Friday, February 3, 2017

Donald Dope Wrong On "Deflategate" Too- He Needs To Apologize To Goodell

Robert Calguiri, the Exponent engineer who knew its report had to be bulletproof if it concluded that deflategate was a real effect

The news yesterday that the orange-haired bombastic baboon reamed out the NFL's Roger Goodell should come as no surprise given in the past few days he also blew up at Australian P.M. Malcolm Turnbull and Mexico's President . In the last case,  actually threatening to send troops into Mexico. Where the hell is he going to get all these troops since he also wants to dispatch 50,000 to Chicago?

In the case of Trump, while playing public PR kissy face and Bro-love with Tom Brady and Bellichick ("I love you you're the greatest!"), he yapped that Goodell was "a dope, a stupid guy" for coming down on the side of a genuine deflategate scandal.  As it turns out, the orange baboon in office was wrong and Goodell was correct. But how many have paid attention?

Back in May, 2015 I posted on the case just after the release of the Ted Wells report, noting that ESPN's Keith Olbermann didn't hold back while airing his grievances against Tom Brady saying the Super Bowl-winning quarterback should be suspended a year for his role in Deflategate and his mishandling of the scandal. In other words, having read the Wells report, Olbermann took it seriously. He said at the time, in his commentary during his ESPN2 program:

"They need to suspend Tom Brady for a year -- one day for the inflation, 364 days for everything else,"

"Everything else" would encompass Brady's refusal to turn over emails, text messages, as well as his flippant takes including before (media day)  and after the SuperBowl.  Olbermann earlier zeroed in on the "innocent until proven guilty" defense of Brady's father:

"In a courtroom you're innocent until proven guilty. Everywhere else, like in a private company like the National Football League, or even in a government, 'probable' is plenty. Ask Richard Nixon. Ask Dan Rather. Ask Pete Rose."

At the time I first posted about it, "Deflategate"  was a white-hot controversy in the spring of 2015, with most of the heat radiating from New England's arrogant groupies and fanboys, like solar flares from the Sun. Everyone was an expert, it seemed, willing to explain why the game balls used exclusively by the Patriots were so far below 12.5 pounds per square inch, the N.F.L.’s lowest allowable limit, and whether that even mattered.  Hell, Patsy fans even trotted out alleged kid geniuses and MIT professors to try to disprove it.

The ensuing furor swept a nation into debates over science (the Ideal Gas Law) and culture (cheating in sports), from the predictable (Can the N.F.L. be trusted? Can the Patriots?) to the less so (What is the effect of vigorous rubbing on a football?). Arguments were clouded by allegiances and conspiracy theories, reports and rumors.

But while many focused on the Wells report per se, and the first half -  filled with circumstantial evidence of foul play - few people examined the second part. No surprise the whole thing became like a Rorschach blot that evolved to whatever anyone wanted to see. And why not, what with the conflicting pressure gauges. Add in the famous athlete linked to shadowy ball boys and  bungling investigators (game officials) and an unexplained bathroom stop, and there was plenty room for skepticism.

This was then played on, even as it has been made light of recently, e.g. in a recent issue of  SI "Deflategate, whatever that is".  Thus  echoing the jaundiced take of  Boston Globe sports writers, who yapped two years ago: "Most of us think this is the greatest story about nothing ever."
But it was the second part of the Wells report that contained the real smoking gun and alas, did not receive the full brunt of attention initially. After all it was a wonky scientific document filled with equations, tables and graphs, linked by explanations of experimental methods and laws of physics. More or less like a solar physics paper, but much longer than most at 68 pages, plus a six-page executive summary (at the beginning) and a nine-page appendix at the end.

The title pages affirmed that it was “prepared by” a company called Exponent, of Menlo Park, California, and John Pye was one of four primary scientists  and engineers leading Exponent’s investigation and  “identified no set of credible environmental or physical factors that completely accounts for the additional loss in air pressure.”

It did not say that someone deliberately removed air from the footballs, but it might as well have.  In terms of scientific objective parlance - typically used in peer reviewed papers - no external factors could have accounted for the loss in air pressure. In other words, the changes effected were from internal agents. Doh!

Did Trump, before flapping his big gums (like he did at Arnold Schwarzenegger at the prayer breakfast) read it? I seriously doubt it given Trump reads nothing more advanced than old 'Archie' comics and his own tweets.

But alas, some malcontents - mainly Patsy hangers-on - did read it. with most of the attacks coming from swarms of Patriots fans, which was to be expected. More surprising, at least to Exponent, the work was pulled apart by other scientists. Several went public with their critiques, all of which were flawed because they ignored using the same methods, techniques as the Exponent team..

But this sort of thing ought not be surprising. Recall that after a team of MIT acoustics experts found evidence for a grassy knoll shot in the JFK assassination, a subsequent team (of Norman Ramsey) was appointed by the National Academy Of Sciences to try to shoot it down. They failed. First, because the Ramsey bunch were not acoustic specialists like the MIT team, and second, their results - such as they were- could not be confirmed. Author David Scheim, MIT mathematician, offered this comment on the NAS analysis of Ramsey et al:

While the panel offered some valid criticisms of the methodology used in the House acoustical studies, it introduced complex and controversial assumptions and made several errors of its own. In a letter of February 18, 1983, Dr. Barger noted enigmatic features in a recording upon which the National Academy of Sciences panel relied and pointed out it 'did not examine the several items of evidence that corroborated our original findings'. Barger stood by the acoustical determination of a grassy knoll shot as accepted by the House Select Committee on Assassinations.

It was that finding, by the way, which led to the HSCA's conclusion for "probable conspiracy".  Never mind, pro-Warrenites dug in, prepared to fight the last battle. They
went to unusual lengths to try to support Ramsey's specious results, e.g.

But to no avail. Most sensible people, including physicists, could see right through them.

Fast forward now to the controversy over deflategate. In the same vein as Norman Ramsey we saw that an M.I.T. engineering professor’s lecture on the matter drew tens of thousands of viewers on YouTube to try to rebut the Wells Report conclusion. Then a 16-page rebuttal to the Exponent report by the American Enterprise Institute was given instant and wide credibility. (“It is therefore unlikely that the Patriots deflated the footballs,” it concluded.) One of the naysaying "scientists" who received national attention was a Sacramento fourth grader.

Like the Operation Mockingbird moles that burrowed into the media to try to prop up the Ramsey report for the Warrenites,  some journalists quickly discredited Exponent entirely, with one columnist calling Exponent “a consulting firm with dubious bona fides” and “a hired gun.” Some suggested the data was made up, a case of “falsifying results” to give the N.F.L. what it wanted, and argued that science “meant nothing in this case.”

Exponent heard and read it all and said nothing, maintaining what it calls “professional silence” until the entire matter was resolved. That took more than a year of hearings and appeals and talk of Brady taking the case to the United States Supreme Court.  Now that Brady accepted his punishment - but yearns for rubbing Goodell's face in it with a SuperBowl LI victory, the whole case is almost at an end Except for the fact the NFL and Goodell were correct all along - just like the Barger acoustic team was for the HSAC report.

As per a NY Times report from Sept. 21 last year, it turned out Exponent - though made to be the "devil" by irate Patsy fans-  was right all along.  Gabriel Ganot, one of the four Exponent executives to lead the Deflategate investigation, said:

When we released the report, I stood behind it 100 percent. Having heard whatever everybody has said, and having reviewed the thoughts of the critics, I still stand behind it 100 percent.”

And why not? The coup de grace was administered by the thorough work of John Pye who was recruited  by Robert Caligiuri, 65, a principal engineer who has worked at Exponent for nearly 30 years. (At the time, Pye was working on a project for Britain’s Ministry of Defense, designing robot-driven Land Rovers fitted with ground-penetrating radar systems to detect improvised explosive devices in the Middle East.  This according to the Times account)
Caligiuri passed along the following numerical basics to Pye:

-The Patriots’ footballs were thought to be pumped up to about 12.5 p.s.i. before the game,

- Colts’ balls  were at 13 p.s.i.

-  The halftime readings were significantly lower and varied.

- The outside  temperature was 48 degrees.

- At halftime the balls were tested at room temperature:

- 11 Patriots balls  were tested but only four Colts balls, because officials ran out of time.

-The referee had two gauges, and one was way off.

By the time he accessed this set of data, Pye had already started plugging numbers into the Ideal Gas Law: PV = nRT.

Given that pressure decreases with temperature, the balls would undergo some deflation by halftime and  Pye understood this.  The key at this point was to establish whether any differences were significant or not. This automatically meant someone skilled in scientific statistics had to be recruited to provide the needed analysis.  For comparison and reference, the use of statistics in solar flare studies can be gleaned from this paper:

To achieve a similar level of statistical analysis for the deflategate project Caligiuri enlisted Duane Steffey, 55, a principal scientist for Exponent with a Ph.D. in statistics and added him to the team.

Steffey's job began by asking: “Is there a real difference here?”  That is, between balls that would naturally undergo deflation by halftime. and aberrant balls.   If no significant difference emerged, then yes, it was all a  storm in a teacup and Brady could relax.  Within a day or two, Steffey's analysis showed it clearly: The numbers were statistically significant. They could not be fully explained within accepted error margins.

But by then, according to the Times account "the public was already debating the effect of that night’s rain, whether balls lost air when they were used, and the fact that the Patriots were on offense more in the first half. New England Coach Bill Belichick held a news conference to suggest that the “rubbing process” might explain everything.
We knew this was going to get a lot of scrutiny, from your eighth-grade science classes to your physics professors. So we wanted to try to answer all those questions.”

He added, in response to the factors covered (ibid.):

Everything we can think of: Whether it’s human related, environment related, physics related, materials related, including the football and the gauge itself. We tackled the measurements, we tackled the environment, we tackled the inflation side. And we wrote this all down, kind of group them, think of ways we could refine this model. And then I got back on the phone to Bob. He’s back to Menlo Park at this point, and I said, ‘Bob, we’ve got a plan.’”

The Times reported the visit of Exponent's Ganot to Gillette Stadium "to examine the scene of the alleged football crime" but in fact he needed to gain a first hand assessment of the conditions, the layout. Hence. he had to understand the space between the field and the officials’ locker room (since temperature transitions were an important part of the experiments). He also had to examine the room’s heating and cooling system, the reliability of its thermostat, the consistency of the room conditions. (Pye  also wanted something that could get wet so that when the balls hit the ground, they would pick up moisture, just as they did on that cold, wet night in Massachusetts.)

The experiments began with the two gauges used by the referee Walt Anderson — one called the “logo” gauge, with a Wilson logo on it, the other the “non-logo” gauge. One gave relatively accurate pressure readings, while the other read significantly higher, adding to the cloud of confusion over Deflategate.

Pye’s nine-member team analyzed the gauges and compared them to 50 others of the same model. They tested the potential effects of temperature, various ball pressures and battery life. Did it matter that one had a longer needle? (No.) Did it matter who used them? (No.) Analysis of the gauges consumed 18 pages of the report. Among its conclusions was that the gauges used were different, but consistently different.

About half of the report was devoted to “physical, usage, and environmental effects.” Did the balls lose air when used in the game? (According to automated squeezing tests with 650 pounds of force administered 1,000 times, no.) Does vigorous rubbing matter? (Yes, but the effect wears off in 30 minutes, long before the officials would have tested the air pressure before the game.)
As part of those experiments, Pye set up a television replaying the game in real time. Exponent employees imitated what they watched — throwing the balls, falling on them, shuffling them out of play, wiping them with towels, spraying them with water to simulate rain.

The trickiest part of the investigation, and where there remains the most debate, was over the timing of the measurements taken at halftime. The Ideal Gas Law and Gay-Lussac’s law are among those that explain how much the air pressure inside something like a football decreases with colder temperatures and increases with warmer ones.

The tougher question that confronted the Deflategate investigators was determining how quickly the internal temperature and pressure of the balls would have changed as the environment changed. While officials recorded the order of balls as they were measured during about 13 minutes of halftime — Patriots’ balls first — the exact timing was unclear.

If you waited forever in the locker room before you took the halftime measurements, they should be the same,” Pye said. “The issue was that it was something less than that.”

For weeks, Pye and his team ran tests, ball by ball, gauge by gauge, game simulation after game simulation, trying to account for all the possibilities. In the end, Exponent said that it could not “determine with absolute certainty” whether there had been tampering with New England’s balls. The insinuation was more damning.

We conclude that within the range of game characteristics most likely to have occurred on Game Day, we have identified no set of credible environmental or physical factors that completely accounts for the additional loss in air pressure exhibited by the Patriots game balls as compared to the loss in air pressure exhibited by the Colts game balls,” the report said.

On May 6, 2015, the N.F.L. released what instantly became known as the Wells report, named for the lead lawyer in the investigation, Theodore V. Wells Jr. It concluded that it was “more probable than not” that Patriots employees were deliberately releasing air from footballs and that Brady knew about it.  This was consistent with the Exponent findings, let's be clear and for the reasons I gave at the top.

As The Times account went on (ibid.):

It was prominent news. And as people dug deeper into the report, past the juicy circumstantial evidence, and dipped into the science and data of Exponent’s analysis, the Ideal Gas Law had its talk-radio moment. Professors and other scientists questioned Exponent’s findings. Columnists tore into Exponent’s credentials. The “hired gun” headlines returned. Exponent officials heard it and read it all. They remained silent as their reputation took shot after shot.

Pye put the critics into three categories. One was the unabashed fan who was “going to make the call on feeling over questions of fact.” “That doesn’t bother me at all,” Pye said. “That’s just the world we live in.” Second were the armchair scientists, those who understood enough to raise reasonable questions, usually quickly dismissed. Exponent anticipated them in this case, which is one reason it conducted every experiment it could think of, even if it knew the answers. “We tried to head those people off,” Pye said. Third were Exponent’s peers, the usual audience for Exponent’s work. They are the ones who frustrate Exponent most.
One of the most salient quotes from Pye was the following (ibid.):

The real world is the real world — it’s not a binary thing. Binary is a human invention; the real world has a continuum. So you need to understand where your work fits on that continuum. To those people, we wanted to provide enough data so that they could understand what we did, but also understand the significance of what we did. What I found, in a lot of criticisms, is that subtlety, that significance piece, was missed.”

This is an important insight, and remark. Knowing the real world is a "continuum" not binary. But see, for too many non-scientists and also bombastic buffoons, the real world is seen as binary: good vs. evil, us against them, y'er with us or against us, Muslims vs, the "decent" citizens, and so on. It follows that for a binary thinker, and especially one who's a buffoon, Goodell and the whole Wells report would come across as "stupid".

But what strikes the scientific person is a quote that bears many similarities to the one earlier that David Scheim made about the Ramsey Panel. In this deflategate  case  Robert Caligiuri was more direct than Pye (ibid.):
What disappoints me the most from the scientific community is they said we didn’t do things that we did.  And it’s in the report. I believe in the scientific method. I believe in challenging what people say. That’s all part of the verification and validation process. I have no problem with that. But if you’re going to look at what someone else has put forward as a hypothesis, a theory or experimental verification, you have to understand what they did, and then work from there. And I’m not sure that everybody did that.”

Indeed, and just as the NAS -appointed Ramsey panel didn't follow the methodology of the MIT acoustic team - which reached the conclusion of a grassy knoll shot- so also the Exponent critics diverged from their methods and then used that divergence as a phony basis to criticize Pye et al. But this is not science, it's pseudo-science and should be called out as such.

In the end, those - like myself and Keith Olbermann - who saw deflategate as a real and serious violation, were correct. The critics, similar to those who castigated the MIT acoustics team in the HSCA investigation, were flat wrong.

Brady deserved his 4 game suspension and a lot more, so to many of us he got off relatively unscathed.

Never mind, Brady and his arrogant Patsy bratskies will be looking for "vengeance" at the Super Bowl with a big win, and then making Roger Goodell eat humble pie when they grab the Lombardi trophy.

Most of us hope they don't get it. Not because we are "Patriot haters" but because we don't believe cheaters should be allowed and enabled to exact false retribution. Especially cheaters under the delusion that they never did anything wrong and hence are entitled to see the NFL's top honcho kiss their butts.  This is irrespective of how desperate Trump is to kiss Patsy butts (and have them kiss his), as comedian Bill Maher put it in his New Rules segment on Real Time tonight.
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