On Friday, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen bailed on an interview with WEEI aimed at addressing the delayed firestorm regarding his report that 11 of 12 footballs used by the Patriots in the first half of the AFC Championship were two pounds under the minimum allowable inflation of 12.5 PSI. On Monday, Mort appeared on ESPN Radio’s The Dan Le Batard Show to discuss the situation.
I tuned in a little late, and I plan to listen to the on-demand version and type up some of the most important responses. For now, here are the highlights based on the fastest hunting-and-pecking I could do while Mort was talking.
First, Mortensen said that he adjusted the report early on from “two pounds under” to “significantly underinflated.”
“I will never retract that,” Mortensen said of the revised report that the balls were “significantly underinflated.” But he admitted that the two-pounds-under report was “obviously in error” and that it “technically was a mistake” to not retract it on Twitter. (The tweet still lives.)
The softened claim that the footballs were “significantly underinflated” is far more ambiguous than the hard numbers, which were generated by two air pressure gauges that varied by 0.45 PSI. It also overlooks the fact that cold weather and wet conditions will cause the PSI readings to drop.
So is it accurate to say that the footballs were “significantly underinflated”? Would it have been more accurate to say that the footballs were “underinflated”? Would it have been the most accurate to report the numbers actually measured by the two conflicting gauges?
Mortensen also pointed out that his report didn’t directly implicate Brady or the Patriots, but this explanation overlooks the importance of the original report to the story. It took what was a curiosity and converted it into a presumption that someone had tampered with the footballs, and that the only questions to be resolved were who did it and who knew about it?
If the actual numbers had been reported early on, the Patriots could have defused the bomb quickly, pointing to the discrepancy between the two gauges (which arguably is enough to justify a conclusion that the numbers are inconclusive) and explaining that one set of measurements falls squarely within the range predicted by the Ideal Gaw Law.
Mortensen also said he has recently spoken to Patriots owner Robert Kraft. While declining to delve into any details of the conversation, Mortensen said that Kraft told him, “Our fight is not with you. It’s with the NFL.”
Mort has no issue with the NFL. He said he doesn’t feel betrayed because he sought out the information.
Still, he was given false information. And even though he at some point changed the report to “significantly underinflated,” Mortensen told WEEI in January that he sought further confirmation of the accuracy of the two-pounds-under report, and that he received it.
‘Listen,’ I said, ‘is there any discrepancies in what I reported, because I want to know,’” Mortensen said at the time. “And I was just told, ‘No, you were right on.’”
Mort continues to be in a tough spot, and multiple someones at the league office owe him plenty of favors for taking the bullet on this one. And even though Mort never will give up his sources (and he shouldn’t), it would be easy for the NFL to investigate whether one or more league-office employees talked to Mortensen at or about the time of his initial report, and to find out who leaked the false information to him.
Assuming, of course, that none of the relevant persons have destroyed their cell phones.