Link to home page: www.BetterDialogue.com/DeflateGate (and sorry for the primitive site formatting — the time went into content, not formatting)

Sent 9/27/2015 (referencing 8/31 letter and adding more)

To: nrsilver@fivethirtyeight.com, datalab@…., contact@…

Subject: Corrections needed on 538 article that was not to your high standards

Nate (and corrections department if there is one),

I’m a big fan of yours, but a high-profile report on your site didn’t meet your standards and needs major corrections. Your site has no contact for “corrections.” To be mature, your site should offer one and respond to any reasonable request, as is The New York Times stated policy.

Aside from good corrections policy, here are credentials for why you should hear me out: My viewpoint has been endorsed by the most prominent speaker on the subject matter (Professor Robert Blecker of New York Law School), referenced in the Wall Street Journal, and posted my 59-page brief to the official court docket on the high-profile related court case. For those reasons, much of my analysis is already referenced in the applicable Wikipedia page; more will be as it gains greater notability.

The second paragraph of the 538 article stated that a [hundreds of pages] report, which the article was analyzing, “went to great lengths to show” something that, as apparently your team missed, the report’s concluding paragraph went to considerable lengths to avoid showing.

Therefore, that claim and these additional points in the 538 article need retractions: “What I love about this report is the various extents the researchers went to make their analysis iron-clad” and “Honestly, it’s probably overkill”.

This gist of the 538 article is that the evidence and research in the Wells report overwhelming shows that there is no good science explanation for the Patriots/Colts pressure differential. That gist is inconsistent with the concluding paragraph of the science portion of the Wells Report: it went out of its way to avoid saying that, even though that is clearly something Wells very much wanted to say if it could be justified. (I’ll show you the detail on that later in this email.)

From that simple logic, it is evident that the rest of the report is a smokescreen to hide the fact that the researchers knew that their science provided to them a complete explanation through natural causes for the pressure difference.

Picking up on that would have caused your team to look deeper at the science, and to uncover yet more lawyered-up language, and to have noticed that all this “iron-clad” science somehow simulated balls warming up exactly as fast as a ball does alone in the open despite the report documenting that the cold balls had remained in a bag. The lawyered-up report had gone out of its way to avoid claiming that their simulation had accounted for that difference.

Your team could also have thought deeper on the logic offered for disbelieving the ref regarding which gauge was used: it was all nonsense once you scrutinize it.

Above all, given the lengthy, lawyered-up report, your team was hasty to get out a definitive response on the same day the article was published. Your team did not apply the level of expertise you clearly want your site to be known for.

Fortunately, the press hasn’t gone after the story, so there’s still time for your team to exhibit leadership that has been sorely lacking.

Here is more detail documenting the how the lawyered-up language goes out of it way to create an impression that claims are being made without actually making the claims.  The section that follows is also available at www.http://betterdialogue.com/lawyered1/ where the formatting  may be better.

The public and even the defense lawyers thought the concluding paragraph of the NFL/Exponent “Science” report said:

Based on the information available to us and our experiments, we found no “good” explanation for the difference between Patriots and Colts ball pressures.

Oops!! Legally speaking, what it says is:

The “game characteristics” is the wrong place to look for the answer to why the Patriots and Colts balls had different pressures.

How much difference is there between the perception of the conclusion and the legal meaning of the conclusion? So much that, without any contradiction, the concluding paragraph could have added this:

When we looked at the information and research we did outside of the “game characteristics,” we found that the pressure difference was completely explained by those factors, and so we conclude the Patriots could not have cheated.

If the defense lawyers had noticed how narrow the concluding claim was, they could have turned around the whole case by pointing out this:

Had Exponent been able to claim their work had not found a complete explanation, they would have said so. [ed.: see note below] Therefore, from Exponent’s concluding paragraph, we can tell that Exponent knew that their work found a completely innocent explanation.

The convoluted wording is evidence that Exponent sought to confuse readers into believing there was no good explanation without, legally speaking, telling a lie.

More importantly, because Exponent knew there was a complete explanation for the pressure difference, Exponent knew the Patriots did not cheat

Note: How can we tell that Exponent would have made a stronger conclusion if they could have?

  • The question in everyone’s mind was “did the Patriots cheat”, not “was it the on-field events that caused the pressure difference or some other innocent factors”?
  • The scope Exponent claimed for their report was wider than just investigating the effect of “game characteristics”. The scope claimed by Exponent included “any physical or environmental factors present on the day” (see page IX, last paragraph), which encompasses many more variables, including the locker room environment.
  • Exponent sought to support the NFL’s position that cheating seemed likely. (For proof, see the materials at www.BetterDialogue.com, including the amicus brief, and also the work of Robert Blecker, as noted in the Wikipedia page on reaction to the Wells report: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deflategate#Reactions_to_the_report )

So far, the NFL/Exponent lawyers were brilliant in deceiving the defense lawyers. Later below see how the NFL/Exponent lawyers fooled themselves. But first…

Because uncovering the deceptive-but-not-lying wording trick turns the entire scandal on its head, it’s important to understand the lawyered-up trick that the defense lawyers missed. Key word: “within”

Here’s the full concluding paragraph of the Exponent “science” report to the NFL:

In sum, the data did not provide a basis for us to determine with absolute certainty whether there was or was not tampering as the analysis of such data ultimately is dependent upon assumptions and information that is not certain. However, based on all of the information provided to us, particularly regarding the timing and sequencing of the measurements conducted by the game officials at halftime, and on our testing and analyses, 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 measured during halftime of the AFC Championship Game.

Wells Report Appendix 1: Exponent report page 68, item 13 (Emphasis added)

Take a closer look at what they “concluded”:

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 measured during halftime of the AFC Championship Game.

(Note: Exponent did not format the words to have strikethroughs)

Simplify it a bit (without materially changing the meaning) by deleting the struck-through words:

we conclude that within the game characteristics we have identified no factors that completely account for the additional loss in air pressure exhibited by the Patriots game balls as compared to the loss in air pressure.

Re-order the phrases (without changing the meaning) to be clearer:

we conclude that we have identified no factors within the game characteristics that completely account for the additional loss in air pressure exhibited by the Patriots game balls as compared to the loss in air pressure

Notice that the statement is silent about factors outside the game characteristics.

Scientifically, it turns out that a large factor behind the pressure difference was that, while in the warm half-time locker room, the cold Patriots’ footballs, unlike the Colt’s footballs, had been kept in a damp bag until measured.

A New York Times reporter, while incorrectly asserting that the Patriots almost certainly cheated, falsely claimed that the Exponent report had noted that the Patriots’ and Colts’ balls had been handled in a similar way. Nowhere does the report actually say that. Its data proves the opposite if you know where to look.

Note: on 9/18/2015 I requested that The Times correct the story. They told me on the phone they are looking into it. They claim that when they make a decision, they will explain why. No word back yet (as of 9/25/2015).

Anyone suspicious of the NFL/Exponent would know where to look if they hadn’t been fooled by the lawyered-up description of the simulation of the half-time period.

Apparently nearly everyone thought Exponent had said this:

We simulated the half-time period as best we knew how

When, legally speaking, it really said this:

We disavow any attempt to accurately simulate the half time period, other than that we used the same two gauges and measured at the times as happened on game-day.

In contrast to previous parts of the simulation description, which went out of their way to specify how similar bags were used in the same was as happened on game-day, the half-time-in-locker-room part of the simulation description went out of its way to excluded simulating how the bag was used on game-day.

Had the defense lawyers not been fooled, they would have smelled blood and had someone look for the technical data that proved that the Colts footballs had not stayed well sheltered in the bag.

To see the lawyered-up trick, see what Exponent said and then google the definition of “namely.”

The procedure used to generate the halftime measurements during Game Day was replicated. Namely, the Logo and Non-Logo Gauges were used.
–Source: Bottom of Exponent page 56.

Namely… adverb… [first definition] that is to say;
Source: Google.com, search for definition of namely. Above retrieved most recently Sep 25, 2015.

Thus the description becomes:

The procedure used to generate the halftime measurements during Game Day was replicated. [That is to say], the Logo and Non-Logo Gauges were used.

Or in other words:

We do NOT say that we replicated the procedure; we only guarantee the same gauges were used in our simulation as were used on the day of the game.

Where the NFL/Exponent lawyers fooled themselves

Based on the above, it’s clear that the intent was to deceive without, legally speaking, lying. Unfortunately, the NFL/Exponent lawyers screwed up and allowed one important “conclusion”, the one used by the NFL to punish the Patriots, to be, legally speaking, a lie:

Experimental Simulations Conclusion

In both the Non-Logo Gauge and Logo Gauge simulations, we see that the average measurements for the Colts footballs are generally at or near the line representing the average measurements from Game Day. In contrast, all of the average measurements for the Patriots footballs generated by the simulations are noticeably higher than the line representing the average measurements from Game Day. Therefore, subject to the discovery of an as yet unidentified and unexamined factor, the measurements recorded for the Patriots footballs on Game Day do not appear to be completely explainable based on natural causes alone.

Source: Exponent report, page 61 (7 pages before the final conclusion of the report)

Recall that the lawyered-up wording I explained first (final conclusion, use of the word “within”) proves that the NFL/Exponent lawyers knew that Exponent knew that they could explain the pressure difference based on natural causes. Therefore, totally irrespective of the simulation, they knew the pressures were explainable.

The lawyered up wording described next, about the half-time part of simulation (key word “namely, exponent page 56) shows that Exponent knew the simulation did not match game-day events. Therefore Exponent knew that just because the Patriots’ game-day pressure didn’t match the simulation results doesn’t mean that the Patriots’ game-day pressure wasn’t exactly where it was supposed to be.

To make the above not a lie, legally speaking, they should have said that “we conclude that if the simulation accurately reflected reality as best we knew how to do, then the pressure difference was not completely explainable by natural causes. To be honest, they would have added: The simulation does not accurately reflect reality. When we adjust for the upward bias in our simulation, we conclude that the Patriots footballs had just the right pressure, so therefore we can tell that the Patriots did not cheat.

Legally speaking, I’m curious about this: If someone intends to intentionally deceive, but they screw up by actually stating something they had meant to trick people into believing they had stated, is that, for the purpose of an anti-defamation suit, lying. For that matter, even if they deceived without lying, is that sufficient for a public figure injured by the deception to recover damages. I hope the answer to both is “yes.”

For those looking for a quick hint as to what those factors “outside” of “game characteristics” were which explained the Patriots/Colts pressure difference:

  • Most important: When the ref finished inspecting the footballs before the game, the Colts’ footballs had more pressure than the Patriots’ footballs.
  • Almost as important: The Patriots footballs, because they were kept in a damp bag, warmed several times slower, so had several times less pressure increase per minute than would footballs freely exposed to the air. In contrast, there is no testimony that the Colts balls were kept in the bag the whole time. In fact, the pressures that were measured in the Colts balls could not have happened if the Colts balls measured were typical of 11 that had remained in the bag until tested.
  • Least-important: The Colts balls had much more time to warm up (and thus have their pressure increase) before they were measured than did the Patriots

For those interested in how the Exponent data proves the Patriots were unlikely to have cheated at all, and could not possibly cheated by an amount detectable by the testing, and could not possibly have cheated by an amount that makes a discernable difference in game play, please see the materials at www.BetterDialogue.com/DeflateGate.

The above shows strong logical evidence that Exponent knew the Patriots did not cheat. The detailed analysis on the website proves that the Exponent data proves the Patriots did not cheat.

I hope that when the pundits react, the message will be not be “yet another problem found NFL/Exponent work” but rather “Scandal over: NFL data proves the Patriots did not cheat.”

It would be misleading and lazy journalism for the headline to be merely that there is yet another problem with the Exponent report.

My original letter to 538 appears below my name.


Robert Young

Original letter of 8/31/2015

chadwick.matlin@fivethirtyeight.com andrew.flowers@fivethirtyeight.com bmorris@fivethirtyeight.com ben.casselman@fivethirtyeight.com

Subject: Your commentary on Exponent: new opportunity

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