“More probable than not” lowers the standard for “I’m pretty sure”

By Paul Lombino

Words matter ─ especially when twisted to accuse Tom Brady of wrong doing.

Love Brady or not, the language used by his accusers in the NFL’s formal report released this month was ─ at best ─ nebulous and inconclusive.

The New England Patriot QB is, of course, being fingered by league overlords as an active participant in the ongoing saga known as Deflategate. At this moment, a four-game suspension and monetary penalties are hanging over Brady’s head. But the loosey-goosey assertions made by NFL fact finders carry all the gravitas of a Dennis Rodman ambassadorship to North Korea, with all due respect to The Worm.

Consider the second paragraph of page 2 of the Executive Summary of the unartfully titled “Investigative Report Concerning Footballs Used During the AFC Championship Game on January 18, 2015.”

“For the reasons described in this Report, and after a comprehensive investigation, we have concluded that, in connection with the AFC Championship Game, it is more probable than not that New England Patriots personnel participated in violations of the Playing Rules and were involved in a deliberate effort to circumvent the rules. In particular, we have concluded that it is more probable than not that Jim McNally (the Officials Locker Room attendant for the Patriots) and John Jastremski (an equipment assistant for the Patriots) participated in a deliberate effort to release air from Patriots game balls after the balls were examined by the referee. Based on the evidence, it also is our view that it is more probable than not that Tom Brady (the quarterback for the Patriots) was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities of McNally and Jastremski involving the release of air from Patriots game balls.”

On three occasions, the authors employ the half-hearted phrase “more probable than not” to aver Brady’s culpability. For good measure, they toss in the equally ambiguous ─ “generally aware” ─ when linking the future hall-of-famer to “inappropriate activities” by others.

To many Brady-haters, Deflategate has been pumped up to federal crime status. That’s why such imprecise language cannot go unchecked. Here are several instances where a response of “more probable than not” will probably not meet reasonable-doubt standards.

When giving an oath. Do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

Response: “More probable than not, your honor.”

Probable outcome: Contempt of court.

When used with a vow. Do you take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife?

Response: “More probable than not.”

Probable outcome: A holy beat down by your ex-future father-in-law and his drunken sons.

When replying to a state trooper’s request. May I see your license and registration please?

Response: “More probable than not, officer.”

Probable outcome: Step out of the car and place your hands on the hood.

When elevated to Obama’s presidential campaign slogan.

Response: “More probable than not, we can.”

Probable outcome: President McCain and Vice President Palin.

When quoting a famous letter-to-the-editor. In 1897, 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon writes the editor of the then-New York Sun to ask an age-old question: Does Santa exist?

Response: “More probable than not, Virginia, there is a Santa Clause.”

Probable outcome: One confused Gilded Age child.

When affirming a military command. It’s high ground by nightfall. Ready?

Response: “Sir, more probable than not, sir.”

Probable outcome: A week in the brig, joker.

When responding to a Jeopardy answer. It is the opposite of “no.”

Response: “What is, more probable than not, Alex?”

Probable outcome: Elimination from the Final Jeopardy round.

When substituting a musical lyric.

More probable than not, sir / that’s my baby
No, sir / I don’t mean Brady (I threw that in.)

Probable outcome: Fewer royalties.

When replacing Meg Ryan dialogue in “When Harry Met Sally.”

Response: “More probable than not. More probable than not. More probable than not.”

Probable outcome: I’ll have what she’s having.

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3 Comments

Filed under Deflategate

3 responses to ““More probable than not” lowers the standard for “I’m pretty sure”

  1. Right on. The next time a woman asks you: “Do you love me?” Try answering: “More probable than not.” Then…duck.

  2. Always thinking ahead, John.

  3. Tony Sofio

    Hillary, did you erase all those e-mails to hide something self damaging? :)…. I agree with you on this one, even though I can’t stand Brady and feel he’s guilty as charged. Have the refs keep both teams footballs.

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