Just in case you thought we were done with the mind-boggling twists and turns when it comes to the reporting about DeflateGate, it’s time once again to take a wrecking ball to what we think we know about what we think we know.
Embattled ESPN “NATIONAL NFL INSIDER” (it’s apparently important to use that title now) Chris Mortensen talked about his controversial DeflateGate report again on Thursday. Except this time, he took a bit of a different tact than he has previously in recent weeks.
Mortensen has been in the eye of the storm throughout the past month as his initial DeflateGate report has been called out by everyone from angry Pats fans to Boston sports media to Patriots owner Robert Kraft. The ESPN insider reported 11 of 12 footballs were under-inflated by 2 PSI each (in a tweet that was deleted more than six months later). That was proven to be incorrect as the Wells Report as no ball measured outside 2 PSI less than the minimum amount.
Initially, Mortensen backed out of an interview with WEEI to talk about his reporting when it became clear a confrontation would arise. Then, he opened up to the home team with ESPN Radio and admitted he could have done a “better vetting job as a journalist.” Now, Mortensen went on Doug & Wolf in Arizona (who you might remember as the sports talk radio hosts who tried to fight each other on air last year) on Thursday and defended his reporting, saying that he got the main point right about 11 footballs being “significantly under-inflated.” Oh, not only that, but that Patriots owner Robert Kraft has called him personally to apologize about putting him under the spotlight for ESPN’s questionable reporting about DeflateGate:
“Listen, if I could’ve changed the tweet, and I should have changed the tweet simply to the dialogue, which was 11 footballs. That was my focus, not the PSI. 11 footballs were in fact confirmed to have been underinflated, and you can argue whether they were significantly underinflated or not, but I stand by that story… I’ve had both Krafts, Robert Kraft and Jonathan Kraft call me and apologize for the way this thing has gone down.”
Mortensen also opened up about the process of how he reported the information about the 2 PSI and why things ultimately fell the way they did. You can blame conflicting info from those pesky league sources for how Bill Nye the Science Guy and the Ideal Gas Law became two of the biggest influences on the NFL in 2015. Mort again spoke about his conviction that he was not fed deliberately false information:
“It’s really as simple as this. You have to go back to the timeline. Sunday football game, Sunday night or Monday morning Bob Kravitz of Indianapolis reports the league is looking into underinflated footballs… I decided, ‘well how many footballs are we talking about, are we talking about 3 or 4’ and that was my inquiry. The whole narrative that somebody from the league deliberately leaked false information to me is so much baloney. It’s actually insulting because I made the inquiry. How many footballs, are we talking about 3 or 4? No 11 of 12, 2 pounds PSI under… I called another source who said it was a mess and it is 11 footballs. My focus was on the 11 footballs, this person also said significantly under-inflated. Where I get into trouble is I tweet the 2 pounds under. We clarified and simply went to “significantly under-inflated” before it was clear we had conflicting data. By the way, it was 11 of 12 footballs.”
Chris Mortensen is one of the most influential reporters in sports and his body of work over the years speaks for itself. But he’s not doing himself any favors by trying to build a defense on the fact that he got 11 of 12 footballs being under-inflated right when he reported the 2 PSI number and it was proven wrong. It’d be like the Raiders trying to say JaMarcus Russell wasn’t a bust because hey, at least he was pretty good in college. Given the context of this story, that PSI under-inflation amount is a huge, huge deal and the crux of the case against Tom Brady and the Patriots. To just try to toss that out as a minor detail after the fact is impossible.
Compounding the confusion of this latest development is how differently Mortensen and Peter King of Sports Illustrated have handled their reporting of this story just this week. I would say we could try to work through this logically, but logic and DeflateGate go about as well together as “Rush Limbaugh” and “ESPN NFL analyst.”
Neither of these scenarios make much sense…
Chris Mortensen – 1) Reported 11 of 12 footballs were under-inflated by at least 2 PSI. 2) Switches semantics to say 11 footballs were “significantly under-inflated.” 3) Deleted report and said he should have done a better job vetting his story. 4) Stands by his story.
Peter King – 1) Reported 11 and maybe 12 footballs had at least 2 pounds less pressure in them. 2) Criticized ESPN for not correcting their false report that 11 footballs had 2 pounds less pressure in them. 3) Apologized for inaccurately reporting that 11 footballs had 2 pounds less pressure in them himself.
DeflateGate: Your guess is as good as mine.