For this past week I’ve had a grin on my face wider than the gap between Michael Strahan’s two front teeth. Normally, I’d be pretty morose in the days following a Dolphins loss, but this week brought some added intrigue that warms me to the core.
The New England Patriots have been unceremoniously yanked down from their high horse, and there are few things I like more than to see the high and mighty knocked down a notch.
Yes, I’m talking about the same invincible and unassailable Patriots that for years have had commentators and analysts around the league racing to kneel before the glory that is Belichick (“Belicheat” as he will henceforth be called), Brady, and Kraft in order to kiss their feet and buttocks in supplication.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
Before I continue, let me get this out of the way – I hate the Patriots. I loathe and detest them too, for good measure. I haven’t always felt this strong of a distaste for the hometown team. While I have always viewed them as a rival to my Dolphins, it wasn’t until the start of the new millennium that this rivalry turned into revulsion. What caused this change of heart? To put it simply: Tom Brady and Bill Belicheat. Upon their arrival, the entire Patriots organization became clouded in this incredible fog of smug arrogance and assumed genius. Belicheat was viewed as an unquestionable mastermind, correct and indisputable in all decisions. Brady was looked to as the Boy Wonder, and when he struggled it was inevitably someone else’s fault.
The Patriots went on to win three championships and they were summarily proclaimed the model franchise and a modern dynasty. Of course, while this windfall of success was happening before my eyes, I couldn’t help but look on incredulously at all the things being swept under the rug or pushed aside as unimportant. For years I have been openly and unabashedly calling out the Patriots as a dirty, dishonest, and deceitful organization. Few have listened to me.
For many people, this recent videotaping incident will seem new and unexpected. Perhaps they’d be less stunned if it happened to a historically nefarious team like the Raiders rather than the shining Pats. But if they’d have looked close enough, the telltale signs were all too commonplace.
Here’s a sampling of what Belicheat and the Patriots have done over the past several years that have raised my ire:
- Not listing Richard Seymour on the team’s injury list despite the fact that he didn’t even travel to the game.
- Attempting to make an “agreement” with Vikings head coach Brad Childress that each team would forego signing the other team’s released players to their practice squads. That constitutes tampering, of course.
- Openly mocking and disrespecting the league’s rules concerning attire and appearance by donning a dirty and cut up team sweatshirt to almost every game, practice, and press conference. Hey, he’s wearing team-issued clothing, right?
- Similarly mocking the idea of media obligations. If you’ve ever watched a Bill Belicheat press conference, you know it’s about as insightful and genuine as watching the new Bratz movie. Look, I’m sure no coach looks forward to answering the media’s questions, but it’s a large part of connecting with a team’s fan base. Belicheat stands behind the podium with legitimate disdain for the people asking him questions, as if he really can’t be bothered by these people who are so inferior to him. The fan base is the heart of any sports organization, but Belicheat couldn’t care less about treating his with respect.
- Opposing teams’ headsets and radio communications mysteriously malfunctioning in Foxboro.
- Rodney Harrison, one of the dirtiest players in the league (anyone remember him spitting in the face of Randy McMichael?) is suspended for using HGH. Somehow, he justifies it by saying the drugs were used to help him heal faster. And healing faster isn’t a competitive advantage how?
Suffice to say, this recent incident is only further proof that the Patriots live according to a culture of illegitimate tactics and behavior.
Videotaping is nothing new to the team either. In fact, it spans all the way back to 2000, the first year of Belicheat’s reign. Coincidence? Hardly. In the final game of the 2000 preseason against the Buccaneers, the Patriots videotaped all of the Bucs’ defensive signals. The two teams played each other again the following week to open the regular season.
Just last season,
It is a very safe assumption that Belicheat had his camera goons active at every game.
So the real question is why haven’t these countless indiscretions been met with punishment until now?
Well, the obvious reason is that the league finally got its hands on irrefutable evidence of wrongdoing while it was happening. In the past, these allegations and suspicions weren’t raised until after the game had been whistled dead.
The other, more insidious reason has to do with the league’s prior inability to stand up against the all-mighty Belicheat. He believed he could operate outside of the NFL’s established rules, and league officials proved him right.
If any of you have as large a passion for the show
All joking aside, the league has enabled Belicheat and the Patriots to quietly disgrace the NFL. Luckily, Commissioner Roger Goodell is putting an end to that.
What I can’t understand is the mass of people, mostly Pats fans, who have come out of the woodwork to ignorantly shout justifications for this behavior. Their protests include gems such as:
“He was just doing whatever it takes to win. You can’t fault him for that.”
“There’s no way he could benefit from videotaping the signals.”
“Everyone in the NFL cheats.”
This organization really had a lot of people fleeced.
Come on people, this wasn’t some make-work project that Belicheat established to keep Estrella and others employed. Think of how much tape he was able to amass over his tenure detailing countless coaches’ signals. You don’t have to be able to use that information during the game in which it was filmed (though he most likely did, during halftime for example) for it to be an effective tool in gaining a competitive advantage.
And no, stealing signals by videotaping them is not the same as using your own two eyes and trying to figure out the calls. If the results were the same, why would the Patriots risk punishment by resorting to videotape? It’s obvious that Belicheat saw some greater edge to be gained by using technology other than paper and pens.
If the NFL wanted to completely eradicate signal-stealing they would have to force everyone on the sidelines to wear a blindfold (or, you know, allow a defender to have a radio in his helmet). Of course, the most important distinction between the two methods is that videotaping is illegal and simply using your eyes is not. You don’t have to like the rule, but it must be respected. Teams can’t simply follow those rules that they agree with and indiscriminately break the others.
As we can all see now, that leads to an organization like the Patriots.
Now I’d like to hear from those people who call
And what about those three Super Bowls and Tom Brady’s ensuing meteoric rise from sixth-round draft pick to future Hall of Famer? Well, I sure am critical now.
As Dan LeBatard so nicely states it, “For a team that won three Super Bowls by three points each time, cheating only has to give you an advantage on one successful play to change the result and the champion.”
We’ve all seen how circumstantial evidence and allegations based on suspicion rather than concrete proof have wreaked havoc in other sports like cycling, track, and baseball.
The NFL is holding material proof of cheating.
I agree with Goodell’s decision to fine Belicheat and the organization as well as taking away draft picks, but why wasn’t there a suspension? The competitive balance of the league was tampered with. Wade Wilson, the Cowboys’ quarterbacks coach, was suspended for five games for taking HGH to deal with diabetic impotence. There’s no way that Dallas could have derived a competitive advantage from this indiscretion, but the league wanted to show that it was holding coaches to a higher standard. If that’s the case, then Belicheat should have been suspended for at least half the season.
As it stands, the team is facing absolutely no punishment that will affect them immediately. The fines don’t hurt the players. The draft picks don’t come into play for another year (plus the time it takes for rookies to develop). With the suspension levied by Goodell, the Patriots won’t see an adverse effect on the field for at least a year or two down the line. That is unacceptable.
And what if Belicheat retires after this season? Those lost draft picks won’t mean a thing to him.
He’ll smugly stride off into the sunset, threadbare sweatshirt flapping in the wind, and he’ll laugh to himself as he keeps repeating in his mind, “I am above the law.”