My 12-year-old boy sense of humor was as deflated as a Patriots football today when I started searching for terms that I was sure would lead to inappropriate results. Alas, my puerile efforts were thwarted at every turn. Word after term after phrase came back to the same thing. The NFL dealing with the Patriots under-inflated balls (see what I did there?). I figured I’d delve into that subject as it seems to be coming to a head.
The NFL rule book has a section which gives a blow-by-blow account of the standards their balls have to meet. The general make up is of a pebble-grained, leather-enclosed urethane bladder inflated to 12 1/2 to 13 1/2 psi. It details length, circumference, shape (prolate spheroid), weight and color. It also specifies that The Referee has the honor of being the sole judge of the suitability for all balls offered, and uses the pump provided by the home team if the balls need additional inflating. The Referee also gets to mark The Kicker’s balls. Prior to the start of the game, after much measuring, pumping, marking and handling, the balls get a clean bill of health. The Referee then delivers his balls to The Ball Attendant for safekeeping during the game.
Here’s where it gets more complex. During the game, the balls are handled by many people. The Ball Attendant doles them out to The Ball Boys. The Ball Boys hand them off to The Referee, who then hands them off to another Referee with each play. The Center holds the ball, then tosses it to The Quarterback. The Quarterback’s job is to get those balls in as many teammates hands as possible. Fortunately, The Teammates catch the flying balls, and do their best to cradle and protect them so The Opposition can’t get their hands on them. A fumble can get very ugly for The Ball, as it is grabbed and pounced upon by anyone who is close enough. At the end of the play, balls are tossed to The Referee who then makes sure they’re properly placed for the next play. The Kicker has his own special balls – those don’t get handled as much as the other balls, however they do tend to take more of a beating due to the swift, hard kicks they are punished with. Once they’re kicked, however, they are tossed to The Ball Boy who takes them off the field to recover.
Though the balls are supplied by The Home Team (36 or so), The Visitors, at their discretion, can bring their own balls (12) if the game will be held in an outdoor stadium. These provide additional backup if too many balls become wet, slippery, or muddy due to weather. The Visitor’s balls are also tested by The Referee prior to the game.
So what’s all the hubbub about? It seems that deflated balls can be an advantage. ‘DeflateGate’ has made a wealth of information available to The Masses regarding the condition of the balls and their impact on the game. Who knew that having flatter balls could be an advantage? Apparently they’re easier to grip during inclement weather which allows them to be thrown harder and further. Sometimes, The Quarterback gets lucky, because due to scienc-y stuff, the balls deflate naturally during cold weather. Often, The Quarterback will work to rough up and scuff the surface of their balls as much as possible to improve handling. One Quarterback, during this whole ‘Ballghazi’ debacle, felt it was an appropriate time to shed his heavy load by confessing he paid someone to scuff/deflate his balls for The Super Bowl (which his team went on to win).
The moral of the story:
If you don’t let someone know IMMEDIATELY when you get your hands on balls that don’t feel right, you’ll probably spend Super Bowl Sunday on your couch, in front of the TV, watching guys play with someone else’s balls!!!