NFL: Change the rules!
Instead of Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, ISIS, or even Ferguson, this week’s news space is taken up by NFL football inflation stories that would benefit by some scientific input. So, here goes:
Two hours and 15 minutes prior to kick-off, each team submits for official inspection the 12 footballs it wants its offense to use during the game. The official norm is between 13.5 and 12.5 pounds of pressure. Despite the fact that the officials handle the ball before and after every down, the officiating team at the recent New England Patriots’ 45-7 defeat of the Indianapolis Colts evidenced zero concern about the inflation of the Patriots’ footballs until the start of the second half. With the Patriots leading 17-7, it was discovered 11 out of 12 of the balls being used by the Patriots on offense were underinflated. Then, during the second half, using correctly inflated balls, the Patriots proceeded to outscore the Colts 28-0.
But there are other explanations that do not involve any skullduggery on the part of the Patriots. One explanation has to do with variations in temperature between the time of the pre-game inspection of the Patriots’ footballs and the start of the second half of play. We know the temperature at kick-off time was 51-degrees F. We also know the low range of temperatures later that day in Foxborough, MA, was between 31 and 35-degrees F. Ergo: the temperature had to be dropping between the time of the pre-game inspection and the beginning of the second half.
For those of us who had trouble with Physics 101, the briefest recourse to Google on this subject can make your head spin. Indeed, you can get drawn into the mathematical equations of Gay-Lussac’s Law, Amonton’s Law, Charles’ Law, Boyle’s Law, and Avogado’s Law. Most of these have been incorporated into what is now known as: Ideal Gas Law.
Physics Professor Dale Syphers of Bowdoin College (admittedly, a Patriot fan) says, "The pressure of a ball can change dramatically over the course of a game." He claims the needle valve of a football can’t always take the stress of players falling on it. Moreover, to demonstrate the effect of falling temperatures, Professor Syphers filled two footballs to 13 pounds of pressure at room temperature. Then, he put one of the balls into a 40-degree refrigerator for 30 minutes. The room-temperature ball stayed at 13 pounds. The pressure in the refrigerated ball dropped to 11.7 pounds. Almost a pound below NFL standards. Still, that does not explain how one of the Patriot’s balls remained fully inflated. Maybe it was a "kicker’s" ball that gets little use compared to "regular" balls and its needle valve is not so often fallen upon by behemoth bruisers.
But one need not have mastered Ideal Gas Law to fill a toy balloon with air, measure the circumference, and put the balloon into the refrigerator for 30 minutes and then re-measure. Finally, the most mentally challenged person in the NFL village should know the integrity of the game would be enhanced by changing the rules so that both teams must play with the same set of NFL-provided footballs all the time, kickers included. Duh.
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, is a laureate of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame, and the Oklahoma University Army ROTC Wall of Fame. He was educated at the University of Oklahoma, the George Washington University, the U.S Naval War College, the University of Nebraska, and Harvard University.
<©2015. William Hamilton.
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