Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Deflategate: A Study In Journalistic Bias

I’m going to talk about Deflategate, but the real topic is journalistic bias. It’s been fascinating to watch the media respond to Deflategate and I think the lessons are easily transferred to the MSM and their relationship to the Democrats.

For those who don’t know, the NFL just sent down a punishment on Tom Brady and the New England Patriots for their role in the secret deflation of footballs below the air psi levels allowed by the rules and for their failure to cooperate with the NFL’s investigation. Let me make some quick points that will be useful as background.
(1) The investigation was conducted independently by an attorney who has worked for the NFL before, but no one objected to his impartiality until after he released his report. All of his findings were supported by written evidence in the form of text messages between Patriot employees and his scientific conclusions were reached with the aid of the head of the Science Department at Princeton.

(2) The reason deflation of balls matters is this: it affects the football itself (the key object in the game) and it provides the Patriots with a competitive advantage. Specifically, it makes it easier to grip the ball in cold weather, which makes it easier to throw and catch. Moreover, as Tom Brady alone was aware of this, only he had the opportunity to become accustomed to such balls, which according to Eli Manning do fly very differently. Hence, his opponent was always using a ball with unfamiliar traits whereas Tom was not. This goes directly to the integrity of the game.

(3) The penalties inflicted upon the Patriots and Brady are extremely light. Yes, light. A four game suspension (what Brady got) is typical for players found to have taken performance enhancing drugs. But players who have been involved in issues more fundamental to the game, such as the Saints’ bounty scandal, have received much longer suspensions, and their investigations haven’t been delayed until after the season... allowing them to play out the year as Tom did. Other coaches, like Sean Payton, have been suspended for as long as a year for failure to control their employees, even though he knew nothing of the violation. Belichick got nothing. The Patriot’s loss of a draft pick also is less than it appears as the pick will be from 2016 for a 2014 violation (picks are generally considered to lose one round in value each year).

(4) It is impossible not to see this as affecting Brady’s legacy. Keep in mind that the Super Bowls Brady won were all won in the last second by field goals, so any advantage would be huge. The first set were won when Brady had the illegal advantage of knowing the defensive signals. The new one was won when he had the advantage of the deflated balls, and even then was only won because of a fluke play by the Seahawks.
Against this backdrop, here is the issue. Almost every single analyst or talking head at ESPN and the NFL network has some close connection to Brady. Most are former teammates. Some are former Patriots executives. The pure journalists almost all come from the Boston papers or Sports Illustrated, which is located in that region. To a one, they have shown amazing bias:

(1) Most will openly begin their discussions by stating some sycophantic love of Brady. They will blather on about how amazing he is, how handsome, how his wife is beautiful, how great he is, etc. They have almost uniformly stated that “the public” views Brady as “the perfect athlete and the perfect man.” They don’t seem to be aware of the fact that the public outside of the Boston area and their newsroom sees him much more negatively. They claim his legacy is that of a squeaky clean athlete, which is not anything the public at large would say about Brady.

(2) In his defense, they have done several entirely intellectually dishonest things:
(A) They have only presented people who think Brady is innocent or doesn’t deserve to be punished. So far, I have only seen two people allowed on these shows who think Brady needed to be punished, and even they have said so grudgingly.

(B) They have misstated the report and the basis for the punishment repeatedly. For example, the report concluded that there was sufficient evidence to find that it is more probable than not that Brady was involved. That’s legal speak for “meets the preponderance of the evidence standard.” But they have argued this is equivocation, which it is not. They have also argued that there is no “smoking gun” because the report never found anyone who specifically admitted that Brady was involved. Yet, it is almost unheard of to find such evidence. Almost all cases are handled on the basis of circumstantial evidence. They have also misstated the basis for the punishment which is the violation AND failure to cooperate. They only stick to the first part of that and they claim they don’t see the proof.

(C) They have openly misstated the report to such a degree that its author took the unusual steps of debunking their reporting today.

(D) They have pretended that they are incapable of seeing any competitive advantage to doing this, even as others have pointed out the numerous advantages, and even as that would make Brady a total fool.

(E) They routinely endorse the conspiracy theory that the league wanted to punish Brady for reasons that make no sense in their assumptions and asides.
The worst of the worst is this dipstick named Mike Florio. He runs a rumor website which NBC bought, and he has been dishonestly defending the Patriots for years. Since this story broke, he’s been on the offensive. In the past several months, he has done each of the following:
(A) Tried to suggest that the mere act of testing the PSI in the balls caused them to become illegal, i.e. the NFL invented the crime.

(B) Made a wrong claim about how far below the legal limit the balls were and then debunked his own claim and used that debunking to attack the report as flawed as if the report relied on his own claim.

(C) Despite writing article after article attacking the report at the edges, he never once wrote an article outlining the actual findings of the report, like the damning text messages.

(D) He did things like claim that Wells’ claim of a lack of cooperation is based on Wells basically harassing the Patriots with “many requests” to interview the same employee, when the reality is that Wells only made two such requests and he said he would work around the employee’s schedule.

(E) He wrote articles saying this could not have led to an advantage and never reported the NFL quarterbacks and scientists who stated to the contrary.

(F) Then he got tricky... realizing perhaps that his case was hopeless, he began to write articles claiming that “everyone” does this. Despite the fact he never could identify a single QB who admitted that, he began using his own report as evidence of “public dissent” with the official report. (Others actually wrote articles saying that Tom should have been allowed to do this because... well, because!)

(G) He tried to deflect attention from Brady by attacking the Colts for reporting the crime... blaming the victim.

(H) He began attacking every other team or player he could find who had broken any rules. Basically, he smeared everyone else. He would also accuse any journalist who discussed Deflategate in anything less than a totally pro-Patriot’s manner of bias.
Today, the grieving process finally took these “unbiased” journalists to the point where they were assuring each other that the Patriots would teach every other team a lesson for doing this to them: “We’ll show you!!”

All of this has been an amazing example of what happens when you are biased and what can happen to a news organization when it collects a critical mass of similarly biased individuals. These Patriots-fanatics/friends-of-Tom-cum-journalists have (1) blinded themselves to the world outside their bubble where Tom is not seen as Godlike or pure... he’s seen as an arrogant cheater, (2) they have excluded those who do not belong to the bubble, (3) they have convinced themselves that there is simply no proof of guilt by demanding that the report achieve an impossible standard (“absolutely certainty”), (4) they are passing around conspiracy theories and attacking the messenger and the victim, (5) they are blind to the horrible PR that the tantrum the Patriots are throwing is doing to their image, indeed, they have embraced it – one even called it “a well needed middle finger to the NFL,” (6) they are dismissing all evidence of which they don’t approve as bias and skewing the rest, and (7) they have chosen to defiantly defend their friend.

This is IDENTICAL to the way the MSM treats the Democrats. Isn’t it interesting that the same MSM is packed with former Democratic operatives and journalists married to current Democrats?

The coverage of Deflategate should be used as a model for studying how the reliability of journalists breaks down when they are biased. Those lessons should be used by conservatives as a means of demanding new rules of ethics from the field of journalism.



Rustbelt said...

No shock here, Andrew.

I kind of got used to this as a producer. Every time a sports scandal broke, I would talk to the talent and the weathermen and we'd practically place bets on how quickly the sports reporters would defend them and how light the punishments would be- the Southern Cal Scandal, the Ben Roethlisberger Scandal, the PSU Scandal (all principals, I should add, were all guilty as hell).

But before I call it a night, I'd like to mention the unique case of the coverage of the Chris Benoit affair. Following the revelation of the horrific murder-suicide committed by wrestler Benoit in 2007, the sports media went on a rampage to prove that the WWE was giving steroids to athletes and that 'roid rage caused Benoit's mental breakdown.
For the record, I'm not going to defend the WWE and Vince McMahon, as they've certainly turned a blind eye to drug use in the past.
However, in this situation, it was eventually revealed that Benoit's breakdown was the result of thousands of unnecessary concussions- and subsequent brain damage- he'd taken during his career. (This was revealed by researchers at West Virginia and Harvard.) Yet, even when the coroner said there were no traces of 'roids in Benoit's system, the morons at ESPN- specifically, Michael Wilbon- insisted, "but there's still a chance!" Uh, no, there wasn't. It was Benoit's poor decisions to disregard safety procedures and his own health during his career in the ring. Those guys just wouldn't give up on their "let's get wrestling!" theme...until... The entire issue vanished later that year when similar brain damage was found in former NFL players. One OTL report on that matter and poof! Don't touch the sacred cows, I suppose.

BTW: Andrew, how can you stand to read that p*****t Florio's BS?

EPorvaznik said...

One B1G to another, Rustbelt, thought I'd do you a solid with this crowbar to get that Buckeyes scandal(s) log from your eye. Oh, some Visine, too, whenever you're ready to review Sandusky's lawyer's appeal from last week, chock-full of damning evidence about the not-so-reliable janitor, Sara Ganim, and much more which ESPN & beyond have preached as gospel to the sheeple.

False narratives, sadly the 21st century media's go-to M.O

AndrewPrice said...

Rustbelt, I remember that. They spent several weeks trying to destroy wrestling at that point. And the narrative was indeed "steroid rage."

This time, the narrative is essentially a defense of the Football Messiah, which is very similar to how the MSM works when someone like Obama is accused of wrongdoing.

I despise Florio. He's a horrible writer, a paranoid peddler of conspiracy theories, a hardcore leftist, an AWFUL lawyer (if he gives legal analysis, it's guaranteed to be wrong), and an all around bad person... he's a shit! I actually exchanged emails with him directly back when his site was smaller about Spygate and you wouldn't believe how nasty the bastard is too.

The only reason I visit there is because his site, sadly, gets all the news. The other NFL sites barely report anything.

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, Once a narrative takes in the media, nothing can shake it... not facts, not events. It becomes "fact" to them.

Anthony said...


In an interview Sandusky admitted showering with boys and touching them inappropriately and was evasive when asked it he was attracted to them. That is troubling (to put it mildly). He claims that the guy who though he saw Sandusky giving a blowjob in a show merely misinterpreted something innocuous (what innocuous act puts a man on his knees in the shower in front of a naked young boy?).

Speaking of interviews, I am mildly curious about whether or not citing media interviews violates someone's right not to incriminate themselves. I always assumed that if you voluntarily confessed something in public it was fair game, but I'm not a lawyer.


A reference by a prosecutor in closing arguments to an interview Sandusky gave to NBC shortly after his arrest violated his right to remain silent, Lindsay wrote.

Critch said...

I despise the use of the suffix "-gate" on the end of words to point out a scandal. It all started in the 70s when a Japanese newspaper, not understanding English very well, used "-gate" on the end of an English language article and for some reason the West picked up on it...it isn't "deflategate", it's called cheating....and considering the amount of money involved it looks like a felony to me. BTW, I can't stand pro-football, so I don't have a dog in this fight.

tryanmax said...

Your comment about a "smoking gun" makes me think of the MSM reaction to the book Clinton Cash. I haven't read the book, nor to I plan to, but it seems to be a hot topic and the book's critics routinely dismiss it has having no smoking gun. Knowing that that is a pretty high standard of evidence, it makes me think the book makes some good points. However, the public hears there's "no smoking gun" and thinks it means no evidence at all.

AndrewPrice said...

Anthony, There are limits to what kinds of statements can be used if you don't testify in a criminal matter (no limits in a civil matter), but the truth is that if you admit the crime or some key element, they can get that admitted.

AndrewPrice said...

Critch, I'm not a fan of it either, but it has sunk in in our culture and it is here to stay. So unless something more snazzy somehow comes along, all scandals will be "gate"ed.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, That's where the hypocrisy comes in. If it's something they don't love, the media will dig and dig and try to find any angle they can spin as evidence of guilt. Take allegations of rape for example. They will look for any tiny grain of sand they can spin into "proof" that the victim's claim is right: "She said they lived in a house and she was right! Ah ha!" They also make excuses like "the allegation is enough to prove that something happened." But when it's someone or something they don't like, then they play the "there's no smoking gun here!" game.

Sometimes, they will also parse the evidence, looking at each piece individually and saying that that piece doesn't prove guilt, so guilt is not proven.

In this instance, you had two guys texting each other back and forth over 200 times. One referred to himself as "the Deflator" and made it clear he was doing this because he had been asked. He never says Brady's name, but the person he refers to is the team's Quarterback and is called "Tom." He even said that basically, if Brady doesn't respect him more, he's going to go the other way and make the ball as heavy as a watermelon. At another point, he says that "he" isn't playing well and wants the ball lighter, but if it gets any lighter it will become a balloon Then there is discussion of Brady giving him autographed gear in exchange.

There is also an interesting phone history in that Brady never called this guy until after the investigation was announced. That same day and the next couple Brady called him five times for over three hours. There are also texts at that point asking if this guy is holding up.

Then you have some evidence they knew it was wrong, like when the guy jokes about not going to ESPN yet with the story of what he's doing, and the fact he stole the footballs from the refs and took them into a mensroom where there are no cameras so he could do this in private.

The MSM types say, "We don't know what he did in that mensroom!" Well, we know what he was doing generally, we know he illegally stole the balls from the care of the refs, and we know the balls were lighter after their trip to the mensroom. Yet, they insist this is "flimsy."

The truth is that this is all very damning circumstantial evidence and it points to a very long-term policy of which Brady was the leader. In fact, Brady would have screamed bloody murder if this guy was doing this on his own, and there would be no reason for him to do it on his own... or for his buddy not to report him for doing it. Also, every QB says they interviewed says that Brady would have known what this guy was doing.

That's all pretty damning. But the biased reporters all dismiss this without ever addressing it and say, "There's no smoking gun. There's nothing definitive here. Wells never found anyone who said, 'Yeah, Tom Brady ordered it.'."

It's the same way Hillary Clinton visits country X. The next day, they contribute a million dollars to Bill. But the MSM goes, "Uh, I don't see any connection here because there's no smoking gun!"

AndrewPrice said...

BTW, the most asinine attack, which they've all taken up now, is that the NFL should have just warned the Patriots not to cheat rather than "trying to catch them." That is such bunk. That's like saying the cops need to give you a warning when they catch you robbing the bank or just about to commit murder.

If you break the rules, you get punished. You don't have a right to demand a do-over.

Critch said...

Liberals couldn't see a smoking gun as far as Hillary is concerned) if you pistol whipped them with it.

Kit said...

Interestingly, at the New Orleans' newspaper, Times-Picayune, at least from what I see, the sports writers are not trying to say the Patriots' penalty was too harsh…

BevfromNYC said...

Andrew - Haven't they already warned the Patriots repeatedly not to cheat? Patriots were ordered to pay $250,000 for spying and videotaping the Giant's defensive signals in 2007. They are KNOWN for their cheating...

BevfromNYC said...

Kit - "Not trying to say the Patriots' penalty was too harsh…"

Interestingly, Harry Reid is. He doesn't understand they are taking this cheating thing much more seriously that the "Redskins" name issue!!!

Well, except that cheating in the game goes to the heart of the actual game. And the name issue actually has nothing to do with the game of football. But then Harry didn't have a problem when he was gaming commissioner in Nevada with a little cheating here and there either.

from the NY Post - “I find it stunning that the National Football League is more concerned about how much air is in a football than with a racist franchise name that denigrates Native Americans,” Reid thundered. “I wish the commissioner would act as swiftly and decisively in changing the name of the DC team as he did about not enough air in a football.”

Oh, yeah, this was from the floor of the Senate too...

Rustbelt said...


Thank you for the concern over my eyes. I assure you they're doing fine.

But if you're going to bring up the recent OSU scandal (if 5 years is still considered recent in these get-it-done-yesterday days), please don't forget to mention that 1) players were caught violating NCAA rules by trading memorabilia for tattoos; 2) that they were caught because the FBI had the parlor in question under surveillance for alleged drug trafficking (players not involved); 3) that a lawyer familiar with the investigation handed the info to then-HC Jim Treesel; 4) that Tressel and then-'OSU Prez Gordon Gee chose not to tell the NCAA because they feared repercussions from the FBI for revealing said investigation; 5) both Tressel and Gee thus knowingly broke NCAA rules; 6) for this, Gee was fired and Tressel was forced to resign; 7) Ohio State- and all the players who had nothing to do with this- had records vacated, was fined, and was handed sanctions, including a bowl ban; 8) that OSU accepted the penalties, served them, and moved on after hiring Meyer.

And while I'm at it, I'll one-up you: let's not forget that former HC Woody Hayes was fired after the 1978 season for punching a Clemson player at the Gator Bowl. (And, yes, he deserved it.) Also, Woody's successor, Earle Bruce was fired after the 1987 season for behaving too much like Woody. In fact, no Ohio State HC has voluntarily left the post since 1946! (Paul Brown) Tough job...

Now, if you're going to engage in Andrew's Point H by liberally claiming that everyone else is scum and a rule-breaker ("so, why should we even care? everyone's a criminal!"), please lay all the chips on the table. Thank you.

Hm, almost forgot. It's my turn in the rotation to polish the 2014 Stagg Trophy tonight.

Rustbelt said...


I share your pain over Florio. Sites like his often are where you get interesting material for talking points, whether true or not. In fact, here's an annoying fact I was made aware of during my time as a producer:
I once asked my executive producer which source was the most reliable. With nervousness (and some embarrassment), in his face, he looked at me and said- wait for it- TMZ.
Yes, that TMZ. He told me that, against all odds, they were always right. Not the AP, not Reuters, not any print magazine. It was TMZ. Truth be told, they DID make a mistake with a report that Maya Angelou died five or so years ago. (A little early.) But other than that, they often bat one-thousand.
And it gets crazier. When the Occupy Wall Street thing was in full gear, guess who did the best reporting on those camps? If you said Howard Stern, you are sadly correct. While everyone else was busy covering the mobs as though they were a call for social justice, Stern sent in his operatives and exposed the filth, thefts, property damage, hypocrisy, and so on.

Is this a sign of the end of Western Civilization? Maybe. For now, I'll just say we live in strange times, indeed.

Kit said...

If TMZ is the best news source then we are screwed.

Rustbelt said...

Kit, that's exactly how I felt. I'd recommend getting a good shovel and starting work on the bunker.

AndrewPrice said...

Critch, They seem incapable of finding a smoking gun against any of their leaders. Basically, they are incapable of being fair arbiters of anything.

AndrewPrice said...

Kit, They aren't part of the insider network. The insider network is the NFL Network, ESPN and the 'big" sports journals/papers (Boston, NYC, Sports Illustrated, and various offshoots of those organizations). They cover local sports and only get onto the big networks if they break a story.

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, Apparently, these people think the Patriots deserve a warning each time they commit a crime. That, of course, means there would never be a violation unless the Patriots just kept doing it after the warning.

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, The far left has been pushing the Redskin issue for about two years now trying to revive the golden age when teams were abandoning any name that the PC crowds deemed offensive.

AndrewPrice said...

Rustbelt, I can't say this for a fact, but I suspect that Florio's information has long come directly from agents. I even think I know which agent first started feeding him. So he has a lot of access to information most news services will never have.... but he warps it and he becomes a mouthpiece for certain people. He also seems very biased against players who don't feed him.

For the same reason, it doesn't surprise me that TMZ is more accurate. They probably have access through gossipers, snarkists, and people who benefit from the release of information, whereas the AP only gets information from contacting representatives... whose job is to minimize and control information.

AndrewPrice said...

Kit, It's just the way of the world. In the past, the Washington Post was smart to provide hotlines for people who wanted to spill the beans and then guaranteed them protection. That gave them information in DC which no one else had.

This is just the same thing. You can go to these kinds of places and spill the beans and they will put it out there for you. Someone like the AP, by comparison, has no way to do the same thing.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Thanks for reporting the truth about the actual evidence, Andrew.
That's damning evidence.
I know many fans say it didn't influence the outcome of the AFC championship, but how many other games did it influence?

Regardless, the rule was violated, there's no doubt about that and there should be a reckoning.
One can argue for a new rule, allowing each QB to control the air pressure in the ball and who knows, maybe that would be interesting, but in the meantime there should be repercussions to anyone who violates it.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

As for Mike Florio, I concur, he's an idiot. Here's a recent headline at his site:
Brady Had Duty To Reasonably Cooperate Whatever That Means.

LOL! Yeah, that's a real tough one to figure out, Mike.

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, Exactly! And the thing about Florio is that he would know exactly what it means and he would be parsing it to make sure the QB is guilty if it was some other QB he didn't like.

On the championship game, two points: (1) whether the cheating worked or not doesn't matter, the misbehavior is the cheating itself (they keep wanting to forget that) and (2) even if they didn't cheat in a particular game, the fact that they may have cheated in a dozen games to get there is just as much a problem. I can guarantee you that everyone would cheat if they were told that they could cheat to get to the Super Bowl but then couldn't cheat in the Super Bowl. You only have to win one game fairly that way... and the Patriots are 1 in 3 in non-cheating Super Bowls.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Good points, Andrew.
Whether cheating works or not shouldn't matter. It's the principle that matters.
And yes, getting to the SB is tough enough and violating this rule could certainly give a team the edge it needs to get there, which is why this particular rule was made to begin with.

Doesn't take an expert to surmise that the more deflated a ball is the easier it is to catch and hold onto, and the harder it is for defenders to knock out of their opponents grasp.

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, If Brady has smallish hands, then he may need a softer ball to be able to throw it. And yeah, if it's softer, then it's harder to knock out of his hands or the receiver's hands.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Also, hafta say, I get sick n' tired of the people who try to excuse cheating and who say everyone does it.
That's BS. There are players who don't try to break the rules and simply wanna be the best they can be.
I can't imagine Russel Wilson or Tim Tebow thinking about ways to cheat.
Or someone like Jerry Rice, or Walter Peyton.
I have far more respect for honorable players like that then ones who look for ways to cheat.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

BTW, as a Seahawk fan since their inception, I really would like to see more players on the team follow Wilson's example and stop making fools of themselves.

Koshcat said...

I'm not going to defend Brady or the Patriots, they deserve it. However, the NFL is a $10 Billion/year company and they can't hire two extra guys for the officials staff to take care of the game balls? Ridiculous that the home team is responsible for this. For baseball games, there is a multistep process overseen by security hired by MLB. So the Patsies deserve it but the NFL allowed it by not making it important. I saw one show where they tried to replicate the scene in the bathroom. They showed the guy struggling with a pump and unable to get through all the balls. Really dumb as you don't need to know what the level is at. You know you started at about 13lbs, you just need a needle to remove a little.

I suspect a smoking gun doesn't exist. Uggs probably told the ballman how he likes his balls. It wouldn't surprise me if he doesn't even know what that level is just at a certain softness. I suspect most of it is probably a confidence issue more than effecting the flight of the ball. What is ironic is the patsies crushed Indy and didn't need to do it. The punishment should have been to take away the SB win. That would have hurt pride more than anything.

AndrewPrice said...

Koshcat, I agree. The whole thing is kind of silly. But from what I've read, it used to be that the NFL controlled the balls until Manning and Brady and others lobbied to let the team do it themselves.

In terms of a smoking gun, those are super rare and I doubt there will be one here.

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, I used to like the Seahawks, but honestly, Richard Sherman really annoyed me to the point that I just don't like them anymore. I do like and respect Russell Wilson though. He seems like a really great guy.

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