I just got back from a week in Aruba. It's a beautful place and it seemed everyone I met was from the NE area. Not once did I have to listen to somebody expounding about "spygate" and the ever-present "asterick" debate.
I had almost forgotten the whole controversy by the time I got home. I was looking forward to watching some football... the Patriots and Bills specifically. While I had hoped the sports world was over it and we might get through the game without it coming up there was no such luck. At half time, the topic once again turned to Bill Belichick, his hoodie, spygate and the whole ridiculously overblown cheating scandal.
The announcers seemed neutral on the cheating angle, taking no side one way or the other. However they still felt compelled to rehash the whole story as a means of filling time while the Pats were busy demolishing yet another opponent.
I am totally sick of hearing about spygate. Really... it's a game. "Cheating" goes on at some level in every major sport. Scuffing the ball and corked bats, stickum on a recievers hands, secret talks and tampering with potential players and coachs, hockey sticks with suspicious dimensions.
I've decided to express my opinion as clearly as I can once and for all. Once done here I resolve to never again even try to discuss the events surrounding "spygate" and any related topics.
The Patriots broke a rule. But they are by no means "cheaters".
Fans of the game have pretty much come to a consensus. The Patriots tried to pull a fast one and got busted. They were punished and that's that. Fanatics have yet to get over it and have taken it up as some misguided moral crusade.
While the fanatics of "Hatriot Nation" who dwell in the blogosphere are still venting their lunatic indignations most of the fans have gotten over it and moved on.
Fanatics want Belichick tortured, hanged, fined, shot and deported in no particlar order... fans for the most part are satisfied with the punishment.
Fanatics want the word "Cheater" carved into Belichick's headstone and maybe have a scarlet "C" branded on his forehead until then. Fans outside of NE just want the Patriots to lose one as a come-uppance.
A fanatic made a comment in one of the blogs last week regarding the Patriots and "spygate". It was an interesting statement. Sort of like a sports related double-entendre. He represented the fanatic "Patriots are cheaters" side of the argument. He used an old adage in condemning the Patriots that most of us have heard before. One that most of us, I think, would probably agree with in general. However, in making his statement he basically cleared the Patriots of the cheaters stigma.
The Patriots are cheaters he said and... "cheaters never prosper".
In general I think it's a true statement. Cheating helps us achieve by deception what we are not capable of achieving with honest effort. Its helps us pass the exam we didn't study for but it doesn't instill in us the knowledge we need to answer the question at any given moment. The answers were on our cheatsheets not in our brains. When the time comes and knowing the answer or what to do in a certain situation in real life means the difference between success and failure, the cheaters are exposed and failure is usually the price they pay.
I made a smarmy comment in reply along the line of "They've got 3 Superbowls rings... seems like a little prosperity to me".
Ok, not one of my best retorts but once said it got me to thinking.
As far as cheating...
I don't think Belichick was accidently caught cheating. I think he wanted to be caught. I'm not sure why, but he deliberatly put himself in a position that left being caught a certainty.
Think about it. If its true that Bill Belichick was cautioned about taping last year by the league... If the memo sent out at the start of this season addressing just such taping was given with the Patriots in mind... then Belichick had to be stupid to continue doing it knowing he was going to be watched and certainly caught... which he was.
Bill Belichick is by no means stupid.
I'm convinced that there was more to his flagrant taping than we are privy to. I think the NFL acted the way it did in destroying the tapes he turned over, not to cover what Belichick had been doing. I think the tapes had stuff that the NFL did not want to get out. I think Belichick had the kind of evidence on the tapes that would have exposed what other teams have been doing in the way of cheating too. I think he made a point that will force some rule changes down the line.
And the whole rule regarding the taping is stupid to begin with.
Having read the rule he violated, I have to honestly say that I'm with Belichick as far as the interpretation. People continue to cite the memo on league policy that went out to all teams. But the memo was just that.. a memo. It's language does not trump or override the wording of the actual rule.
The last words in the rule is where the ambiguity lies. Basically it states that a team can't film, tape, record or use any other type of similiar technology to capture information in any way that will aid their team quote, "during the playing of a game"
I 've worked in contract negotiations and language for a long time. For me, the first question I have is, what game is the rule addressing? The term "a game" suggests a single though non-specific game which may or may not mean the game being played. A fair inference would be to assume that "a game" is to be considered the game being played when the violation occurred. The term "the game" would clearly refer to the game taking place but does not address taping for future use. The current wording leaves open the interpretation that if the tapes are to be used to study for future use and not to be used during "the game" then taping is ok. If the NFL wanted to be clear the wording should be "during the playing of any and all games".
And just about everyone agrees that the tapes Belichick was making were of little use as far as helping the team "during" the game. The most obvious purpose was to look at them later... for the next game?
Only Belichick knows for sure. But he's smart enough t keep his reasoning to himself.
But one thing is certain... if "cheaters never prosper" then the Patriots can't possibly be cheaters. They have been more properous than any team in NFL history. From the moment that Tom Brady stepped on the field the Patriots have enjoyed the kind of success that cheaters can only dream of.
They have maintained a level of commitment and performance over a period of years that can't be accomplished by cheating and cutting corners. All the taping in the world couldn't bring the winning results the Patriots have attained over the last 7 years.
There's been no faking it. They study hard in practice and when they take the field... they don't need any cheatsheets. They've studied the books, they know the answers and are ready to apply their knowledge. That commitment has produced 3 Superbowl titles. They have been consistently successful despite player turnovers and a less than stellar roster.
Football fans everywhere are witnessing a team that is as talented as they are committed and a team that is on the brink of making football history. The records are dropping like dominos.
If they do go 19-0 they will have earned the title of the greatest football team ever. Maybe then the fanatics will realize that cheating had nothing to do with it.
Fans of football already know it.