A Reminder About John “Rollo” Tomase…

“Rollo Tomasi’s the reason I became a cop. I wanted to catch the guys who thought they could get away with it. It was supposed to be about justice.” – Ed Exley (Guy Pearce), “LA Confidential”

This is the lede question in Peter King’s Mailbag today:

WHERE’S BELICHICK’S SUSPENSION?

With all the recent talk of Deflategate focusing on Tom Brady, I’d like to revisit a side issue that nobody’s talking about anymore. Why wasn’t Bill Belichick suspended? Roger Goodell threw the book at Sean Payton in Bountygate, saying Payton ultimately was responsible for his team even if he wasn’t aware of any bounties. By the same logic, Belichick also should be suspended, especially considering that Belichick has a prior record with Spygate. In that case, if I’m not mistaken, Belichick specifically ignored a league edict forbidding teams from filming opponents’ practice sessions. I think the lack of a suspension for Belichick helps perpetuate the belief that the league treats the Patriots differently than other teams.

“Belichick specifically ignored a league edict forbidding teams from filming opponents’ practice sessions.” Did you catch that? That’s the common belief people have about Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots.

Do you know how that belief began? Not with Spygate. That was about taping signals out in the open, but from the wrong location.

Two weeks ago, after I made a reference to John Tomase’s role in demonizing the Patriots, two people responded, “What did he do?”

I was stunned. They didn’t know the story? Surely they’ve heard how, on the eve of Super Bowl 42, Tomase and the Boston Herald published a fallacious story accusing the Patriots of videotaping the Rams’ walkthrough prior to Super Bowl 36, right? And how they were forced to retract it three months later?

But that event occurred seven years ago. And understandably, there are readers too young to know anything about it.

Yet the myth of the walkthrough tape persists.

Tomase could be heard this weekend giving his expert opinion that “down there” they think that everything bad that happens to the Patriots is because people are out to get them.

Huh. I wonder why that is.

You know how you often hear from both the media and other fans that the Patriots taped practices, including the Rams before their first Super Bowl win!  In addition to the above, here are some examples.

49ers, Rams have right to feel cheated – Mike Sando

Steve Scarnecchia, the person responsible for the illicit taping earlier this month, worked for New England when the Patriots allegedly taped St. Louis Rams practices before Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002. As a result, I’m more comfortable removing the word “allegedly” from the previous sentence. The Patriots employed cheaters. Scarnecchia’s father, Dante, still works for the Patriots.

Personal for Pats-Jets – Leonard Shapiro

CORRECTION
A previous version of this post incorrectly characterized the offense for which New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick was fined by the NFL. The corrected version appears below.

2015 offseason off to rocky start – John Clayton

For example, Sean Payton received a one-year suspension for the Saints’ bounty scandals while Bill Belichick wasn’t suspended for spying on practices.

And how about this:

It is a statement now accepted as fact, and used by many people when they list out the Patriots transgressions as CHEATERZ!!!

In reality, it is complete and utter fiction. Manufactured by John Tomase.

From the Boston Herald, February 4th, 2008, by John Tomase.

Source: Pats employee filmed Rams
By John Tomase

PHOENIX – One night before the Patriots face the Giants in Super Bowl XLII, new allegations have emerged about a Patriots employee taping the Rams’ final walkthrough before Super Bowl XXXVI.

According to a source, a member of the team’s video department filmed the Rams’ final walkthrough before that 2002 game. The next day, the Patriots upset St. Louis, 20-17, on a last-second field goal by Adam Vinatieri for their first championship.

A bit further in:

According to a source close to the team during the 2001 season, here’s what happened. On Feb. 2, 2002, one day before the Patriots’ Super Bowl game against heavily favored St. Louis in New Orleans, the Patriots visited the Superdome for their final walkthrough.

After completing the walkthrough, they had their team picture taken and the Rams then took the field. According to the source, a member of the team’s video staff stayed behind after attending the team’s walkthrough and filmed St. Louis’ walkthrough.

At no point was he asked to identify himself or produce a press pass, the source said. The cameraman rode the media shuttle back to the hotel with news photographers when the Rams walkthrough was completed, the source said.

The story was single sourced. Red flag right there. The story of course became immediately accepted as fact. The name that kept coming up was Matt Walsh, a former Patriots cameraman.

Walsh eventually ended up talking to Roger Goodell and the Commissioner made this statement following the meeting:

“We were also able to verify that there was no Rams walkthrough tape. No one asked him to tape the walkthrough. He’s not aware of anybody else who may have taped the walkthrough. He had not seen such a tape. He does not know of anybody who says there is a tape. He was in the building at the time of the walkthrough along with other Patriots video personnel. They were doing their job prior to the game. He in fact was even on the sidelines in his Patriots gear while the Rams were practicing. So it was clear that there was not an overt attack addressing access into the Rams walkthrough.”

Following Walsh’s revelation that no walk-through tape existed, Tomase’s initial response was to double down:

Goodell ready to close door on Pats’ videotaping saga:
But Walsh admits to spying at 2001 Rams’ walkthrough

While NFL commissioner Roger Goodell seems ready to close the door on the Patriots [team stats] videotaping saga after meeting with Matt Walsh at NFL headquarters today, new questions arose when the former team video assistant admitted that he spied on the Rams’ walkthrough prior to Super Bowl XXXVI and passed along information from the walkthrough to an assistant coach.

However, after the press conference, NFL counsel Gregg Levy explained that Walsh had passed on observations from the walkthrough to former Patriots assistant Brian Daboll, who’s now with the New York Jets [team stats].

“Walsh was asked during the interview today whether after the walkthrough, anyone asked him about what he had seen,” Levy said. “He said ‘yes’. He saw Brian Daboll … and Daboll asked him what he saw. Walsh said two things — one, he had seen Marshall Faulk in a formation to receive a kickoff or a punt, and he had been asked about offensive formations, particularly about the use of the tight end. My understanding is that is not consistent with what we had learned prior to the interview, during the course of the investigation. At this point, it’s uncorroborated, but it’s something the league is going to look into.”

Note the tone of the headline and subhead. Goodell “ready to close the door”, but Walsh “admits to spying”. Tomase was trying to intimate that his faulty walk-through story was still true!

Later in the day, someone at the Herald thought better of it, and replaced it with this:

Roger Goodell: Case closed
Walsh tells Goodell he didn’t tape walkthrough

NEW YORK – Matt Walsh finally had his day in front of the NFL, and as far as commissioner Roger Goodell is concerned, this chapter of the Patriots [team stats] videotaping saga is closed.

Walsh, a former Patriots video assistant who last week turned over eight tapes showing the team recording opposing offensive and defensive signals, met for more than three hours with Goodell yesterday. In the commissioner’s view, he offered no new information worth reopening the league’s investigation into the Patriots’ videotaping practices.

The new tone is purely reporting the story, minus the previous editorial inferences.

The next day, the Boston Herald looked like this:

This was the statement from the Herald:

On Feb. 2, 2008, the Boston Herald reported that a member of the New England Patriots [team stats]’ video staff taped the St. Louis Rams’ walkthrough on the day before Super Bowl XXXVI. While the Boston Herald based its Feb. 2, 2008, report on sources that it believed to be credible, we now know that this report was false, and that no tape of the walkthrough ever existed.

Prior to the publication of its Feb. 2, 2008, article, the Boston Herald neither possessed nor viewed a tape of the Rams’ walkthrough before Super Bowl XXXVI, nor did we speak to anyone who had. We should not have published the allegation in the absence of firmer verification.

The Boston Herald regrets the damage done to the team by publication of the allegation, and sincerely apologizes to its readers and to the New England Patriots’ owners, players, employees and fans for our error.

…we now know that this report was false, and that no tape of the walkthrough ever existed.  Try telling that to anyone today. They will think you are crazy. Of course they taped the walkthrough! It was reported everywhere!

Two days later on May 16th, the Herald ran Tomase’s explanation

The Herald used Tomase’s “explanation” as a selling point.

What a mess. Let’s look at some of it:

Late in the 2006 season, I was having a casual conversation about the Patriots when someone I trust threw out the following tidbit.

“I heard the Patriots filmed the Rams’ final walkthrough before Super Bowl XXXVI,” he said.

It was just a rumor, and certainly not actionable intelligence, as they say. He had heard it from a friend of a friend. I filed it away, and then forgot about it. Reporters hear stuff like that all the time.

So first he says in 2006 he heard it from a source who got it from “a friend of a friend.”

Seems legit.

Little did I know that comment would resurface from a much stronger source in the days after the Patriots had been caught filming the Jets’ defensive signals in September 2007.

He then forgot about it until September of 2007, so we’ll assume nobody else brought it up to him in this time frame.

So after the Spygate game, he heard the story “from a much stronger source.”

OK great.

Oh wait, if the first “source” was someone who heard it from a friend of a friend, it really wouldn’t take much to make it a much stronger source, huh? Maybe this source just heard it from a friend.

Again, he labeled this a “source”….singular.

I still needed more, and I tried to get it. Two days before the Super Bowl, I finally believed I had it nailed that the Pats had indeed taped that walkthrough. I didn’t know what happened to the tape or if it ever found its way to the coaching staff, but I felt I had the basic story, and even though I didn’t feel great about going the anonymous source route, this one was ready for print.

So he finally “nailed it” two days before the Super Bowl. Sort of. Kind of. Well, not really.

The leap he made is astounding to anyone who has been around journalism. . He just admitted that his two sources were not present at the walkthrough, but instead had heard the story of the walkthrough from somebody else. Neither had seen a video. And he tries to tie this all together via the revelation that a Pats video guy was present at the walkthrough, which turned out to be not a revelation after all.

Turns out I could not have been more wrong. I regret it, and that’s something I’m going to have to live with for the rest of my life.

So now the rationalization starts in earnest.

I had repeatedly heard that this walkthrough had been taped, and from people I trusted. Eventually I accepted it as fact and stopped questioning the assertion.

Wait, what? “repeatedly heard?”and “people I trusted?” Sounds like Tomase is trying to shift blame for his own mistakes. Maybe they were earnest in telling the story, but it is the reporters job to nail down the story, not their job. He needed to get the people who told his people the story. Did they see they video? If not, where did they hear the story? And follow up the chain. If the chain breaks before you get somebody saying they saw a video, you don’t have the story. That’s journalism, and them’s the breaks.

He heard it once, on a friend of a friend of a friend level, in late 2006 before hearing it from an actual source that supposedly gave it to you in September 2007. But still you didn’t consider it strong enough to run. Around the Super Bowl, you finally nailed it, you say. You can trust your friend, sure, but how much should you trust your friend’s friend’s story?

In the February 4th story itself, it mentioned a single source – three times. That is consistent with the time frame he lays out here, possibly two at most. The first weird “source who heard it from a friend of a friend” is not a source. Here he claims to have had more, (“I had repeatedly heard”) as if it is an excuse when in reality, he had nothing.

Yet he goes on to this “repeatedly heard” crap. Yeah right Tomase, it was probably whoever your original friend of friend idiot was just spinning it to other people who regurgitated it to you, by then it’s five, six, seven people deep in layers. So you stupidly assume it’s smoke when it’s the same small circle of media people trashing the Patriots second hand because they hate Bill Belichick.

We have a problem here with a flaw in what is called the Argument from Multiple Attestation.

Fewer sources with a good provenance for their information are better than more sources just repeating rumors.

The confirmed presence of a member of the team’s video staff at the walkthrough reinforced my belief that it was filmed. Secondhand sourcing took on added weight. When I got word that other reporters had picked up the scent, it only steeled my resolve not to get beat.

You know that whole “Be right, not first” thing that journalists supposedly live by.

Eh, not so much. Rather than being right, Tomase was more concerned about being first.

All of that said, I never expected to be running this story during Super Bowl week, but I opened the New York Times on Friday, Feb. 1, and saw that not only was Specter complaining about the NFL’s investigation into the Patriots, but that the Times had tracked down Walsh, a former Patriots video assistant living in Hawaii who was suggesting he had more information on the team.

Walsh’s name set off alarms. He worked for the Pats during the 2001 season and his name had been floated amongst the rumors. Many believed he had filmed the walkthrough.My determination to get the story had been re-stoked. I began reaching back out to sources.

One that I trust said he had been told the walkthrough was taped. A second said he had been told the same thing, but neither had seen a tape.

I already had been able to verify that a member of the team’s video staff had been setting up a camera at the walkthrough, but on the final, crucial point of whether the camera was actually rolling, I made a devastating leap of logic and assumed that’s what I was being told rather than confirming it explicitly. I considered the fact that it was taped unassailable.

So a few items here:

  • He says Walsh’s name set off alarms, but doesn’t ever mention Walsh in his original article. And it seems apparent that neither of his sources named Walsh either. So from the start, he was riding the crest of the NYT’s wave, hoping Walsh was his unnamed walkthrough videographer.
  • As mentioned above, both sources were hearsay (“he had been told”, “second said he had been told the same thing”). So neither was even at the walkthrough.
  • The verification of the camera setup meant nothing, because had Tomase investigated it further, he would have learned that’s exactly the job they were there to do. He might have also learned that there was no electricity to the locations, nor did they have their battery packs.

Someone who is trying to break a story of this magnitude might try a littler harder to actually nail down details.

By the time Walsh met with the league and revealed that he had no knowledge of the walkthrough being filmed, it was clear what we had to do. The paper issued a front-page apology Wednesday.

OK, here’s the deal, The Patriots four man video team at Super Bowl 36 was Jimmy Dee, Walsh, Ferando Neto and Steve Scarnecchia. (and possibly an intern named Ed Bailey) The only way Tomase’s story would be vetted is if the source of either of his two sources was one of those men. That Tomase and the Herald waited on Walsh’s meeting with Goodell to finally issue their apology proves none of them were sources.

No one forced me to write that story, and it’s important to note I do not believe I was ever lied to. I believe my sources intended to provide accurate information, and it was incumbent on me to vet it more fully.

Hey John, basically what you’re saying here is nobody you talked to really had anything other than second hand rumors that were false. #Protip: Those aren’t sources.  So if a source isn’t maliciously lying to you for a nefarious purpose, that’s supposedly a point in your favor that you were justified in believing the story?

In summary, We could ask these questions of Tomase:

Did you see the tape?  No

Did any of your sources, or the sources of your sources, confirm they saw a walk-through tape?

Did anyone anywhere at any given time ever say that they saw the tape?  No

But he had no doubt this story was spot on the nails accurate.  No question.

This part kills me:

Tomase was never publicly punished for what he did here. He went right back on the Patriots beat in 2008, and then he was “promoted” to the Red Sox beat, and then this year he was hired as a columnist for WEEI.com. His career never skipped a beat.

You know what? His Red Sox coverage was pretty good. As a columnist, he’s not bad with the Celtics either.

But he should never be allowed to write about the Patriots. Especially perched on some moral high ground judgment, as he does in today’s column with his conviction that Tom Brady is lying and has been proven a cheater by Roger Goodell and the NFL.

John Tomase cheated.

He did so wantonly and was not punished for it. He suffered no lasting consequences to his career. But he wants to sit here and tells us about the alleged failings of Tom Brady, ignoring actual facts, embracing hyperbole and gorging himself on the information that the NFL is spoon-feeding the media in this case. He wants to demand that Brady confess and accept punishment.

That’s the journalistic world we live in.

If John Tomase doesn’t print falsehoods the day before the Super Bowl in February 2008, maybe the lynch mob doesn’t gather quite as quickly following this year’s AFC Championship game.

I look forward to the inevitable emails I will receive from Tomase’s media brethren. Telling me I should let it go, he’s a good guy and that everyone makes mistakes.

Right, because they never hold grudges toward the people they cover.

Evidence of Tomase’s popularity among his peers is evident from Twitter this morning:

Never forget what John Tomase did, to the New England Patriots, and to you.

Thanks to Dan Snapp, Greg Doyle and others for helping put this together. 

Additional Reading from that time period:

What’s Next for Tomase, Herald? (May 13th, 2008)

Boston Herald Apologizes To Patriots – Is It Enough? (May 14th, 2008)

One Thing, John – (May 14th, 2008)

Herald, Massarotti Continue Alienation of Readers – (May 15th, 2008)

Tomase Explanation A Bit Light In Detail (May 16th, 2008)

Where Are The Editors? Tomase Abettors Need To Be Named. (May 16th, 2008)

Editor’s Identities Not “In The Best Interest Of The Paper” (May 16th, 2008)

Why Spygate Is The Most Disgraceful Episode In Recent Sports Media History (May 20th, 2008. Who knew it would topped?)

The Merchant of Wingo Square – (May 20th, 2008)

The Flat Balls Society

By Dan Snapp

Peter King in successive weeks:

July 13th:

“My best guess: Officials will chart the weights of all footballs before the game, then spot-check some at halftime and after the game.”

July 20th:

“Basically, depending on which physics expert you believe, it’s either a stretch to think the Patriots’ footballs deflated as much as they did by halftime of the game against Indy Jan. 18, or a perfectly normal occurrence.”

July 27th:

“When footballs are pressure-gauged before games, they will still have to measure between 12.5 pounds per square inch and 13.5 psi. If they do not, the officials will be instructed to put the air in the football at 13.0 psi. So if one team is trying to get an edge by having the pressure right on the border near 12.5 or right on the border near 13.5, and it’s either under or over by a tenth of a pound, it will backfire. In the past, maybe a crew would measure and say, “Close enough.” Now, that crew will have to put the psi at the halfway point between high and low, exactly 13.0. In other words, it’s a decision soft-ball lovers or hard-ball lovers really won’t like.”

This is, if not the pre-eminent NFL writer today, then the most ubiquitous. He’s the bad penny showing up everywhere, regurgitating bad science. He still thinks they’ll be charting the weight of the balls? He still thinks the physics is a coin toss? He still thinks a couple tenths of a pound per square inch is motive enough for teams to try to sneak something past the officials?

I get it, not everybody can accept science on faith alone. They need proof. So perhaps if King wakes up to find the Logo Gauge AND the Non-Logo Gauge under his tree this year, maybe then he can truly BELIEVE. Yes, Peter, there IS an Ideal Gas Law!

King has been dutifully floating Roger Goodell’s help-me-find-a-way-out-of-this-shit trial balloons the past few weeks, gauging* public response to a host of Tom Brady fates. How does two games sound? One game? No? How about forestalling Brady’s punishment for a year while we study the science just a little bit longer? Then can Roger keep his job?

* And recording? Probably. The league’s pretty diligent when it comes to Rog’s Q-rating.

Following up on one of King’s “hunches”, the league announced plans to update football inspection. They won’t “chart the weights” of the balls, sadly, but pregame they will be numbering the balls, they’ll be gauging and recording the PSI of each respective ball, they’ll “spot check” during “designated games” (i.e. “Patriots games”), and there will be a dedicated chain of custody, with the Kicking Ball Coordinator escorting the balls to the field under the watchful eyes of both an official AND league security. Go ahead and try to crack THAT nut, Dorito Dink!

This is all well and good, and does at least provide a level of standardization that might have aided the Patriots back in January when this whole ridiculous episode commenced. And the spot check measurements – assuming the league is gracious enough to share them this time – could also serve to vindicate the Patriots.

But look at some of the other details of their announcement:

Each team will be required to supply 24 footballs to the officials’ locker room – 12 primary and 12 backup – 2 hours and 15 minutes prior to the game.

At designated games, selected at random, the game balls used in the first half, will be collected by the kicking ball coordinator (KBC) at halftime and the league’s security representative will escort the KBC to the locker room.

Also, at the end of any randomly selected game, the KBC will return the footballs to the officials’ locker room, where all game balls from each team will be inspected and the results will be recorded.

Do you see the problem? Every single time they measure the balls, it’s still going to be in the climate-controlled atmosphere of the officials’ locker room. And there’s no mention in the article of recording the temperatures of the locker rooms and out on the field, the climate conditions, or the respective times each football gets measured.

They still don’t understand the science!

What’s the point of all this trouble, effort, time and procedure if they’re still going to be introducing balls that won’t be at regulation within minutes at any game where on-field temperatures are 10 degrees colder or hotter than in the officials’ locker room?**

** Assuming an officials’ locker room temp of 71 degrees, and a ball set at 13.0 PSI with no other variables out of spec.

It sure will be comforting to know,  say during December home games in New England, Buffalo, Green Bay and Minnesota, we can be assured those footballs will be at regulation up until kickoff. But hey, at least now we’ll be dead certain nobody will be tampering with already under-inflated footballs. Integrity! Shield! Nobody touch a slice ‘til Rog does!

Do they not yet realize how many games in league history have been played with balls that weren’t within their silly arbitrary PSI parameters? Not just iconic games like the Ice Bowl or the Freezer Bowl, or even the Patriots/Ravens divisional game this past season (when game-time temp was 22 degrees), but multitudes of games throughout the decades.

And the same goes for those early September games played in the sweltering heat in say Miami. If the balls were checked inside, they most likely were over regulation within minutes on the field. That’s just science.

The truth is the NFL cares not one iota about getting it right, and certainly doesn’t care about vindicating the Patriots. They do care, however, about trying to look good. And adding more arbitrary regulations to an already arbitrary standard makes it look – at least to the general populace – like they’re doing something productive. Before you look a little deeper, of course.

What should they do? Logically, they could do the preliminary ball-checks on the field. At least then there’s some consistency between the environment where the ball is measured and the environment in which they play. But that still doesn’t assure anything because, well, weather isn’t a constant.

What they really should do is go back to not giving a damn about ball pressure, like they did the 70 some-odd years since they first set the standard. They should just return to that blissful ignorance that served them so well for so long, before Ryan Grigson and Mike Kensil got their panties in a bunch.

The NFL has to worry about two audiences alone: the 32 owners whom it enriches; and the nation of flat-earthers eager to sop up any story that incriminates the team they hate. Neither group cares a whit about science.

This is why you never hear tales of Roger Goodell going on a cruise: Sure, sure, they all say the Earth is round, but why take the chance? But we could always sail Ted around the world a dozen times, just to be sure.

That Song By Queen And David Bowie

Come on. You know what song I’m talking about.

As Roger Goodell and his NFL ilk try to figure out the ruling on Tom Brady’s appeal with the smallest amount of P.R. damage, it’s time to bring up the one aspect of this foolishness that hasn’t been called into question:

The NFL has to ditch the football inflation rule.

Listen, they can do whatever they want with the Brady appeal. They can present it to the masses like a commandment to be followed or make it into a paper boat and perform a mini Viking funeral. The rule, as it were, exists. If the NFL is willing to stick with the questionable figures of the Wells report and ignore the lessons of any ninth grade intro to physical science class, so be it. “More likely than not,” “generally aware,” etc.

But, moving forward, it’s time to get rid of – or at least greatly expand – the ball inflation parameters. A brief look at the task of enforcing this rule – which, as far as we can tell, had never been strictly enforced – tells us the reasons why.

Every football must have air pressure between 12.5 and 13.5 pounds per square inch (psi). The Wells report revealed the nonchalant nature in which these measurements take place, with officials using differently calibrated gauges while neglecting to write down measurements or numerate the footballs themselves.

All footballs must be numbered. All measurements must be recorded. All gauges must be calibrated. Sounds like we might need another official to take care of these matters.

The NFL must hire a Head of Football Pressure. He then must hire two PSI officials for every game, one for each team’s footballs (this will give each official necessary time to take halftime measurements).

Now, about that pesky science: we know that a football’s pressure in Miami at the season opener will have a different halftime reading than a football in Green Bay during Week 17. We need a physics-trained football official (PTF), one who can take game time outdoor temperature, humidity and/or dampness of each ball, time of possession (to figure time of exposure for each football), halftime indoor temperature, and – while the aforementioned PSI official takes measurements – come up with a “real” pressure loss or gain for each individual ball.

Keep in mind, the Wells Report took almost four months. But, if we can’t get a couple of people to figure this all out in 20 minutes, let’s just expand halftime another five or ten minutes and bring in another handful of officials to get it done. How about a PSI and PTF official for each football? Nothing like a few dozen extra guys milling about in a designated Ball Science room.

I mean, if they’re taking this seriously, can they stop at halftime? Don’t they have to repeat the process at the end of each game, for integrity and all that?

Yeah. Time to get rid of that rule.

Before this past January, very few people knew or concerned themselves with the specifics of football psi. Referees judged a football’s game worthiness by giving it a squeeze. Sometimes they’d pump it up themselves, sometimes with shaky results. Now, what if equipment managers could get the psi that their QBs wanted? What if they let the refs grip them before the game – right there on the sideline – and be done with it?

Ball seems too flat or overinflated? The officials say so and ask for a few pumps of air put in or taken out of the ball. During the game, if the ref finds a ball lacking, he tosses it back in and asks for another. It’s hard to see many difficulties with leaving the pressure up to the refs’ discretion. We already do that with the most important aspect of the game: spotting the ball.

Think about it: how closely can a human being determine the position of a football several feet away while it’s gripped by a runner getting knocked around by large men? If the official is off by one inch per play – which seems remarkably efficient – then by fourth and inches, maybe every one of those inches has already been accounted for. Maybe, in Perfectworld, it’s already first down.

That’s the game, though. We live with those potential inaccuracies because putting GPS locator devices in each ball and having a digital readout for each play would prove too costly and time-consuming. Kind of like hiring hundreds of new officials and building a science lab in every NFL stadium.

Some teams might try to take advantage of this non-rule by inflating footballs to under 11 pounds, making them easy to grab in harsh weather conditions. Again, officials’ discretion: if they feel a football is too soft, get another one. If they feel that the team in question continues to provide soft footballs, give a warning, then hit them with a delay-of-game penalty.

The NFL in general (and Goodell in particular) turned a silly rule infraction (that science has told us may not have occurred) into talk show fodder where the outrage seemed inversely proportional to actual football knowledge. That an improbable breaking of an oft-ignored rule became “-gate”-worthy is on them.

Getting rid of that rule would take off the pressure of trying to enforce it. But I don’t expect they will. If this fiasco has taught us anything, it’s that the NFL doesn’t really understand pressure.

Chris Warner tweets @cwarn89