The scandal of Deflategate will go down in history as one of the most well-known and covered NFL scandals in history. Tom Brady, quarterback of the Patriots, was accused of deflating footballs in order to win an A.F.C championship game against the Colts in January last year. Although this is a very interesting topic to discuss from a sports point of view, it is also a very interesting topic in the world of metrology and calibration.
Two hours and 15 minutes before every game, each team is required to bring 12 primary and 12 back up balls to the referee. The referee then uses a pressure gauge to determine if the ball is in the proper PSI (pounds per square inch) range: between 12.5 and 13.5 PSI. If the ball is below the proper PSI range, it become easier for a player to grab a hold of. The referees will fill the ball within the correct range is they find them under inflated. When the Patriots were accused of deflating the ball the PSI came in at 11.3.
So, how could calibration be related to Deflategate? Calibration ensures that all instruments used in measurement are giving the correct readings every time. Instruments used for measurement, like a pressure gauge, can give the wrong readings for a few reasons ranging from simply time, to possibly dropping the instrument, or even cold temperatures. If the referee’s pressure gauge was not properly calibrated, it could have given a reading within the proper PSI range even though the ball was truly under inflated.
We will never truly know if Deflategate stemmed from a calibration problem, although many different scenarios have been suggested, including the laws of gas in cold temperatures. What Deflategate does prove, however, is the importance of calibration. Without proper calibration of instruments, the smallest difference measurement can make a huge difference, even causing one of the biggest NFL scandals.