Bowl a few months ago. And I feel that with 4 Super Bowl rings, it's time for me to shed my "let's wait and see" approach to my Patriots fandom, and just go full out cocky prick. The Patriots are better than the Steelers. Belichick is ten times better than Tomlin, Brady is far superior to Roethlisberger, Gronk is better than any pass-catcher on the Steelers.

Furthermore, the Patriots just don't lose at Gillette Stadium. It's a rarity. It's like seeing Bigfoot humping the Loch Ness Monster.

One fun fact about this game is that both LeGarrette Blount and Le'Veon Bell will be serving suspensions for drugs. So I wonder if they'll watch the game together somewhere in the area, then after that spend a few hours at the Taco Bell in Walpole.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

What the Celtics can win in this series

The Celtics have essentially no chance to beat the Cavs in a 7-game series. Even winning a single game seems far-fetched. But there are some things the Celtics have a good chance to win in this series: the experience, an increase in the trade-value of current players, the solidifying of Brad Stevens' reputation as a quality coach, and an increase of the team's appeal to top talent in the league.

Playoff experience is priceless. And while the C's aren't contending for the 2015 NBA Championship, the postseason experience some of these players get in the next few weeks could help them in future playoff runs. If the Celtics can play just one reasonably close game in this series, it will be a fantastic learning experience.

Isaiah Thomas has no playoff experience, neither does Tyler Zeller, Marcus Smart (obviously), or Kelly Olynyk (happy birthday to him, by the way). Getting a playoff series under their belts can only help them improve. Think about it, when has playoff experience ever made any player in any sport worse? Has anyone ever said "Oh, Player X was an okay player, until he played that series against Milwaukee. Ever since he got that playoff experience, he just hasn't been the same."

This series can also increase the trade-value of some of these players. If Isaiah Thomas averages 20+ points, if Tyler Zeller gets a double-double, if anyone makes a big game-winning shot, they could become more valuable in a future trade. Players with good postseason performances on their resume often command a higher price on the market.

Brad Stevens makes his players better. That's a scientific hypothesis that's been repeatedly tested this season, and continually reaffirmed. If Stevens can coach his ragtag bunch of misfits to a win or two, or just a few close games, then his reputation as a great coach will grow stronger. Players want to play for a coach who puts them in position to play better. And that also puts the player in position to get paid better.

That's one way the Celtics can increase their appeal to the league's top talent. Right now, the Celtics aren't a big draw for prime time players. But being a playoff team makes them more appealing than a lottery team. And being a playoff team that has proven postseason performers and a coach who makes players better, is even more appealing.

And as that appeal draws good-but-not-great players, the team becomes an even more appealing destination. Then eventually maybe you land the big star that puts you back into championship contention.

So this series won't end with the Celtics winning. But it might be the start of the Celtics' winning.