by James Ray Deaton 5/9/15
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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