Soft Balls

by James Ray Deaton5/9/15

At what point does micro-regulation become micro-aggression? Quarterback Tom Brady and the New England Patriots are caught up in the “Deflategate” controversy because their game footballs were apparently under-inflated. (If only a few over-inflated politicians could be so scrutinized!) The National Football League rulebook says footballs need to be inflated to “12.5 to 13.5 PSI (pounds per square inch) of internal pressure.”

As an occasional watcher of football and a big eater of beans and broccoli I know quite a bit about internal pressure, but even I had never heard this inflation rule. In fact I had never considered that such micro-regulation existed or was needed. Is this level of rule and regulation actually needed in a ballgame? Really? I still marvel at how great-great granddad was able to function in a world without some regulator or bureaucrat dictating his every move.

Is it really sporting to have to know about and follow such arcane and minute mandates? What would happen if the football contained only 12.3 PSI? What if the PSI incredibly shot up to a full (gasp!) 13.8 PSI? And what else is regulated in the NFL?

Is there a rule about the number of cleats the players shoes can have? Is the cleat pattern prescribed? Are offensive players and defensive players required to have different cleat widths? Are the lengths of black smudges under a player’s eyes regulated? Is football helmet shininess regulated? Could over-shiny headgear cause glare on the opponents defensive line thus giving unfair advantage? Then there’s the whole “length and thickness of shoelaces” thing that my attorney has instructed me not to discuss at this time.

NFL football air pressure essentially seems to be an unnecessary and self-limiting issue. Under inflation or over inflation could be an advantage or disadvantage depending on who is throwing, catching, kicking, centering and handling the football.

Maybe we could just kind of “let the market decide.” An under-inflated ball may be easier to grasp but harder to accurately throw. An over-inflated ball may be harder to catch. If players on a team want a “harder” of “softer” ball let them have it. If you go too far either direction the “hardness” or “softness” will become its own detriment and take care of itself. No picayune regulation necessary.

And as always with regulation, there are wheels within wheels. When football pressure is tested, who regulates the regulators? Are the air pressure gauges used to check NFL footballs in working order and accurate? Who checks this? Do the state departments of weights and measures check the individual pressure gages and how often? Should this gauge checking be nationalized? Can we trust the NFL to do it without government oversight? You can never be too careful. Especially when you playing a ballgame.


James Ray Deaton tries to maintain a low pressure lifestyle in Berkeley, Calif.
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8 Responses to Soft Balls

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    All sports have specific requirements for legal equipment. Of course, they also check this themselves. The handling of footballs is very weird, as if designed to allow teams to cheat. Big surprise, some of them do.

  2. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I’m not sure when gamesmanship crosses over to cheating. But I would have thought that the referees — as the umps are in baseball, even to the point of rubbing that special New Jersey mud on the balls before the game (if that still occurs) — were in charge of the footballs.

    And if something was amiss, wouldn’t an experienced quarterback notice the difference if the difference was worth noticing? I guess I just have a hard time getting all hot and bothered over this. I have no problem with the idea of rules. Sports couldn’t exist without them. And at least in MLB, there are some rules that make sure the home team can’t take gamesmanship to the point of cheating. For instance, in Safeco Field in Seattle, you can’t retract or open the roof between innings. Makes sense. But if that rule was not there, might not the home team let it rain on the visitor in the top of the fifth and then close it for their half of the inning?

    There are, I believe, other MLB rules that have evolved from gamesmanship crossing over to cheating. I believe at least some of them have dealt with the dishonest means that some teams have used to steal signals from other teams and to announce them. If memory serves, there was at least one team that had someone behind the old mechanical scoreboard out in left field who, using binoculars, was stealing the signals of the catcher in regards to what pitch was coming, and then would light a certain light on the scoreboard.

    As a history, baseball is made richer because of the conglomeration of such lore. But at the time, such things do cross over to what you could call cheating. And if some team is screwing with the footballs, it may be time to put the referees in charge of them. A conservative is not anti-regulation. He’s anti-regulation when such regulation is useless, overly pedantic, or whose purpose is other than that which is stated. The Left is filled with ulterior motives regarding their regulations. Theirs is an inherently dishonest creed and the thing is rarely the thing.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      With all the hubbub over the deflated footballs, people fail to notice that the Patriots did most of their scoring in the second half — when the footballs being used were properly inflated.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        A few years back someone accused Ray Guy (that super-punter of the Raiders) of putting helium in the football. I’m not even sure that would have been illegal. But the reason Ray Guy could punt it so far is because he could punt it so far. The reason the Patriots won their games is that they were the better team. Bad or marginal calls by officials dwarf any effect of over- or under-inflated footballs, particularly if an experienced quarterback and center cannot tell the difference.

  3. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    The most disturbing thing about this whole story is the amount of time given to it in the media. Frankly, I am amazed and bothered by the thought and energy given to “sports” in general. Fools can give you the stats on a quarterback’s performance, but don’t even know the there are 10 amendments in the “Bill of Rights”.

    I guess this dumbing down of the population is inevitable with the 27/7 nature of the media. Time slots have to be filled and most of the content will, logically, be rubbish. To paraphrase what someone said in the 1950’s or 1960’s, “if Shakespeare had to write for TV today, he would also produce a lot of filler.” Things have only gotten worse. And the public has become more dependent or “addicted” to content which requires little attention and less thought.

    As to the writer’s comments about regulations in sports, well… I don’t think they hold air.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Frankly, I am amazed and bothered by the thought and energy given to “sports” in general.

      I couldn’t agree more, Mr. Kung. And far be it for me to tell other people where their time and attention should be focused. But if you could peer into Seahawkland, you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting some version of a “12th Man” sign or flag.

      To my mind, this stuff has been raised to a secular religion. I expect it won’t be long until, before carving the turkey, there will be someone giving a “And may the home team win their game” prayer before the Thanksgiving feast.

      From my perspective, I see a nation whose spirit, purpose, and honor has diminished. It raises trivialities into national pastimes. And it obsesses over the must superficial and mundane things.

    • Rosalys says:

      I too am amazed at this stupid news story that just won’t go away. I have to ask myself, “What truly important story out there do they NOT want to tell about, that they have to waste so much time on ridiculous crap like this?” Over the last few days I’ve noticed news stories being shown that were on the day before, with the same footage, and same commentary. One they had the nerve to present as “Breaking News!” No it wasn’t! It was the exact same thing they showed last night! Has anyone else noticed this? Or am I living in my own little time warp world of deja vous?

  4. Susan says:

    Had never thought of it that way loved your article.
    Luv You,
    Big, Little Sis

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