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Atlanta-Journal Constitution published maybe the worst Deflategate article ever

01.25.17 at 1:50 pm ET
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Accuracy is the cardinal rule of journalism, except when it comes to writing about Deflategate. For some reason, when the topic turns to deflated footballs, it’s acceptable to parrot lies and spread misinformation. The disturbing trend continues to this day.

Wednesday, the Atlanta-Journal Constitution answered the question nobody is asking: What should we tell our kids about Deflategate? The ensuing column might be the worst collection of words ever written about the scandal, which is an incredible feat. It includes the greatest hits of Deflategate propaganda, beginning with the implication that the Patriots are the only team in the history of the NFL to have played with under-inflated footballs.

In the first subsection of the article, the author of the piece condenses the backstory of Deflategate to five paragraphs. There’s a lie in the third sentence. It’s highlighted for your convenience:

“New England coach Bill Belichick denied any knowledge of the deflated footballs. He explained that normal use and air conditions during the game may have caused the air leakage (despite it only affecting Patriots footballs).”

Some of the Colts’ footballs, of course, were also under-inflated. According to the halftime measurements, which were published in Ted Wells’ 243-page report, three of the four Colts’ balls were below the 12.5 PSI threshold on one of the two gages. It would be nice to know the air pressure of all the Colts’ footballs, but the Wells report says the testing was stopped due to time constraints.

It’s worth noting the average PSI of the Patriots’ balls is lower than the Colts’, but that’s not useful, because we don’t know what their air pressure level was when the game started. NFL Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino says no readings exist.

Since the mistruth about only the Patriots playing with deflated footballs appears in the third sentence, it’s fair to say the author didn’t even peruse the Wells report. The column only gets worse from there:

For your kid: NFL footballs have to be a certain size. The Patriots won a game (and maybe more) with footballs that weren’t regulation size and that is not fair.”

That’s a nice summarization, except when the Steelers were caught playing with under-inflated footballs this season, the league didn’t pursue an investigation. If deflating footballs is unfair, then it’s laughable the Steelers didn’t even get scrutinized, never mind penalized.

Later on, when the author is recapping the NFL’s findings, he or she makes reference to Patriots fans and their “Deflategate conspiracy theories.” But the truth is, if you believe Tom Brady deflated footballs, you’re the conspiracy theorist. The scientific community says the balls naturally lost air pressure in cold weather. Their conclusions are supported by the Ideal Gas Law. People who argue against those facts point to text messages between low-level Patriots employees, John Jastremski and Jim McNally, in which McNally calls himself the “deflator.” Oh, and McNally went to the bathroom with the footballs for 90 seconds before the game, too. Don’t forget that.

Siding with anecdotal text messages and evidence of a bathroom trip over scientific consensus is insanity, but that’s the conventional wisdom. At the end of the piece, the author reaffirms the Patriots cheated, then hyperlinks to a two-year old article in the Federalist about how Deflategate could’ve been avoided if Brady had just apologized:

“The general conclusion is the team cheated and won, and they can’t escape the label. This is why two years later we’re still talking about Deflategate.

Another is the nearly 18-month legal wrangle could have been avoided:

If either man would have taken responsibility (the fact that they were in violation of league rules isn’t in dispute) or simply said “sorry” this episode would have been put to rest.”

That’s nice, but it discounts one little detail: Brady almost certainly didn’t do it. Why would anybody apologize if they’re in the right?

In recent months, there has been a moratorium on Deflategate-related articles. But with the Patriots returning to the Super Bowl, the trolls will be back in full force. Consider this AJC piece a preview of the madness to come.

Read More: Deflategate, New England Patriots,