For the 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 Videogate has warmed me to the core.
There are few things I like more than seeing the high and arrogant knocked down a notch.
On Sunday, the New England Patriots got exactly what they had coming to them.
Yes, I’m talking about the same unassailable Patriots who for years have had their feet and buttocks kissed in supplication by commentators and analysts around the league.
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.
This is something of a new development. While I have always viewed the Pats as rivals to my Dolphins, it wasn’t until the start of the new millennium that the rivalry turned into revulsion.
What caused this change of heart?
To put it simply: Tom Brady and Bill Belicheat.
With those two at the reins, the entire Patriots organization has been engulfed in a fog of smug arrogance and assumed genius. Belicheat is viewed as an unquestionable mastermind, correct and indisputable in all decisions. Brady is looked to as the Boy Wonder...and when he struggles it's inevitably someone else’s fault.
Amidst all the praise, though, I couldn’t help but stare incredulously at the issues being swept under the rug.
For years I've been calling out the Patriots a dirty, dishonest, and deceitful organization. Few have listened to me.
Perhaps NFL fans would be less stunned by Videogate if it had happened to a historically nefarious team like the Raiders. If they’d have looked close enough, though, they would have seen that the telltale signs were there in New England.
Here’s a sampling of recent indiscretions committed by Belicheat and Co.:
* Not including Richard Seymour on the team’s injury list despite the fact that he didn’t even travel to a game.
*Attempting to make an “agreement” with Vikings head coach Brad Childress that each team would refrain from signing the other’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 raggedy team sweatshirt at 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 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 fanbase. Belicheat conveys the sense that he can’t stand to be bothered by people so inferior to him. He couldn't care less about the fans.
*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?) being suspended for 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?
The issue of illegal videotaping is itself nothing new in New England. In fact, it dates all the way back to 2000, the first year of Belicheat’s reign.
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. When Tampa Bay won, Pats offensive coordinator Charlie Weis was overheard telling Tampa defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, “We knew all your calls, and you still stopped us. I can’t believe it.”
Just last season, New England was suspected of videotaping their opponents on at least two occasions. When the Lions played in Foxboro, Rod Marinelli noticed “a camera pointed right at our defensive coach making his calls.” When the Patriots visited Green Bay, cameraman Matt Estrella (the same guy who was doing the taping against the Jets) was caught on the sidelines recording the Packers’ signals.
It's a very safe assumption that Belicheat had his camera goons active at every game, which of course begs the question:
Why haven’t these countless indiscretions been met with punishment until now?
The obvious reason is that the league finally got its hands on irrefutable evidence of wrongdoing. In the past, these allegations and suspicions weren’t raised until after the incidents occurred.
The other, more insidious, reason has to do with the league’s prior inability to stand up against the all-mighty Belicheat. The coach believed he could operate outside the NFL’s established rules, and league officials proved him right.
If any of you love South Park as much as I do, you’ll recall the “Chef Aid” episode, and particularly the record executive character. When confronted about stealing a song for an artist on his label, the record exec loudly shouts, “I AM ABOVE THE LAW!”...and then proceeds to dab some SPOOGE brand gel on his hanging lock of hair.
That's Belicheat in a nutshell.
What I can’t understand is the mass of people, mostly Pats fans, who have come out of the woodwork to justify the incident. 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.
Think of how much tape Belicheat has been able to amass over his tenure. You don’t have to use that information during the game in which it was filmed for it to be a competitive advantage.
And no, stealing signals by videotaping them isn't the same as using your own two eyes. If the results were the same, why would the Patriots risk punishment by resorting to videotape?
The league had warned Belicheat following the Green Bay game that videotaping was expressly against the rules. I guess that warning went in one ear and out the other—another example of how grossly arrogant the Patriots are.
And what about those three Super Bowls and Tom Brady’s meteoric rise from sixth-round draft pick to future Hall of Famer?
I sure am skeptical 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.”
Circumstantial evidence of illegal behavior has wreaked havoc in sports like cycling, track, and baseball.
The NFL, by contrast, is holding material proof of cheating.
So why were there no suspensions?
Wade Wilson, the Cowboys’ quarterbacks coach, was suspended for five games for taking HGH to deal with diabetic impotence. There’s no way 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, 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 season (plus the time it takes for rookies to develop). All told, the Patriots won’t see an adverse effect on the field for at least another year or two.
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, laughing to himself as he keeps repeating the truth in his mind:
“I am above the law.”
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