Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Belichick's Cheating

I figured Arlen Specter might be good for something. Pennsylvania's armadillo of a Senator finally got the NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, to reveal something some people have long suspected: that New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick (photo at right, has been taping opposing teams' defenses since 2000, when he took over as head coach.

Specter says this is illegal. Goodell disagrees with Belichick's actions and suggests they're not okay (i.e., illegal?), but took no action, at least none that the public knows about, until the Patriots were blatantly caught spying on the sad-sack New York Jets before the first game of this past season, the very season that the Patriots were waltzing through, undefeated, until they ran smack into the New York Giants for a second time, in the Super Bowl. It turns out that the NFL had looked into Belichick's cheating going back to 2002, but said zero about it until this revelation. To Specter.

Belichick, who has more than once demonstrated a lack of class, claims he wasn't doing anything wrong. Since 2000. At any rate, Goodell levied a slap on the wrist and then, unaccountably, destroyed all the evidence from the investigation. The tapes, everything else. He claims it could have gotten into the wrong hands. Like a prosecutors? Specter, who rarely if ever raises a voice of protest about the Bush administration's destruction of evidence (cf. White House emails, etc.) or the Constitution for that matter, did seem to be vexed by these strange and possibly illegal goings on. I doubt anything will come of this, and the sports media, which adore Belichick as one of the greatest coaches ever, have, from what I can tell, mostly been silent.

Most of the articles on this huge revelation I first came across were AP stories, or versions thereof. Or foreign media accounts. The people who've invested so much of their reputations in pumping up Belichick are silent. My questions: Who on the Patriots knew about this, and did anyone on any other teams know about this? Did Patriots owner Robert Kraft know that Belichick was engaging in this activity? How long has the NFL known what Belichick was up to? Will the "genius" and his team be stripped of their Super Bowl championships? Will he be officially sanctioned, if not by the NFL, which appears to have participated in a cover-up, by Specter and Congress? Will the NFL suffer any penalties, such as the loss of its anti-trust exemption? Should I even been wasting energy on this issue, given the 1,000 other pressing issues out there, but also give how our culture has utterly normalized cheating, spying, and unfair advantages?

I think of well-known athletes decried as cheaters, such as Barry Bonds, Marion Jones, etc., and I wonder, will this high profile but incredibly sleazy coach receive relentlessly hellish treatment anywhere near what they've endured? (Cf. Roger Clemens.) I have my doubts.

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