The latest ridiculous example of a politician trying to exert influence in the world of sports comes from Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., a huge Philadelphia Eagles fan who is trying to figure out how to further punish the New England Patriots and the NFL for the videotaping incident of early last season.
No wonder our country is being run into the ground. Our politicians are more concerned with whether athletes are taking drugs, teams are cheating, or leagues are not handling their business properly.
Specter sent a letter last week to Roger Goodell asking why the NFL commissioner destroyed the tapes the Patriots used to record the defensive signals of the New York Jets in the season opener.
Goodell punished the Patriots for the incident — fining coach Bill Belichick $500,000, fining the team $250,000 and stripping the Patriots of their first-round pick in the 2008 draft. But apparently that wasn't enough for Specter, who seems to hold a grudge against the Patriots for their Super Bowl win over Specter's Eagles in February 2005.
"I am very concerned about the underlying facts on the taping, the reasons for the judgment on the limited penalties and, most of all, on the inexplicable destruction of the tapes," Specter wrote to Goodell in a meddlesome letter in which Specter proposes to waste taxpayer money to interfere with private industry.
Apparently Specter thinks this issue is right behind the sagging national economy and the Iraq War in national importance.
"It's not going to displace the stimulus package or the Iraq war," the senator told reporters Friday, failing in his effort to convince people that he is nothing more than a sports fan trying to use his political power to influence the most powerful sports league in America. "But I think the integrity of football is very important, and I think the National Football League has a special duty to the American people — and, further, the Congress — because they have an anti-trust exemption."
Specter has long wanted to strip the NFL of its anti-trust exemption, which enables the league to act on behalf of all 32 teams in negotiations for things like television deals and the contract with the players' union.
The reason Specter continues to badger the NFL is because he is largely funded by Comcast, the Pennsylvania-based cable company that has been engaged in a legal battle with the NFL over broadcast rights to the NFL Network.
It's a transparent move by Specter, who is just another meddling politician in the same club as John McCain, Tom Davis and other armchair sports commissioners.
Why does Specter want those old tapes anyway? The cheating incident was a league matter, and the league commissioner handled it appropriately back in September.
But Specter wants to butt in and investigate for himself, to serve as a NFL commissioner to "ensure the integrity of the game" — that is code for "ensure that Comcast will get its way and the Eagles will get some revenge through his actions."
"I don't think you have to have a law broken to have a legitimate interest by the Congress on the integrity of the game," Specter told the New York Times, futilely trying to cover up his real motivation by repeating what other misguided politicians have said in recent years.
"What if there was something on the tapes we might want to be subpoenaed, for example? You can't destroy it. That would be obstruction of justice."
Obstruction of justice? That's a major reach — longer than the wingspan of Eagles defensive end Jevon Kearse. How about obstruction of job performance? Specter needs to be censured for wasting his time and taxpayers' money and not doing the job he was elected to do.
Specter proposes to spend more taxpayer money by calling Goodell before the Senate Judiciary Committee and having the commissioner testify about why he had the Patriots' tapes destroyed. What an incredible misuse of time and money; unbelievably petty and pointless.
Goodell doesn't seem concerned, nor should he be. He is wise enough to know Specter is just a blowhard politician trying to drum up some attention and make empty threats to try to scare Goodell and the NFL into giving in to Comcast. Specter has tried to repeal the NFL's anti-trust exemption before — and failed.
In the end, Specter is just the latest example of a politically-placed sports fan letting his passion for sports get in the way of his duties to the United States of America.
He needs to shut up and go back to work on issues that are important to the citizens of this country, rather than continue to act like an armchair sports commissioner pushing a petty agenda on an issue that was settled satisfactorily by the real NFL commissioner long ago.
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