Heidi ho, folks. I know it's been a long time since I rapped at ya, but things have been a little crazy around my household lately and I've needed some time to focus on things other than blogging and football.
But no way was I going to miss a chance to comment on what I can only hope is the culmination and close of 'Spygate' now that Matt Walsh has finally met with Roger Goodell and told him...nothing we didn't already know. I greatly appreciate Brent and Jamie allowing me to contribute this guest column.
Anyway. Sorry, but at least so far, I'm having a little trouble being gracious about this.
Especially since this non-revelation finally led the Boston Herald to apologize for running its anonymously-single-sourced scoop the day before the Super Bowl. What was that I was saying about sports journalists pandering to a national, Pats-hatin' audience and / or making opportunistic power grabs among their own kind?
From the beginning, this whole story has included a nugget of true wrongdoing, which has shrunk continually in proportion to the needless BS ladled on top of it, most of which has more to do with craven ambition, jealousy, sour grapes and blind fandom than it has to do with any real truth about the integrity of the game.
Try to point out the latter, however, and the former is what is flung back in your face - in other words, try to suss out the hysteria from the truly punishable, and you'll get only noise from people who don't want that separation to be made, for any number of callow reasons.
As I've said from the beginning, I am not defending Bill Belichick's choices and actions during the first game against the Jets last season. Even if 'everybody else was doing it', Goodell had sent a message out that the practice of videotaping signals was going to be cracked down upon, and the Patriots seem to be one of the few, if not the only team, to wantonly ignore it. That *does* show arrogance, and bad judgment, and even if we'd never have known about it at all were it not for a personality conflict between two head coaches, it's not something I can justify no matter which way you slice it.
But what followed since then, and has hopefully ended now that the whole Matt Walsh charade has come to a close, has been my team being relentlessly dragged through the mud, all while they put together one of the greatest regular seasons in NFL history.
And the reasons for that, I have always said, are not something fans of that team should have to answer for--it's something that necessitates a long look in the mirror by the ones doing the dragging. If a major newspaper in the team's own home state is doing some rare, possibly unprecedented soul-searching, why can't the average Patriots hater be expected to do the same?
I often have to wonder at the level of vitriol that has been directed at Belichick and the Patriots, whatever their shortcomings may be. Especially when you talk about those ubiquitous comparisons with the Yankees. Last I checked, several members of the Yankees dynasty of the late 90's have been found to have abused performance-enhancing drugs, while that team was winning multiple World Series. Several have since admitted as much to federal investigators and grand juries--and baseball is a far more individualistic sport than football. Much more so than in football, the unethical actions of one artificially enhanced player can tip the competitive balance significantly.
And yet, through all that, I haven't heard one person talk even hypothetically about taking any of their trophies away. Not one person - and I'm a Red Sox fan who lives in the Boston area.
But the Patriots do something the competitive advantage of which is far less clear than steroids, and unfounded, shoddily sourced allegations come out that they may have done something similar but worse, and it didn't take long at all for actual players and fans in other cities to mount frivolous lawsuits against the team, or for talk of rescinding the 2001 trophy to pop up.
Even if that talk was only on the lunatic fringe, its very existence takes it to an extreme even the Red Sox - Yankees rivalry hasn't reached, in over 100 years of petty gnitpicking and bickering.
If that doesn't convince you to question the nastiness that's been heaped upon the Patriots over the last six months, maybe this article at Cold, Hard Football Facts will:
On Feb. 2, 2002, on the eve of Super Bowl XXXVI, on the very same day Walsh was allegedly filming Rams practice, the New York Times reported that somebody was seen spying on the Patriots as they prepared for the big game.
The most interesting aspect of the story? League officials themselves saw the spy, at least according to the Times story filed by Judy Battista.
The key passage from her 2002 report:
“Club and league officials (our emphasis) said a telescope was clearly visible in the window, according to a pool report, and that 15 minutes later, a person appeared at the window, and then vanished.”
CHFF goes on:
Of course, spying on opponents, a practice older than the leather helmet, never raised eyebrows until the least popular man in football, Bill Belichick, was caught in the act.
After all, it seems that somebody was spying on the Patriots before Super Bowl XXXVI - according to no less an authority than representatives of the almighty NFL itself. This report of a spy (is it a stretch to assume it was someone acting on behalf of the Rams?) was published in major media outlets, such as The New York Times.
This act of espionage on the eve of the big game was quickly forgotten.
It seems hunting down Mike Martz is not nearly as titillating as hunting down Dr. Evil himself, Bill Belichick. Hence, no media frenzy over the spy the NFL witnessed at Patriots practice on the eve of the Super Bowl.
If Matt Walsh had indeed held the smoking gun, you can bet I'd be sitting here eating some crow (or, at least, being force-fed a heaping helping). But as things have turned out, anybody who bet the farm on Walsh bringing down Belichick once and for all ought to be bellying up to that plate of buzzard and digging in.
And hopefully, next season, we can just get back to football.