The Patriots Are Peeping Toms (Err…Bills)


Somebody once said, “Cheaters never win and winners never cheat.” That person was probably a loser. If being a modern day sports fan has taught us anything, it’s that honesty is not the best policy. You want to become the all-time greatest home run hitter? You cheat. You want to become the greatest pitcher of the modern era? You cheat. You want to win three Super Bowls in seven years? You cheat.

The problem with all this cheating is nothing can be done about it. Oh sure, rules can be changed or penalties can be stiffened so it doesn’t happen again in the future. But nothing can be done about the past misdeeds. Once the home run record is broken, it’s broken. Once the Super Bowl has been played, it’s been played. The cheaters have already won.

That’s why I’ve resisted writing about the newest revelations in the New England Patriots “Spygate” scandal. It seems our ever intrepid Senator Arlen Specter has uncovered a long, detailed history of sign stealing and illegal signal taping by New England coach/documentary filmmaker Bill Belichick. Included in those misdeeds are four instances where the Patriots pilfered signals from our beloved Pittsburgh Steelers.

Belichick has finally broken his silence on the subject. The main gist of his claim is that any information gleaned from those tapes was of negligible value. Really Bill? Then why even bother doing it? If watching grown men go through a complicated series of hand gestures is your idea of a hot Saturday night, more power to you. Mine usually involves a bucket of chicken and a stack of Katie Morgan movies so I won’t judge. However, that explanation is so weak, even Roger Clemens wouldn’t buy it.

Also, why were the Steelers a horrid 1-3 in those games? Coincidence? Strangely enough, I remember the AFC Championship game back in 2004 quite vividly. Hopes were high that year. Even though our quarterback was then rookie Ben Roethlisberger, he still managed to lead us to a 15-1 record including a 34-20 dismantling of the Pats earlier in the season. Alas, the game was an absolute disaster, with our team ending up on the wrong side of a 41-27 pasting. I remember how clueless and confused Ben looked. I remember how the Patriots seemed to be two steps ahead of him all game. I remember my Grandpa calling for Tommy Maddox because, as he very astutely pointed out, we needed a veteran quarterback who could be trusted to call an audible when it was obvious the defense was ready for the play about to be run. Strange how things start to make sense in hindsight.

Steelers owner, Dan Rooney, has come out in defense of the league. Of course he has. Rooney is nothing if not a good company man. The last thing he or any NFL owner wants are Congressional hearings into his sport. It doesn’t change the fact that something stinks and I’m not talking about “Cloverfield.” A giant lobster? Seriously? I waited 90 freakin’ minutes for a giant freakin’ lobster?

The key point here is the timeline. The Jets game was on September 9th. Commissioner Roger Goodell completed his investigation and penalized the Patriots on the 13th. The Patriots didn’t turn over the tapes and notes regarding the spying until the 17th. I repeat for emphasis, they issued the punishment before they even knew the extent of the offense. How is this possible? Is Goodell a pre-cog? Unless he and Tom Cruise go jet-packing around the slums of New York on weekends, the fact he imposed a penalty before he even knew the crime tells me he wasn’t interested in justice, he just wanted the issue to blow over.

As I already said, the problem is what can be done about this situation? If Specter holds a hearing and succeeds in finding out the depth of the Patriots skullduggery, what good does that do? We’ll never get that AFC Championship game back. The Rams or the Iggles aren’t going to be awarded the Super Bowl by disqualification like in a bad wrestling match. But I would like to see even more penalties imposed on New England.

It’s like the NCAA. If they discover recruiting violations from five years ago, you’re penalized going forward. This is how the NFL should handle it. The Pats other #1 draft pick this year? Gone. Their #1 pick next year? Gone. Monday night games? Gone. And how about this…Bill Belichick? One year suspension. Hey, if a college program did the kinds of things the New England organization did, we wouldn’t see them in a bowl game for 5 years. No Tom Brady on my television, no weekly columns by Bill Simmons to inform us how Belichick enjoys rescuing stray kittens* on his days off. And, hopefully, if instant karma really does get you, no Patsies in any sort of Bowl for quite a while.

*to sell to coat factories