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Abstract

In mid-January 2015 the National Football League (NFL) started an investigation into whether the New England Patriots deliberately deflated the footballs used during their AFC Championship win. Like an infectious disease, the initial discussion regarding Deflategate grew rapidly on social media sites in the days after the release of the story, only to slowly dissipate as interest in the NFL waned following the completion of its season. We apply a simple epidemic model for the infectiousness of the Deflategate news story. We find that the infectiousness of Deflategate rivals that of many of the infectious diseases that we have seen historically and is actually more infectious than recent news stories of seemingly greater cultural importance.

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