Saturday, September 15, 2007

Spies Like Us

Wow, it's been a whole week since we last spoke -- and really, it was a fairly uneventful seven days around these here parts. Not.

If you ever wondered what it might take to bump a September Sox-Yankees series that matters off the top of the front page, well, my friends, how about a little NFL espionage, practiced by our beloved, dynastic Patriots?

We've had six days to digest, ponder, digest some more, walk on the beach and reflect, and form our own opinions on what Bill Belichick did or didn't do with a video camera. By now, you know the story. A Pats video assistant had his camera confiscated at the Meadowlands last Sunday - during NE's 38-14 beatdown of the pathetic Jets - because the Jets (Mangini, GM Mike Tannenbaum?) felt the Patriots were videotaping their defensive coaches' signals - which is taboo in the NFL.

While iron-fisted commish Roger Goodell investigated, the news, talk shows, and newspapers - in Boston and around the country - spun wildly out of control. As news leaked out that the Pats were indeed going to be punished, half the country wanted Belichick in an orange jumpsuit and half were of the mind that the whole episode was being ridiculously overblown. By the media in this country? Imagine...

It was interesting to hear the differences of opinion right here in our own backyard, and if you're not living this every day, realize that the press and Belichick have a relationship that could best be described as cool. Bill's not exactly as forthcoming as, say, the previous Bill was. Warm and fuzzy has never been his style, which is fine by me. The press maggots take it personally. Us fans don't give a rat's ass.

On Thursday, the penalty was finally announced so the Peter Kings and Chris Mortensens of the world could shut their yaps. Belichick was fined $500K, the organization $250K, and most importantly, the Pats will forfeit a first-round pick in 2008. Some of the numbskulls around the country were saying the Pats should have to forfeit their win against the Jets, they should be put on probation and not allowed to play in the postseason, Belichick should get a lengthy suspension, hell, the NFL should back up their trucks to the loading gate at Gillette and haul the three Lombardi Trophys to St. Louis, Charlotte, and Philly. I knew the Pats were reviled for their success - similar to the Yankees - but I had no idea the level of hatred out there.

As we made our way through the crazy week, there were some voices of reason. Mike Golic on ESPN, I thought, put some good perspective on the whole situation. John Clayton, on the other hand, was truly awful. In situations like these, only people who've played the game or coached the game should be allowed to offer their insights. Through it all, on the eve of the second week of the 2007 NFL season, there are still many questions floating in the wind.

How many teams do this? Which member of the Jets organization ratted out Belichick and the Pats? Is ratting them out an unwritten violation of inner circle "rules"? How much does this type of spying influence the outcome of games? How could BB have been so brazen to do it against his former protege, in New York - where Goodell watched the game with Kraft mere miles from NFL headquarters? So many questions, and since Bill's not talking, so few answers...

A couple of Mikes, I thought, had some good columns on all this nonsense this week, Michael Silver (formerly of Sports Illustrated, now with Yahoo), and Mike Felger, who offered some interesting insights in his Friday "Pats Insider" effort.

While the jokes and insinuations will no doubt continue throughout the year, the best thing the Patriots can do is keep rolling and win their 4th Lombardi in Arizona next February. As they always do, they'll use this for motivation. And I can't wait for that December 16th rematch in Foxboro against Benedict Mangini and his underwhelming team.

where are you weekend picks?
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