Patriots Spygate: No Specter of Illegality to Justify Investigation

Spencer CallaghanAnalyst IMay 16, 2008

I'm not American, so you will forgive me if I didn't previously realize that all of America's problems have been solved.

They must be, because otherwise why would a sitting senator be banging the drum to investigate signal stealing in the NFL if there were far more important things to be dealing with.

So in this atmosphere of peace, harmony, and economic prosperity, that has been created in the U.S. (congrats on that by the way), politicians are now free to delve into their own pet causes, which for Sen. Specter appears to be his inability to get over the New England Patriots' 24-21 defeat of his beloved Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX.

Many have tried to make the connection between the congressional investigation into Major League Baseball and the potential Spygate investigation, but the two could not be more different. (Note to the media, old, new, mainstream, web 2.0 and otherwise: can we stop with the "gate" suffix please? Nixon is dead, let's bury his scandals with him)

The MLB steroid-scandal involves an act that is illegal in the U.S., the trafficking of HGH and anabolic steroids. Of course, what is getting most Major Leaguers into trouble is lying to Congress. But the purpose of the investigation is to uncover those who are manufacturing, importing, and selling illegal substances.

Now one can easily make the argument that the MLB steroid hunt is just a publicity stunt by a Congress looking to make a statement, but the bottom line is that a legitimate illegal act is being investigated.

Spygate, however, does not pass the litmus test of illegality.

There is no law against trying to steal signals. Getting an upper hand on your opponent is a well established tradition in any sport, especially those that use hand signals or any other type of communication to set up plays.

Each individual sport is free to enact any policies, guidelines, or punishments they so desire to discourage the stealing of signals, but breaking these rules is not illegal.

The Patriots cheated, no one is denying that. They were punished, and have been publicly humiliated. Their legacy is tarnished and their aura of invincibility shattered.

As hard as it may be to understand, I somehow believe Belichick when he says he didn't think he was breaking the rules. Why else would you put a guy in plain sight on the sidelines, in clearly marked Patriots gear, holding a video camera? Wouldn't you be a little more subtle?

But regardless, Belichick DID cheat, he broke the rules, the punishment was fair and reasonable, but no laws were broken.

That is the major difference between investigating steroids and investigating signal stealing.

So if all the other issues in the U.S. have been wrapped up, I suggest Sen. Specter should nonetheless find a better way to waste taxpayer dollars, perhaps an investigation into the fragility of Donovan McNabb.