|Written by Julian Dread.
The old saying in sports goes, 'if you ain't cheatin', you ain't tryin.' It seems that phrase holds true not just for the Barry Bonds or HGH users of the world but even the cleanest of franchises.
Thursday night Bill Belichick was hit with the stiffest possible fine by the league for his part in taping the play calling of the New York Jets. He will pay $500,000, while the New England Patriots will be fined $250,000 and a draft pick, or two, depending on how they finish the season.
Most of the fallout and public reaction from this recent Cameragate has run from "Everyone cheats, they were just dumb enough and blatant enough to get caught" to "Busted, Belichick! Down with the Patriots, throw them under the jail." The truth probably lies somewhere in between, and either way makes for some great NFL drama.
While many fans around the league are probably disgusted with the action of the Pats' coaching staff, in particular cameraman Ernie Adams, Belichick's right-hand man, but the Pats' fans may be the most sick, if not the most angry.
Pats fans will now be subject to the wrath that has long befallen Bonds and other dynasties that people are tired of hearing about, most notably, and ironically, the New York Yankees come to mind.
The Pats faithful must also be confounded by the fact that their team cheated against the lowly Jets. The Jets? This is like Richard Nixon trying to use duplicitous methods to take down Edmund Muskie or George McGovern. Why on earth would you do something illegal to pick on the littlest kid on the block? The Pats could have beaten the Jets with their hands, and their cameras tied behind their back.
Now fans around the league that have been waiting for years to hate on the Patriots finally have, in their minds, a legitimate reason. But isn't it pretty obvious through the history of sports that teams and players have looked for every advantage possible, the Pats might say? Yes, but they weren't built up to be set for such a fall. Well, all except Bonds, that is.
But for those who are now calling into question the Patriots' titles, they need to take a deep breath and step away from the sports talk radio. The Patriots did not want three Super Bowls because they cheated. Hell, the Denver Broncos of the late 90s manipulated the salary cap in a much more underhanded way than the Pats did with their film, and you don't hear anyone suggesting that John Elway should give back his two rings. The New York Mets clubhouse was riddled with cocaine in 1986 and the Dallas Cowboys of the 90s were notorious creeps on and off the field, but not a word about them.
Sports fans' have very short attention spans, with memories that last just a bit longer. Just as Tim Donaghy became an NBA footnote after the Kevin Garnett trade, this too will fall by the wayside, and it should. People should be talking about an epic matchup between two of the best teams in the NFL – the Pats and Chargers – playing a gigantic game in Foxsboro this weekend, not worrying about how an assistant coach has affected fair play in a league with a history of eye-gouging, sign stealing, steroids and more.
The most amazing part of the whole story might not be that a team cheated, but that Belichick, a man so cognizant of history and his place in it, would be dumb enough or naïve enough to cheat in such public view. Belichick knows he is creating a legacy on par with the greatest coach's in history, now he will be a punchline when cheating comes up in conversation. Maybe the question of why a man such as he would do something so bold is answered by the old adage, if you ain't cheatin' you ain't tryin'.
Now the Patriots, for better or worse, will have a target on their back, fans want to see them lose. But true champions would have it no other way. When everyone's gunning for you, you have to play your best. The Pats have their mission, and now they have villain status. When you think about it, it really makes a perfect dramatic build up to another Super Bowl run. Someone just needs to make sure the Pats leave the photography to the fans and the media.
Last updated on September 14, 2007.