February 9, 2015

Coach Belichick- An Explanation of Football Deflation and Determining BAC

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On January 22, 2015, Bill Belichick gave a very extensive explanation as to how he figured out why the New England Patriots had nothing to do with 11 out of the 12 game balls found to be 1.5 to 2.0 psi (pounds per square inch) below the league regulations of 12.5- 13.5 psi.  While watching the press conference, if one replaced psi with BAC (blood alcohol content), he could have been describing how hard it is to measure and predict BAC.  Taking no side as to what happened or who may be to blame, we will take a look at some of the scientific arguments Coach Belichick used to argue that he had "no idea what happened."

Coach Belichick's general explanation is that the conditioning of the footballs, the rubbing process to get the correct texture of the ball, is what primarily lead to an artificial raising of the psi within the ball.  He used the explanation of turning on your car on a winter morning, and seeing the "low tire pressure" light on. Then, after driving a couple miles, the tires warm up and the light goes off.  So just like the tires warm up, the footballs warm and the psi in the ball is increased.

This is similar to the conditions that an individual may face when drinking.  Now, I'm not talking about a low level equipment manager rubbing your belly until you warm up.  But other conditions that go into an individuals state before drinking- food, other drinks, and metabolism.  For instance, eating a giant plate of mom's linguini and clam sauce before drinking will have a different effect than eating a fruit cup.  Similarly, an aerobic athlete, for instance a long distance runner, will process alcohol differently that a 350 lb. financial adviser whose only exercise is getting up to get another package of Girl Scout cookies.

Second, Coach Belichick said that, "the balls are different- they are not manmade."  He then corrected himself- the balls are made of natural leather, even if put together by men.  They are also comprised of seams, laces, and the air hole- all of which are variables which can affect a ball's psi.  Similarly, a human has variables- such as nationality (genetics), weight, gender, and other individual characteristics (body fat percentage, metabolism again) that can affect a person's BAC.  No two humans are alike- even less so than footballs- so it is difficult to determine how they will process alcohol.

Third, Coach Belichick discussed the measurement device- the air gauges.  In order to accurately measure the balls, the gauges need to be accurate.  Before pointing horseshoes at the Patriots, the air gauges better be accurate.  Similarly, whether testing someone's BAC with breath machines, blood machines, or handheld PAS devices, the measuring device better be accurate- or calibrated.  We must watch the watchers.

Fourth, when handling the footballs, no one in the Patriot's locker room- particularly the quarterbacks- could determine one psi difference.  So if Tom Brady was handling a 12.5 psi football, he couldn't identify it from a 11.5 psi football.  This, again, is similar to law enforcement officers that say they are experts at identifying people under the influence.  However, could they tell the difference between someone just above, or just below, .08% BAC?  The answer is most likely not, and studies reflect that answer.


Coach Belicheck and the Patriots won a very entertaining and competitive Super Bowl against the Seattle Seahawks.  Deflategate is still outstanding, and the NFL will have a very difficult time proving that someone on the Patriot's team- player or equipment manager- is responsible for the missing 1.5 - 2.0 psi per ball.  Always intelligent, even if controversial, Coach Belichick touched on a number of arguments that can apply to measuring BAC in the human body.  Whether suffering in anguish over a 2nd and goal play call, or celebrating Tom Brady's 4th quarter 14 points, I offer free consultations to discuss the scientific difficulty of any measurements that may affect you.


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The acronyms DUI, DWI, OMVI and OVI all refer to the same thing: operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The most commonly used terms are DUI, an acronym for Driving Under the Influence, and DWI, an acronym for Driving While Impaired.
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