Science and bad faith in Deflate-Gate scandal
Huffington Post - 01/25/2015
In Scandal in Bohemia, Sherlock Holmes elucidated: “I have no data yet. It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.” If Holmes was talking about sports – he was not – it likely would have been about the rake of the pitch in cricket or soccer. The same dictum certainly applies to American football. We have witnessed an unprecedented blame game by the popular media about what it sees as the latest scandal in Foxborough. The only thing that was missing was data.
As anyone who has been alive in America over the past week knows, the New England Patriots have been accused of deflating the footballs they used in the first half of their crushing triumph over the Indianapolis Colts. The Patriots’ verdict of guilty before trial is likely the product of two phenomena: the long stretch between conference championship games and the Super Bowl and a deep-seated animosity many hold against the most successful NFL franchise in the last fifteen years. Add to this mix a charming golden-boy quarterback married to a supermodel. Tom Brady, picked from obscurity in the sixth round, will be a first ballot Hall of Famer however the next Super Bowl turns out.